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Issue 03 – Christ the King 2020


An American Throne

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An American Throne

The Smithsonian Museum of American Art holds a piece of the American soul. It is only ever seen by surprise, discovered rather than sought out. The museum presents the Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly as a Washington, D.C., landlord found it in 1964, piled up in a dim garage. Like any other piece of liturgical art, it’s not meant for a museum (much less a garage), but its drab setting shows off its brilliance all the more, and its cramped presentation does not distract from its size.

The Throne is a liturgical sculpture ensemble of some one-hundred seventy-seven pieces, arranged on two platforms, one raised behind the other. It’s huge, and it draws one in to look for details. At the back and in the center is the tallest piece — a throne nine feet high — topped with “FEAR NOT” in a bold matinee font. Before it, a lectern, an altarpiece, and (on the lower platform) an altar, all covered in gold and silver foil, and on either side are more lecterns labeled with biblical names. Cardboard-and-foil crowns cover the floor around these larger pieces, and plaques reading “JESUS” with commandments written in a variety of tongues surround them on the walls. The museum keeps two other large pieces in storage, but when fully displayed it wraps around the viewer, evoking heaven at every angle.

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Philip Jeffery

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