The Great Mosaic which covers the entire surface of the sanctuary in the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi depicts the theme of Mary, Queen of the Order of Friars Minor, receiving the love and honor bestowed upon her by Franciscans throughout the centuries.
At the close of the first World War, Fr. Anselm Kennedy, O.F.M., the Pastor of St. Francis Church, engaged the Tyrolese Institute of Glass Painting and Mosaic for the construction of this masterpiece of art. Joseph Wild of Innsbruck, Austria was the artist in charge of construction, and Rudolph Margreiter was the artist responsible for the design. The mosaic was solemnly blessed by Most Rev. John J. Dunn, Auxiliary Bishop of New York, on November 1,1925.
The central portion of the mosaic features Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, as she stands majestically on the globe of the world. As the woman depicted in the books of Genesis (3:15) and Revelation (12:1-5), she crushes the serpent or dragon, symbol of Satan, under her foot. In her left hand she holds a lily, symbol of her virginity and perfect sinlessness. In her right arm rests Jesus, her Divine Son, clothed in the crimson color of redemption. He thrusts at the dragon-like creature with a cross-shaped spear, thereby conquering the power of Satan in the world.
St. Francis (1182-1226) and St. Clare of Assisi (1193-1253) kneel at the feet of Mary. Encircling the group are seven six-winged Seraphs, whose name has been traditionally applied to Franciscanism – the Seraphic Order – and a heavenly choir of 20 angels. Hovering above the entire panorama is the Holy Spirit, appearing a white dove.
In addition to the Great Mosaic, several other mosaics also adorn the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the left of the sanctuary, the Death of Saint Joseph to the right of the sanctuary, and the Shrines of Saint Anthony and the Sorrowful Mother in the rear of the church, and the mosaic of St. Francis in Glory over 31st Street entrance of the church.