St. Anthony's Altar of Coal

St. Anthony's Catholic Church Altar of Coal

 

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Altar of Coal

St. Anthony's Catholic Church Altar of Coal

The altar in St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is a picturesque altar of anthracite coal. The building committee wanted the heart of the altar to be a representation of the county’s primary resource and the community’s largest industry. Many people including our Catholic immigrant-miners gave their very lives to the mining industry.

The coal seams in Wise County are generally low and soft. Those characteristics made it difficult to mine a large enough chunk of coal. However, the Glenmary’s vision for the church was to include the altar made of coal. After Fr. Bob Bond and the Brothers of the Glenmary, consulted with the retiree of the Bureau of Mines and former resident of Pennsylvania, John Emershaw; the building committee decided that Art Sinicrope would go to Pennsylvania to find a chunk of coal that was large enough to mine, ship, and use for an altar. Art Sinicrope, who worked for the Bureau of Mines, is credited with finding a seam of coal that was large enough to mine. (article continued below)

To see an enlarged version of the pictures, just click on the pictures.

The Altar of Coal and Fr. Bob Bond

 

Front of the Altar

Top of the Altar

Side of the Altar

Side of the Altar

After two attempts to extract the right size lump of coal, the mining company successfully mined a lump of coal that was large enough to be transported and fabricated into an altar. The George Barnette Mining and Construction Co. of Wise, VA sent driver Jesse Bullock to transport the chunk of coal from Pennsylvania to the Candora Marble Company of Knoxville, TN.

For the final touches, the fabricators at the Candora Marble Co., chiseled, shaped, cleaned, and polished the 7000-pound chunk of coal and created a 3000-pound altar. To protect the priest’s vestments the backside of the altar was shaved, cleaned, and polished. Then to prepare the altar surface, the top of the coal was shaved and polished. The final product was the creation of the existing 3000-pound altar. The altar was then transported to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church.

While retaining the rough, raw natural resource of the coal, for the presentation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the altar has a very smooth surface. The altar is symbolic in many ways. It represents the spirit of the community and the heart of its hard working people. It is a natural resource of God’s creation. Like the church and God's people it evolves over many years. It represents the hard work of all those that have lived, worshiped, and labored in this mountainous, mining, community.

Fr. Robert Bond, the last Glenmary Mission Priest to serve St. Anthony’s parish, the dedication of the miners, haulers, fabricators, the Glenmary Brothers and especially the head of the building committee, Anthony Trigiani, made this precious earthly resource the sacred altar it is today! Father Bond considered the altar symbolic because in his words, "Coal is the material and spiritual prosperity of this area”.