Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Details in religious art glass

Stained glass is an art form, and is primarily associated with churches; the grand, gallic, gothic cathedrals, foremostly: Rheims, Chartres, Paris. Some of this patrimony of brilliance was lost through the vandalism, of the protestant movement, that engulfed parts of northern and western Europe. The windows were both utilitarian and instructive. For people who could not read, they illustrated the faith, whereas, letters on a page could do nothing. Artisans were employed, and civilisation made progress, through this artistic facet.

There are studios that still create this art form. A certain, painterly style emerged in the 19th century in, Bavaria and Austria, a land of German Catholics. At this time, there was a romantic, neo-gothic revival in art and architecture. A toleration of catholicism came, to english speaking lands, at the same time. Many churches were being built in catholic and immigrant communities. There was work for stained glass artisans.

The Franz Mayer company created many windows, for Irish cathedrals and other churches, throughout the world. In Hali
fax, Nova Scotia on 6 December 1917 the largest man made explosion and mushroom cloud, to that time occurred, when a munitions explosion in the harbor killed 2,000, and caused a shock wave that broke windows ten miles away. The religious art of the stained glass was destroyed in several churches, one Saint Patrick’s included. Their windows were first ordered in 1898, 1899 and 1902, they were reordered in 1921 and 1926.

In a recent exchange of communiques, between Saint Patrick’s of Halifax and the Mayer company in Munich, a similar ironic exchange of details were shared. The canadian parish was looking for specifics about its windows. The german company explained, that most of their records were destroyed by bombs, and fires in 1944. They did find something on that canadian parish, and wondered why would they re-order the same windows. The Halifax explosion explained it.

There are many surviving Mayer windows. Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City has Mayer, locally Saint Stephen’s, in Cleveland O., has its windows. Here are portions of windows, whose details are telling and magnificent in description, and are telling in charact
er, and specific and dramatic in the peak of detail:

Here is the first recorded miracle, of the ministry, of Jesus. The clear water turns to red wine as it is poured.
But when it was evening, he sat down with his twelve disciples. And whilst they were eating, he said: Amen I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me.And they being very much troubled, began every one to say: Is it I, Lord?But he answering, said: He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: it were better for him, if that man had not been born.And Judas that betrayed him, answering, said: Is it I, Rabbi? He saith to him: Thou hast said it. And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.— Matthew xxvi. 20-28.

Here is the moment where Judas decides to betray, as Jesus is about to give the first Eucharist at the Cena (the Last Supper). Wine will turn into Blood. Eleven apostles will eventually spread this to the world, one will not.
Here are the soldiers on guard, at the Sepulcher, during Easter morning. One is affright, and the other asleep.
And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew. And to them that sold doves he said: Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic.John ii. 14-16.
Here Jesus cleanses the temple of commerce. The small whip (scourge) is held in the relaxed, right hand of Christ. You can see the look of resentment in the man, at the bottom right, as he gathers his treasure into a sack. The fellow in the centre, almost looks, as if he is stealing away with a television. At the bottom left, the heads, of two birds, poke out of a cage.

Here in a window, dedicated to Saint Lawrence, is Pope Sixtus II being arrested. Behind Saint Sixtus, is a man holding the fasces, a symbol of the power of the state.

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