Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Stained Glass’

Like a Bride Adorned for Her Husband

May 30th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

This is a post originally published September 12, 2011. I am re-posting it after attending the rite for the ordination of deacon this past Saturday. I did a post yesterday that was critical of the lack of emphasis on the altar. From where I was sitting –on the right side of the nave about halfway down– I could not see the altar or more than the tops of the heads of the clergy at the altar. Not being able to see much of the liturgy I took to looking around and noticing, once again, some beautiful things, most noticeably the beautiful stained glass windows. They remind me of what I think is a very important concept a Catholic church building should convey.

The photos you see in this post are from the original post. The last one, especially, does not convey the full blue appearance of the windows as I saw them Saturday. The second to last window is a little truer to the effect I noticed.

Click on the Photos to see larger images.

Rev 21 [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.


Rev  21 [11] It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal.


Rev 21 [18] The wall was constructed of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. [19] The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,[20]the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. [21]The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.

The church building in the Catholic tradition is more than just a gathering space for an assembly of people. It is a symbol of the New Temple –the people of God- and of the Heavenly Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven” dressed like a bride. The building should predispose us to experience the liturgy as timeless, incorporating in worship both all in heaven and all on earth. It is difficult to see how that experience can happen in a minimalist environment. I’m not going to say impossible, but, for most people, difficult.

Look around carefully and you can find in the Cathedral several suggestions of the heavenly Jerusalem in addition to the windows.


I can say something positive about our Cathedral even after the notorious renovation: the beautiful windows are still there. They form the equivalent of walls of jasper, gold, precious stones, pearls, sapphires and such, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The bride –the Church—is adorned in beautiful garments as she goes to meet her Lord.

Take heart! Not all is lost.

Simply I learned about Wisdom

February 14th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

Doctors of the Church Illuminate Aquinas Institute’s Chapel

Aquinas Institute opened in 1925 and included a chapel1 with stained glass windows depicting six Doctors of the Church chosen by Bishop McQuaid, the first bishop of Rochester, New York. The windows were cleaned and restored in the 1990s.

AIMG_6920(Click on Pictures for larger and sharper images)


I had the opportunity to tour my old Alma Mater a couple of months ago and to revisit the chapel that I remember from Masses the marching band celebrated there before heading off to a competition.2 I certainly remembered those windows: a huge translucent, heavenly wall depicting four Doctors of the Church (two other Doctors are represented in the opposite windows). Appropriately representing Holy Wisdom and Sanctity are (north window) Saint Thomas Aquinas (naturally), Saint Bernard of Clairvaux,3 Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ambrose, and (south window) Saint Dominic and Saint Augustine. Reportedly, these were Bishop McQuaid’s favorite Doctors of the Church.


Doctors of the Church are chosen for their eminent learning and high degree of sanctity. The Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah for the Common of Doctors of the Church in the Divine Office says this:

Those who are learned will be as radiant as the sky in all its beauty; those who instruct the people in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity.

What fitting attributes to hold up before Catholic students: Holy Wisdom and Sanctity. You won’t find those attributes stressed in the public schools. And what a fitting medium to represent those attributes: illuminating, colorful glass. If I was a teacher at Aquinas, I would be pointing out those windows to my students at every opportunity.









Thank you to Theodore Mancini, Principal at Aquinas, for allowing me to photograph the windows and for reminding me that while taking my pictures I would be in the real presence of Christ in the Reserved Sacrament, and to act accordingly. Now, there’s an educator you can trust your Catholic kids to!


1 The chapel is named the Martin J. Calihan (’45) Chapel

2 I’m very proud to say that I was the president of the band in 1963. We were the first Aquinas Band to win the New York State Championship. Subsequent AQ Bands went on to earn much bigger contests.

