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Holy Trinity San Francisco

Holy Trinity Dome by Robert J. Andrews

jb: What about all your work at Holy Trinity in San Francisco?  Was there a plan from the beginning or did the design come piece by piece?


RJA: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco was generally planned. The church has sometimes been called “Icon Land.”


After the church interviewed 23 iconographers, I was asked to create one icon.  They liked it and I worked there for 40 years. I did all the pillars, the altar screens, the apse, the dome and the only area I did not do was the back wall of the church which remains unfinished.  I completed my last work at Holy Trinity San Francisco in 1988.  


The biggest work is the 60’ diameter dome containing 3,400 square feet of mosaic.  It contains the largest face of Christ in the world, 23’ in height.  Christ’s eye is 4’ wide. We had to install a new structure within the dome to support the work.  The work needed to be done with precision so the sections seamlessly fit together.  The iconography of the dome rises 16 feet.  

Christ’s face is surrounded by 9 seraphines.  The Twelve Apostles adorn the top of the structural columns supporting the dome.   Each of the six supporting columns depict ten saints, each measuring 5’ by 9’ two per row, standing 5 rows high. Between the columns are 9’ by 20’ murals depicting scenes from the bible and the lives of the saints and the apostles.

The dome at HTSF is 9 stories high. Heights never bothered me; I was a pilot and was never afraid of heights.  Father Anthony, the priest at Holy Trinity, climbed the scaffolding and blessed the icons and works as they were installed even though he was afraid of heights.  

Photo Credit : Elena Omelchenko (from Google)

While I was working there, a visitor stopped by and admired my work. He said I did beautiful work and took my hands and said that my hands were blessed.  I did not know who he was at the time but that was St. John Maximovitch.  After that, things just flowed.



     John Maximovitch,  [1896 – 1966]  Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco,  was a diocesan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia who served widely from China to France to the United States.


RJA: Once I was hired at HTSF they asked me to go to Italy to meet with a glass supplier at the School of Mosaics.  I established a relationship with them as my glass supplier for the rest of my career.  They did all the glass work except for two installations.


    A permit for the supporting structure for the dome was issued in 2006 and construction began in 2007.  The work was installed in 2008.  It took a team of eight three weeks to install the work.  The crew included Andrews’ son, Timothy and a crew from Italy.

Holly Trinity
Holy Trinity

Anthony Catchatoorian videoed the installation and his videos can be seen:

on youtube: 
on vimeo at:

Kim Grant, a mosaic artist and blogger, stopped by the church while Andrews was installing the work in the dome.  You can see photos of the installation while it was in progress at: 


According to www.orthodox, there are 1.4 million pieces of glass in the dome.

Between the supporting columns, there are 9’ x’ 20’ mosaic murals depicting The Last Supper, Healing of the Lame and Blind, Calling of Peter and Andrew, the Incredulity of Thomas, the Raising of Lazarus, Christ in the Temple, the Crucifixion, and Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles.

Andrews also created the ten mosaic icons making up the altar screen, five 3’ x 9 ‘icons make up each side of the altar.  Above those icons, on either side of the altar are smaller mosaics of six bishops.

Holy Trinity Edging by Robert J. Andrews
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