If you frequent Mott Street in Chinatown, you might have noticed a new addition at the Historic Church of the Transfiguration. A new sculpture surrounds the statue commemorating Father Felix Varela, the Cuban-born priest who founded the parish in 1827.
The “Mandorla of Felix Varela” was installed in November. It was commissioned by Rev. Raymond Nobiletti, Transfiguration’s pastor. Father Andrew O’Connor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Grand Street came up with the concept, along with architect Hans Roegle and Chris Knight, a Manchester, England based sculptor.
The almond-shaped piece is made of anodized aluminum. The base is fashioned from black granite from the lot used to build the September 11th Memorial. According to a plaque that will be installed in the next few weeks, the mandorla “signifies to holiness of Varela” and “commands a three-block-long perspective by which the semblance of Chinese language signage gives way to English letters spelling out ‘Our Father'”
The plaque notes, “A symbol of political persecution and a beacon of religious freedom, the mandorla is intended to be a scrim for art projection to offer a voice to those who suffer religious and political persecution.” Father Varela was a tireless advocate for New York’s immigrant communities. In its 200-year history, Transfiguration has served Irish, Italian, Latino and now Chinese New Yorkers.
The church is a city and national historic landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission signed off on the addition to the building facade.
A dedication ceremony will take place in the spring. Transfiguration Church is located at 25 Mott St.