A 20-foot stained glass depiction of St. Elizabeth of Hungary towers over the first floor of the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon.
A statue of St. Elizabeth faces visitors entering the hospital and a San Damiano crucifix is the centerpiece of the fifth-floor chapel.
All this artwork, along with several other pieces of religious artwork and artifacts, were removed from the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville and installed throughout the new hospital, which opened Nov. 4 at the intersection of North Green Mount Road and Interstate 64.
“We brought several key pieces that we feel is part of our heritage,” said Sue Holloway, director of construction management for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. “We tried to repurpose it where it was appropriate.”
The religious artwork that wasn’t incorporated into the new hospital will be spared from demolition as it was all removed from the Belleville building, which is scheduled to be demolished by mid 2019. This artwork has been donated to religious organizations, including area churches and other hospitals within the Hospital Sisters Health System, which oversees St. Elizabeth’s. Other pieces were sent to the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Motherhouse in Springfield for storage.
Here’s a breakdown of three of the significant pieces of religious artwork installed in the O’Fallon hospital:
▪ The 20-foot stained glass window of St. Elizabeth was part of the Belleville chapel in the 1950s and later was featured in the Centennial Room of the Belleville hospital. It is now in the outpatient services lobby in the O’Fallon hospital and is backlit. The stained glass shows St. Elizabeth with three roses, which symbolize the “miracle of roses.”
Holloway gave this description of the Catholic tradition about St. Elizabeth: She lived in Hungary in the 1200s as part of an aristocratic family. As a young woman, she would give food to poor people but her in-laws demanded that she stop doing that. But she kept making the donations by hiding the food in her cloak and one day was stopped by her husband.
“She was very fearful and when she opened her cloak, the miracle of God was that all of the food turned to roses,” Holloway said of the Catholic beliefs about St. Elizabeth.
To honor the hospital’s namesake, the new hospital has an “abstract interpretation” of roses throughout the building. For example, the rose swirl design is part of the flooring in the new hospital and on privacy curtains.
▪ The exterior statue of St. Elizabeth was located at the entrance of the Belleville hospital since the 1950s. It is now encircled by a rose garden outside the outpatient services entrance of the O’Fallon hospital and the walkway by the statue has a rose design imprinted in the concrete.
▪ The replica of the San Damiano cross had been the focal point in the chapel of the Belleville hospital building since the 1950s and was moved to the chapel of the new hospital.
“The San Damiano cross is very important to our Franciscan heritage as it was the cross that St. Francis prayed to in the very beginning as he was finding his way,” said Donna Myers, the director of mission integration, pastoral care and community benefit for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
All of the wooden items from the old chapel were refurbished and then installed in the new chapel. These pieces include the pews, chairs, altar and statues. Also, the tabernacle from the Belleville chapel was transferred to the O’Fallon chapel, which has large windows and gives visitors sweeping views to the horizon.
One large piece of religious artwork that was installed in the O’Fallon hospital was not part of the Belleville hospital but it did have two prior homes in the metro-east.
It’s a stained glass in three sections, or triptych, of St. Elizabeth and is now on the fifth floor where people headed to the chapel or cafeteria can see it. The artwork originally was part of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in East St. Louis and then it was in the Meredith Home in downtown Belleville. When the Belleville Diocese closed the Meredith Home, the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Auxiliary purchased the triptych of St. Elizabeth and put the artwork in storage.
The hospital had the piece restored before it was displayed in the O’Fallon hospital. Holloway said the person who restored the artwork estimated the piece is about 100 years old.
One of the donations that St. Elizabeth’s gave to area churches includes a large stained glass depiction of St. Clare of Assisi, which will be installed in the St. Clare of Assisi Church in Ellisville, Mo.
Along with the art that came from the Belleville hospital, St. Elizabeth’s used other artwork to decorate the new hospital. This includes photos submitted by the public, artwork created by area artists and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi donated by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. St. Elizabeth’s Hospital traces its roots to 1875 when three nuns from this religious order immigrated to Belleville and started treating sick persons.
Holloway and Meyers were members of a subcommittee convened to archive the artwork in the Belleville building and decide what to do with it. Other members included St. Elizabeth’s leaders, representatives from Kahler Slater, the architectural and design firm for the new hospital, and a representative from the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Motherhouse.