3 Two Doctors represented in the Chapel windows are my patron saints: Bernard and Augustine.

The windows were created by Franz Mayer & Co. (Mayer & Co. of Munich) a famous German stained glass design and manufacturing company, based in Munich, Germany, that has been active throughout most of the world for over 150 years. The firm was very popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and was the principal provider of stained glass to the large Roman Catholic churches that were constructed throughout the world during that period. Franz Mayer and Co. were stained glass artists to the Holy See and, consequently, popular with Roman Catholic clients. (Gerry Convery. “Poetry in Stone: Sacred Heart Church.” (Omagh: Drumragh RC Parish, 1999), p.120.)

A Gem in Geneva – Part III

September 22nd, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie


Part I

Part II

Here I share with you the stained glass windows of St. Stephen’s Church in Geneva, New York. The most interesting of these beautiful windows is the large one that rises above the narthex and main doors. The subject is the Jesse Tree. My camera is just not sophisticated enough to do it justice from below so you will have to travel to Geneva to really appreciate it.

(you will definitely want to click on the pictures to see sharper images)

"The Jesse Tree"

detail of "The Jesse Tree"

detail "The Jesse Tree"

detail "The Jesse Tree"

detail "The Jesse Tree"

"The Jesse Window"

some of the south (side) windows

detail of one of the south windows


one of the south windows


one of the north windows (?)

church sign

main entrance

 This is the last in the series on St. Stephen’s Church. The church is part of “Our Lady of Peace” parish.

Savannah Georgia’s Cathedral Church

March 12th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

Can you stand a peek at another cathedral?

(See a video that I made of the Cathedral, here.)

I was fortunate to visit the cathedral church of Savannah, Georgia (St. John the Baptist) a couple of weeks ago and was delighted with what I saw.

(click on photos to see larger images) 


The Cathedral has published a book that displays the art of the Cathedral and provides interesting historical background as well as religious definitions and explanations.2 I’ve reproduced several of the book’s photographs for this post.

Savannah Cathedral (3)

The first thing that struck me about the decorative program of this church appears high up in the clerestory, above the nave. The murals there led me to ask if there was a book available that would explain not only the personages in those murals but also the subjects and symbols that were in abundance throughout the rest of building. A beautiful book it is.

Those murals in the clerestory, along each side of the nave and on each side of the transept(s), depict a celestial procession of saints realistically portrayed against a regally patterned, flat, pinkish, wall paper-like, background. I immediately thought of the tapestry procession of saints in the controversial Los Angeles Cathedral.

Los Angeles Tapestries (4)



A celestial procession of saints as part of the decorative program of a church goes way back to the earliest Christian churches. The only surviving ‘house-church’ (ca. 243), at Dura Europos in Syria, shows a procession, in the baptistery, of the three women to the tomb of Christ.

Three women at the tomb. Dura Europos, Syria (243) (6)

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (7)

Probably the best known example is in Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (561) in Ravenna, Italy where processions of saints line the clerestory walls of the nave (see a clip here). Processions of 22 virgins appear below the saints on one side of the nave and 26 martyrs, on the opposite side.

I don't think churches "in the round" work because they focus inward on the community too much and not enough on the Lord. But, I give this parish credit for including the saints above and around them. (Photo has been edited to emphasize the 'clerestory.') (8)

A program of saints hovering above the nave of a church is an excellent way to reinforce a congregation’s sense of the communion of saints (a ‘Catholic’ concept). The saints, as well as the congregation, are participating in the liturgy from heaven, represented by church imagery high up on the walls of the nave. In my opinion, the suggestion of timelessness (‘God’s time’) is an important goal for church architecture. It is impressively achieved in a traditionally arranged long nave which leads to -and ends at- the altar where a strong eschatological image is displayed behind/above the altar.
Psalm 84, the first in today’s morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours,  suggests that  processional imagery in the nave of a church is most approriate:
“My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.”
“They walk with ever growing strength,
they will see the God of gods in Zion”
And, from Revelation 15:4 of today’s morning prayer:
“All peoples shall come and worship in your presence”
Liberals, progressives (or whatever the term should be) often invoke the image of journeying but it is interpreted in their ‘creative’ liturgies and church environments as ‘wandering.’ It never seems clear to me as to where they are journeying to, except inward toward the earthly confined community. In an environment like the Savannah Cathedral the journey is clearly to Zion and to the celestial celebration. The saints have successfully gone ahead of us -that’s why they are depicted in a higher register, above our heads. They encourage and help us by accompanying us; journeying, not wandering aimlessly.
Let’s also remember that Biblical history -salvation history- has an absolute beginning and an absolute end. Like an arrow it flies straight to the target from a definite starting point.

