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Mar 08, 2016 | Carol Muegge

Eggshells and Gold Leaf Follow Jesus’ Footsteps to Crucifixion

Where once there were bare walls between the stained glass windows at St. Peter’s, Brenham, there are now images of each part of Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion. These Stations of the Cross are mosaic icons made from eggshell and gold leaf, created by St. Peter’s member, Dr. Jeff Terrel, with help from his good friend and collaborator, Jeanette Willis. Both reside in Bellville.


Inspired by the artwork he viewed in the great cathedrals of Europe during his travels and reinforced by viewing an icon of St. John the Baptist at the Greek Orthodox Church in Houston, Terrel was moved to begin constructing religious icons.


“Mosaic icons were used in cathedrals of Europe centuries ago with very detailed images of the faces of the saints so a story could be told to worshipers who generally could not read.” Terrel explained.


He created his first icon in 1978 and for the next 25 years he labored to complete the icon since his career as a pathologist at St. Joseph Hospital and his operation of a commercial nursery at Bellville home consumed most of his time. As he approached retirement, Terrel reduced his professional workload and returned to the icons, including some that now hang in St. Peter’s.


In 2012, began the icons of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Often incorporated into the life and rituals of liturgical churches, the Stations of the Cross present a complete iconography available to worshipers as a prayer window made to pray through to God. An icon serves to create an environment for a person to connect to God through the spirit of the Saints in the icon, not the “representation” of the saint.


In constructing the early icons, Terrel first used seashells, then subsequently turned to another material . . . eggshells. First emptied, then painted, crushed, and pieces individually attached to the surface of a wooden panel, the eggshell medium portrays the fine detail of facial features, drapes in cloth and other conventional images of religious art. Painstakingly applied gold leaf provides the background for each icon, creating depth and an amazing color-changing ability behind each image. “It took about six weeks working two to four hours a day to finish the larger icon panels,” Terrel said.


Willis, a hospice nurse and artist, helped Terrel with two of the icons. She applied the eggshells to make the figures in the images, which she finds easier than filling in with the gold leaf. “Its much harder to compensate for any mistakes working with gold leaf so I left that to Jeff,” she said.


The Terrel icons were blessed in February and will be used on Good Friday for parishioners to follow Stations of the Cross. The choir will perform Dubois’ “Seven Last Words of Christ.” For more information, please see