Apse of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom
Inspired by the Church of San Clemente in Rome, the semi-dome’s central figure is Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, the church’s patroness and namesake. She is surrounded by representations of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit above her head in the form of a dove, Christ imaged as a jeweled cross, and, at the top of the arch, brilliant coloured rays pouring forth from the hand of God the Father.
A great vine rises from the lower centre of the semi-dome, filling it with its branches. Images of martyrs are found within each coiled tendrail of the vine, the palm frond in their hands symbolic of their victory in Christ. In the deer, rabbits, birds, insects and other animals inhabiting the roots of the vine, the whole of creation pays homage to the creator of all things.
On 9 November 1856, Newman commended Pollen for his painting of the smi-dome. “I have come from High Mass. The more I look at the apse, the more beautiful it seemed to me-and to my taste, the church is the most beautiful one in the Kingdom.”
Turn to your left and enter the Lady chapel