John points to the Lamb of God. Apse window. (9)

The Savannah Cathedral’s decorative program follows one type of Catholic tradition that emphasizes eschatological treatment of a scriptural scene; in this case, the Baptism of Christ and the story surrounding St. John the Baptist. It is in the nature of stained glass to transfigure even realistically rendered imagery into a vision of sanctification.  And so it is in the situation here: the saints of the murals in this Cathedral process toward the chancel (toward the altar of sacrifice and the table of the celestial banquet) in which are three luminous windows each proclaiming around the head of St. John “Behold, the Lamb of God”. (You recall, I hope, the image of the Agnus Dei -the Lamb of God– we saw in the chancel of the Washington Cathedral.)


Overlooking the altar, on each side, are the four evangelists participating from their box seats in the clerestory.

Transept window. (11)

The windows of the transept in St. John the Baptist are also quite beautiful and symmetrically programmed opposite each in the transept. In the north is depicted The Ascension of Our Lord and in the south, The Assumption of Mary. Both hopeful images for the successful completion of our journey. Below the transept windows are lancet windows of saints, the Christ Child, and the Holy Virgin.


There are Stations of the Cross, of course. These were made in Munich, Germany and installed in 1900. You can’t get to enjoy Easter without enduring Good Friday. Appropriately, these are located just slightly above eye level.


1 -by Bernie

2, 3, 9, 11 -Aviles, Suzanne, Art and Symbols of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, (2007) Diocese of Savannah, 222 Harris Street, Savannah, Georgia 31410. The book is available for $20 and includes photographs of nearly all the works in the church as well as a wealth of information both historical and religious.

7 Sant’Apollinare Nuovo Tango7174

4 Los Angeles Cathedral

Tapestry Saints

8 Anne Spenny (original photo has been altered) Corpus Christi University Parish, Toledo, Ohio

10, 11 -Bernie

Light of the World

January 26th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

Yesterday, January 25, was the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

The iconic painting of this moment in the life of St. Paul is Caravaggio’s, The Conversion of St. Paul (1601).1 The painting depicts the moment recounted in Chapter 9 of Acts of the Apostles when Saul, soon to be the apostle Paul, fell on the road to Damascus. He heard the Christ say “I am Jesus, whom you persecute, arise and go into the city.”

It is a very dramatic interpretation of the event; theatrical we could say. There are several design principles Caravaggio uses in the painting to involve us in the action. Many modern art critics would, perhaps, concentrate solely on describing and evaluating the artist’s competency in handling the formal principles used in the organization of design. The religious significance behind Caravaggio’s use of the principles of design in this particular painting might escape them -and us, too. 2

Caravaggio was a painter in the Baroque style. There are several design characteristics that artists working in that style commonly exhibit in their work. Among them are an emphasis on foreshortening, the dominance of asymmetry and diagonal linear arrangements, and dramatic lighting (spotlighting, we could call it, in many paintings). These are what I mean by formal design elements and principles. We can never get away from describing and evaluating how an artist formally organizes a work of art because that concerns the grammar that makes up the language he is using. In the case of Caravaggio’s painting of The Conversion of St. Paul we can briefly say that he has employed –among other things- the element of light (and dark) to dramatically focus our attention. He deploys the principle of emphasis through contrast (stark contrast) to emphasize Paul and the horse he has just been thrown down from. Those are some aspects of the formal design of this image. But, I would like to briefly describe how Caravaggio has used one of the formal elements –light and dark– to convey a religious meaning, or to symbolize religious doctrine.

