The painting depicts Christ prior to his Ascension surrounded by intense light from above. The nail wounds are seen in his wrists and feet as he blesses the people.
Between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Christ appeared several times to the Apostles-He appeared outside the walls of Jerusalem; He appeared on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and we see Peter and Paul awestruck at His presence. Along with many other people - fishermen with their nets and fish, shepherds, camel drivers and the mother and baby, He also appeared to the apostles while they were dining on honey, unleavened bread, wine and fish (still-life right foreground).
The rugged rocks to the left and right of Christ were painted from photographs taken in the Negev Desert (as were many settings in this piece) and serve to remind us of Christ's commission to Peter: "...Peter you are rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church..." (Matt. 16:18)
The empty tomb, above Christ's left shoulder, is symbolic of his victory over death. The three crosses are on a distant hill to the right of the city walls. The olive tree to the far right, depicts one that is 2000 years old and which still stands and bears fruit to this day.
Tradition holds that Paul was martyred by a centurion's sword which can be seen in this still-life with the bas relief busts of Caesar Augustus forged on the handle and hilt. Peter was crucified upside down and the reversed cross is discernible at the far left.
The background is typical of life in the region. The shepherds and farmers gathered at the Golden Gate or David's Gate, to sell their wares. This gate is now walled up with stone and the Damascus Gate is the main arena for marketing by farmers and tradespeople today.
Executed in the artist's studio on doubleprimed Belgian linen, the mural's overall dimensions are 44 feet horizontal and 14 feet vertical.
The mural was painted by Frank Hopper, an internationally known artist who resides in Sarasota. It took Frank approximately nine months to do the mural. It was painted in two separate pieces - top and bottom. When he finished the top portion, the canvas was rolled up (like a carpet) and stored while he worked on the bottom portion. When the mural was installed the top and bottom matched almost perfectly. He had only a few adjustments to make to the camels legs. The mural was hung under Mr. Hopper's supervision by workers from the Smithsonian. It is literally "glued" onto the wall. All the people in the mural are real - with the exception of Jesus who is a composite of three different people. All the scenes are taken from photos that Mr. Hopper took on several trips to Israel. People have commented that the eyes of Christ seem to "follow" you wherever you go in the church.
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