Crucifixion Altarpiece - CODAworx

Crucifixion Altarpiece

Submitted by Mia Tavonatti

Client: Saint Kilian Catholic Church

Location: Mission Viejo, CA, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $110,000

Project Team


Rev. Bruce Patterson

Diocese of Orange County / Saint Kilian Church


Mia Tavonatti


This 9' x 13' mosaic was designed for the freestanding arched wall behind the altar. It is made entirely of hand cut stained glass and took 2500 hours to create. I built the cross from Home Depot beams, and made the crown of thorns from a wreath purchased at Michael's. I photographed my model draped in a loin cloth, tied to the cross and balancing on a bag of planting soil. These images were layered in Photoshop with sunset images I took in Italy and Hawaii.


"The tiles represent the people of the living mosaic of St. Kilian,” says Father Bruce Patterson, the parish’s pastor. The shape of the mosaic was directly related to the existing design for the freestanding wall behind the altar. The subject of the Crucifixion was determined by the churches design review board. Because I completed the Artprize version prior to actual construction, this artwork became the "inspiration piece" for many of the interior finish materials and additional artwork including the altar, furniture and stained glass windows. A full size vinyl print of the original mosaic was actually hung in place outside after the very first steel, that of the arched wall, was installed, to inspire people and show them what the future altar was going to look like.


In 2011 I was commissioned to create a Crucifixion of Christ in glass mosaic for the altar of the soon to be built Saint Kilian Catholic church in Mission Viejo, CA. The project was put on hold after my team and I had already put hundreds of hours into it. Rather than shelving the project, I decided to enter it into Artprize, the world's largest art competition, which I had finished 2nd in the prior year with another glass mosaic. I completed the Crucifixion and won 1st Place! Soon afterwards, Father Bruce Patterson contacted me and informed me that construction was back on track and gave me the go ahead to start my second version of the Crucifixion. I had already been approved by the design review group which included the architect, Father Bruce and 4-5 other members of the church administration and the Diocese of Orange County. The design review also visited my studio to watch the progress and discuss samples for the other finish materials to be used throughout the church and on the altar.

Additional Information

This work of art was designed to inspire and move people to a state of prayerfulness. It took fifteen hours to install, and when I came out through the construction gate that night, after a long hard day getting Him up, there were at least 20 people waiting to show their gratitude with tears and hugs...even though they could only catch glimpses of the altarpiece through the fence and between all the scaffolding. Since then, I have had many tearful people tell me how powerfully they are moved by the work.