Here is where the artist and the viewer (including the art critic and art historian) have to be on the same page or share the same religious or cultural background.  That is not by any stretch something we can assume in our secular age.

Knowing what we do about the story of the conversion of St. Paul, we at least understand the light as representative of the voice of Christ. Most of us probably stop right there in reading the painting –at the narrative; at the literal message.  And, that is certainly the most important meaning. But, as in scripture, there are several levels of meaning other than the literal.

Yesterday morning I noticed that the suggested hymn for Morning Prayer in the Common of Apostles included the following: “Of Gospel truth they bore the light to brighten earthly night; may we that heavenly light impart to every mind and heart.”3 In this visually dramatic painting of The Conversion of St. Paul we can see the mighty impact that heavenly light physically had on St. Paul. But, we also see in the painting the artist’s intent to communicate the sense of the absolute awesomeness of God’s intrusion into our earthly night. Through the Incarnation, life, and redemptive death of Christ “the dawn from on high (has broken) upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”4 St. Paul the apostle was to bear the Light of the world to the Gentiles, as we also have been instructed to do.

Light as a symbol of God/Christ, and the Incarnation, is everywhere in scripture, theology, and the visual arts -including architecture.  The whole Gothic style of architecture is based upon the symbolic power of light to communicate the sense of divinity flooding through the glorious stained glass windows. Standing in the nave of a French Gothic cathedral, I am struck by how dark it is inside.5 However, the windows –the glorious windows- glow with intense colors; the warm colors, like the reds, seem to float in front of the cool blues and greens. The abbot responsible for this emphasis on light in the Gothic style, Abbé Suger (ca. 1081-1151), was stirred by the writings of a theologian6 ca. 500 who allegorized God as heavenly light and Jesus as the earthly image of that “Light” from the Gospel of John (1:4-5 and 9) “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… [He] was the true Light which lights every man who comes into the world.” In the Gothic cathedral we see the same “Light” that pierces the darkness in The Conversion of St. Paul, this time piecing the darkness of the interior of the church. Christ, here, is the luminous window, the image of the Father piercing the darkness of earthly sin.

Here is an afterthought : Religious and liturgical art in the Catholic tradition has so much to offer us and yet, for the most part we have jettisoned that tradition in favor of a more protestant or evangelical theology that views art as a threat and a distraction. Our churches are sterile ‘worship spaces’ and our Liturgy has become a matter of functional concerns. Nothing is allowed to take us beyond the literal. We’ve cut it to the bones and removed the meat of the matter. Our personal relationship with Jesus has been reduced to bumper sticker spirituality and social work.

We might know the stories7 but we no longer understand or experience the stories on more than a literal level.  It has become a strictly sterile experience. The arts –music, art and architecture- enlarge and enrich the religious and spiritual experience and deepen our understanding of truth -and our relationship to Truth. They take us to the level of the allegorical. They can uncover in their own way the implications of the faith and the doctrines of the faith. Why limit our ways of understanding to only the sermon/homily?


1 Painted for the Cerasi Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. It is still there.

2 It is a sad part of the fallout of the ascendency of radical secularism in our schools and culture in general that we are losing our ability to read religious works -be they in the visual arts or literature or music- for their original religious meaning.

3 Exultet Orbis Gaudiis, 10th century; translated by Roger Nachtwey, 1965.

4 from the Gospel Canticle (Benedictus) for Morning Prayer

5 Art teachers continue to describe the interior of Gothic cathedrals as brilliantly lit by the light flooding in through the large windows –the large windows being the result of architectural innovation.  But a Gothic cathedral with its original stained glass windows –or colored replacements- is just the opposite; it is noticeably dark. The Light pierces the dark interior in the Gothic cathedral in a different way than in The Conversion of Paul as it causes the brilliant windows to appear suspended in the darkness, illuminating our minds more than the interior.

6 Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

7 It seems that very few people, especially the young, even know the stories. Only a very few people know, anymore, the symbolism and iconography. Most run-of-the-mill art historians and clergy don’t even know.

