The Altar

The altar at Trinity is the focal point of the cathedral—the raised, primary station from which the Eucharist is served. Made of Carrara marble (from Carrara, Italy, in the northernmost tip of Tuscany), it comprises three panels. The two outside panels bear the Greek letters A (alpha) and Ω (omega), which derive from Rev. 22:13: “I am alpha (A) and omega (Ω), the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” The central panel bears the letters ΙΗS, which stand for the Latin Iesus Hominum Salvator (“Jesus, Savior of Mankind”), although the more common abbreviation is the Greek ΙΗΣ (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ), which are the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. 

1."Jesus and the Children" (1890) Located in the apse behind the altar  

After the death of Dr. Peter Shand (1800-1886), Rector of Trinity for over 50 years (1834-1886), the congregation took up a collection for a suitable memorial. The result was that the five lancets of the original apse were replaced by this great window, called “The Shand Window” and the four accompanying Belcher lancets. To make room for the Shand Window, a fifth marble tablet, identical to those presently in the apse wall was moved. The tablet was inscribed with a tribute to Dr. Shand and placed in the eastern wall of the chancel.   

In the middle window, Jesus holds a child in his arms; a young woman kneels at his feet with her arms around another child. Matthew 19: 14 recalls the time when Jesus, rebuking his disciples, said to them “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”    

In the arch of this window is a quatrefoil—a beautifully crafted ornamental design of a four-petaled flower. It is used widely in the decoration of ecclesiastical architecture, in stained glass, and in ironwork. It may indicate any fourfold group—the four evangelists, the four cardinal virtues (justice, temperance, prudence, fortitude) or the four perfections of God (unity, power, goodness, wisdom). The letters ΙΗS just below this ornament reflect the same abbreviation for Jesus found on the altar.  

"For many years the central window and the four accompanying lancets were thought to be the work of  Louis Comfort Tiffany (see Narthex Partition) or John LaFarge (1835-1910) but in 2002, a workman from Tiffany, in town  to do a small repair, identified the window as the work of the Belcher Mosaic Glass Co. of New Jersey. Henry Belcher, designed his windows on the premise that Medieval glass workers only had access to small fragments of precious glass from which to make mosaic-like designs. He received four patents between 1884 and 1889 for a technique that involved setting pieces of glass “not larger than one-half inch across” into a pattern on a sheet of plate glass without using leading to connect the pieces of glass. Instead, another sheet of heavy plate glass was laid on top of the glass and a molten alloy was poured into the frame, binding the small pieces of glass together. This technique gave Belcher windows their characteristic unequal spacing between the pieces of glass.

The four adjacent lancets feature the quatrefoil with four candlesticks decorated at their base with Messianic (or Christian) roses, (five white petals with yellow styles and stamens in the center), a symbol of the Messiah. Isaiah 35:1 says that when the Messiah comes into the world it will be like a desert that will “blossom as the rose.” Combined with the candlestick it is a symbol that Christ, “the Light of the World” (John 8:12), is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. 

These windows and the windows over the doors going into the Legislative Hall of the SC State House across the street make up one of the largest collections on Belcher Mosaic Glass in the world. The quatrefoil is present in each of these four windows as well. These five windows in the apse behind the altar make an exquisite centerpiece for the cathedral's other windows.

MEMORIAL: A MEMORIAL TO THE REVEREND PETER JOHNSON SHAND, D.D., WAS GIVEN BY HIS CONGREGATION IN LOVING COMMEMORATION OF HIS FAITHFUL MINISTRY AT TRINITY CHURCH.  DR. SHAND CAME FROM CHARLESTON, S.C., IN 1833 AS A LAY READER. HE WAS ORDAINED TO THE PRIESTHOOD, BECAME RECTOR OF TRINITY IN 1834, AND SERVED IN THAT CAPACITY UNTIL HIS DEATH ON ALL SAINTS' DAY 1886. HE IS INTERRED IN THE CHURCHYARD.