The Church of Christ the King, Tulsa was dedicated by Bishop Francis C. Kelly in May of 1928, and was the first church in the world to be dedicated with the name “Christ the King.”, following the introduction of a Roman Catholic holy day of the same name.
The brick exterior is accented with the use of beveled piers which like St. Patrick’s and St. Thomas the Apostle, de-emphasise the intersection of walls and gives the building a more completeness about its shape. Terra cotta ornamentation on the exterior, was designed by Alfonso Iannelli.
The interior is amazing, particular to those familiar to Christ the King Turners Cross. The semi-octagonal shape of the sanctuary, communion rail and elevated altar are the exact building blocks used to realise the Turners Cross design. Christ the King Tulsa, was very obviously a first generation of this design. The ceiling consists of polished wood beams suspended to avoid the use of supporting pillars. The ceiling climaxes over the sanctuary and overall design completes the integration of the sanctuary and nave. This objective was a long standing goal of Byrne. The choir was positioned behind a slotted screen and elevated behind the altar. This location is today unused.
Alfonso Iannelli designed the stained glass windows which were made by the Temple Art Glass Company of Chicago and today rank among the finest examples of stained glass in the US. The north side depicts kings of the New Testament, with the Old Testament Kings featured on the south side. Iannelli also made the statues of Joseph and Mary which stand on the side altars.
The mosaic of Christ installed behind the altar, was designed by Emil Frei, Inc. Bruce Goff, a local Tulsa architect designed the mosaics of the two side altars.
The original interior shown here in this rare b&w image, depicts the Latin altar, rear wall tapestry work and altar decorations.
The colour image shown above was taken in the late seventies and shows the many changes that have been made over time.
The original altar seems to have been completely removed, along with rear wall tapestries and the 4 stations of the cross that were located on the rear wall of the sanctuary. These now appear to be moved to either side wall along-side some of the other stations.
The altar plateau itself is now covered with carpet and reshaped to form a stepped motif from all sides. The original image shows a rather odd white wing on either side of the altar.
The tabernacle is now located where a priests or dignitary chair once stood to the left of the altar. On the right side, the original white seat has been replaced with a black marble-finish seat that themes with the new altar.
The reredos artwork has either been significantly modified or replaced altogether. The original b&w image depicts the holy figure of Christ surrounded by a dark halo and positioned well below the chevron tip of the frame. The colour image shows the figure head positioned well into the chevron. This modification is likely to have taken place when the high altar was removed, exposing the entire reredos and probably justifying the modifications.
All colour photographs shown here are kindly provided by photographer David Halpern in association with the Tulsa Historical Society. The images are based on excerpts from the publication “Tulsa Art Deco” originally published in 1979 and recently re-issued. The book is available from www.davidhalpern.com and from www.amazon.com. Images are copyrighted and it is strictly forbidden to reuse these images without prior consent from the owner. Our appreciation is extended to David and to Elaine Bergman, Tulsa Historical Soc. for their kind efforts in providing these images.