Feast Your Eyes

October 18th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption

Covington, Kentucky

A very beautiful Basilica, containing one of the largest church stained glass windows in the world. In fact this Basilica is a profusion of beautiful stained glass. A beautifully illustrated book is available to explain the symbolism of many of the windows.

View panoramic picture here

Cathedral Website Homepage here


The Windows of St. Vitus Cathedral

July 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

(Click on the pictures for larger views.)

St. Vitus is the Cathedral Church of Prague in the Czech Republic. It sits atop Castle Hill and looks out over the city that is across the river. Two other churches have stood on this site, but construction on this one began in the middle of the 14th century. The first architect, Matthias of Arras, planned the cathedral and began the actual construction. He died in 1352, and a young architect by the name of Peter Parler took over; Parler worked according to the original design, but was left to his own devices in subsequent stages once the original plans were implemented. Parler was eventually succeeded by his two sons, Wenzel and Johannes. However, there were many interruptions over the centuries and so it would not be until the 20th century that the cathedral was finally completed.

There are many things about St. Vitus Cathedral of interest not the least of which is that the tomb of St. Wenceslaus is located within its walls. But visually what struck me the most when I visited there last week were the stained glass windows added in the 20th century. Most notable were the new stained glass windows for the north wall created (donated, I think) by Alfons Mucha, the Czech Art Nouveau painter.


Sts. Cyril and Methodius window by Alfons Mucha . Events from their lifes are arranged along the edges of the window.


Detail of Cyril and Methodius window.


"Pentecost" window.


North wall windows.


North wall windows.


Older windows.


Older windows.


To be honest, I prefer (like) the olders windows. They don’t compete with the architecture; they harmonize with it. The geometric organization and canopy motifs in the older windows echo the gothic architectural style, and their color beautifully balances the neutral colored stone of the walls. The 20th century windows strike me as too self-aware; too distinct. Their swaths of color are too intense and too large.

Are the newer windows beautiful? On their own I would say, yes. But, as liturgical art for this particular building I would say they are good but not, excellent. They are, for the most part, orthodox and derived from our iconographic tradition. The Cyril and Methodius window is mostly a ‘history’ window and so is expectd to be somewhat unique. Unfortunately, that window is closer to the most sacred part of the building than the more sacred subject window, “Pentecost.” In my opinion, a dogmatic or scriptual subject should be positioned closer to the altar than an image of a saint or an historical event. In this cathedral, for example, the most sacred window -in the apse- depicts the most sacred subject in Christianity, the “Holy Trinity.”


All of these pictures were taken by Bernie Dick.

The Windows Of St. Thomas The Apostle

July 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

The content of this post has been moved here. This post is being preserved so as not to lose the original comments.

Salvation History in Stained Glass

June 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

(click on photos to see larger and clearer images)

In the earliest tradition of the Church, the stain glass windows of St. Michael’s Church in Rochester display episodes from salvation history -scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Beginning at least in the 4th century (perhaps earlier1) the walls of the naves of churches were chosen to reinforce through images the instructions given to new converts by the bishops. The large influx of weak converts from paganism following Constantine’s legalization of the Church resulted in the need to continually place before the eyes of the converts the teachings and story of the Church.

See a photo of the interior of St. Michael’s Church

The tradition remained even after adult conversion became far less common. The images were increasingly understood as making present in sacred time all of salvation history. The building took on an ontological symbolism with the scenes of the Old and New Testaments on the walls of the nave processing up to an image of Christ in glory2 in the apse, surrounding the altar, offering the congregants hope for their own eventual transfiguration or glorification.



Unfortunately there are no extant examples of church architecture prior to the 4th century. Nothing has survived. We do know that churches were, in fact, built prior to legalization.

2  Christ in Glory was one type of image. The scene of the Transfiguration, the Vision of Ezekiel, and Christ in the Second Coming from the Book of Revelation were some others. Often the background in the Transfiguration scenes depicted a garden in reference to paradise/heaven.


by Bernie Dick

Yes, “Gather Us In” exists in stained glass

May 11th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

You will want to first read the previous, related, post.

In this post I would like to try and come to a reasoned judgment as to the worthiness of these stained glass windows from St. Margaret Mary Church (of Blessed Trinity Parish) in Apalachin (near Endicott, in the Diocese of Rochester). I only pick these windows because I suspect that they would have a strong appeal for most people. They were designed by Steve Jeremko.



I will ask myself the four basic questions I recommended in my previous post entitled Can there be a stained glass version of “Gather Us In?”  for determining the worthiness of specific sacred or liturgical works of art. The questions are based on the stipulations outlined by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:  

1. To what extent are the works quality stained glass windows?

2. To what extent do the works have the exclusive aim of turning men’s minds devoutly toward God?

3. To what extent are the windows Catholic? Can we see the influence of Catholic tradition in the symbols or iconography? Are the images orthodox –indicative of correct belief?

4. To what extent do the windows exhibit noble beauty? Do the elements and principles of design communicate a lofty feeling rather than a common or base one?

I invite you to try and answer these questions first before reading my conclusions.

First off, question number one is probably impossible for us to answer here so let’s assume that the windows are perfect examples of stained glass.

Let’s move on to the second question: Do the windows have the exclusive aim of turning our minds devoutly toward God? Here, already, we run into a problem.  The first window, especially, with its theme of inclusiveness is less about worshipping God than it is about a man-centered feeling of community and inclusiveness. It is rife with political correctness. Topping it off, off course, is the socially charged emphasis on the rainbow which not only signifies an array of differences but also calls to mind homosexual inclusion. Now, these are not bad things but they are also not exclusively God-centered –unless you think of God only in human terms; as only existing in your fellow man and in human relationships. The windows do not devoutly turn us toward the majesty of God –which is the aim of worship—but, rather, to ourselves and our social policies. There is nothing offensive about the ‘inclusive’ window; it is just not sacred, liturgical art, if we consider the requirements outlined  by the Council fathers.

Is it Catholic? I think we run into even more difficulties in examining the works based on question three. I don’t think these windows  look at all Catholic. When I look at them I am reminded of stereotypical Protestant or non-denominational art. Notably lacking is any reference to the unity and apostolicity of the Church through time. The windows lack any theological foundation other than an ambiguous spirituality or pastoral feeling.  The marriage window seems to reference the scriptural story of the wedding at Cana (employed as a mere setting) but the use of intertwined rings and heart frame introduce essentially secular symbols or signs. It is safe to say that there is nothing here that is doctrinal or dogmatic or even, specifically, scriptural in a Catholic sense. If there were some reference in the marriage window to, for example, the relation between Christ and His Church we might have something with which to work.

In addition, the prominence of the rainbow and its clear associations with the socially and politically charged issue of homosexually seems to imply an attitude that is actually in opposition to Catholic Church teaching on chastity, as far as homosexual persons are concerned.  That may not have been the intent of the artist or those charged with supervising the artist but this is what can happen when you fail to consult tradition or and have no solidly orthodox goal in mind.

How about noble? Do the windows meet the Council Fathers’ mandate that sacred art exhibit noble beauty? The word noble infers, among other things, outstanding qualities or elevated ideas and thoughts. A feeling of seriousness, formality and appropriateness come to my mind, as well, as I consider the meaning of the term nobility.

These church windows are pretty, certainly –pleasant enough to look at. Pretty, however, is not noble beauty. These windows do not inspire anything more than a pleasant feeling.

The reaction to my conclusions regarding the worthiness of the windows in St. Margaret Mary Church may very well be the same as reactions to the criticisms of the song “Gather Us In.”  I have tried to reach a critical judgment of these windows based on what I understand to be the standards or guidelines outlined in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Cleveland Balks at Church Stained-glass Removal

March 23rd, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From San Antonio Express News

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland’s city council is balking at a move to allow the Roman Catholic diocese to remove stained-glass windows from closed churches.

The council delayed a vote Monday on a measure…

Read more

Mosaic Apse Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God

January 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

Perhaps you remember our series on the categories or types of Mother of God icons? Below is an example each of the Mother of God Hodegetria type, and Kyriotissa type. I have been very fortunate to have visited both locations and I can’t help but mention how profound it is to stand in such old and venerable churches even though often –as is the case with the first one– the churches are no longer used for Mass or the Divine Liturgy.

The first picture is of the Cathedral Church (late 12th c.) on the Island of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon. Torcello was the first island settled in what was to become the Republic of Venice. It is now, for the most part, deserted. The second picture is of the apse in the church of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Hosios Lukas (11th c.). The church is still part of an active monastery in Greece.

The Torcello apse mosaic is a Hodegetria type image of Mary (She who knows–-or shows– the way) holding the Child Jesus, presenting Him to us. The second is a Kyriotissa type (an enthroned Mother and Child), depicts Mary as the greatest among men because of her status as Theotokos (God bearer). The image is a sort of short-hand for the doctrine of the Incarnation. Both apses are Eastern or Byzantine in style.

I have always been attracted to the Eastern or Byzantine style of icons and church decorative ‘programs’ because they are so clearly dogmatic as well as mystical. Orthodoxy -right thinking/belief or right praying/practice- is of primary importance in the creation of the Byzantine images and how they are arranged in the churches. There is so much variety in the art in Western churches, especially art created with a strong sense of individual artistic expression, that what is believed can sometimes be hard to determine.

(Click on pictures for a larger image)

Cathedral on the Island of Torcello, Venetian Lagoon

'Hodegetria with The Apostles' in the cathedral on the Island of Torcello, Venetian Lagoon

'Kyriotissa' image in the apse and 'Pentecost' image in the dome. Church at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Hosios Lukas, Greece


Picture sources:

Torcello Cathedral and Church at Hosios Lukas

Beautiful Stained Glass Windows

December 20th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

Followed a Facebook link and found The Mission to Magadan which provides support to a Church in Magadan, Russia. The Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage in Alaska and Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI provide communications and stewardship support to the parish. The church has installed some very beautiful –in my opinion– stained glass windows. The sanctuary and chancel display an abundance of quality images as I think a Catholic church should. I can’t find much information (I didn’t dig very deep) about the parish except that apparently it commemorates or honors those who suffered from Russian government oppression. See all the window photos here.

The Creation of Eve from the Side of Adam

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Stained Glass by Reinarts

October 16th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

Here are some very nice stained glass windows created by Reinarts Stained Glass Studios, Inc. They were created for Holy Family Church in St. Louis Park, MN.

The Finding of Moses, Moses Receives the Ten Comandments, and the Burning Bush. The Finding of Moses could be interpreted as an image of the 'Ever Virgin' Mary

The Resurrection

The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (Pentecost). I only count eight apostles and no Mary (?)

Why do I like them?

Primarily because the iconography is traditional and easily ‘readable’ and the rendering is appropriately stylized -not too abstract or distorted. The faces are more realistically rendered than the clothing which is a subtle suggestion of the doctrine of the Incarnation and Divination (a combination of realism -body (matter)- and abstraction -spirit). The colors are simply balanced between cool colors on the figures and warm, yellow based colors dominating the backgrounds. The yellow dominated background is imitative of the gold mosaic and gold leaf renderings of pre-Renaissance religious art. Such backgrounds symbolize a heavenly scene or a spiritual ‘seeing.’ The predominance of high intensity colors throughout the designs establishes an overall harmony and is also suggestive of a spiritual state.

This is not masterpiece liturgical art by any stretch; it verges on being a little too simple -something like coloring book art. But it isn’t too simple and I think that is a part of its attraction for me is the very fact that it flirts with that fault.

I’m guessing these windows were fairly afforable which is the real reason why I bring them to your attention. Good, high quality, creatively designed works of liturgical art are well within reach of all parishes.

Flight into Egypt

July 18th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

Window above and behind the altar at St. Joseph's Church in Rush