When I did a post featuring the round windows at the top of each pair of large stained glass windows at St. Mary's church in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, I realized I had missed something. There were twelve pairs of portrait windows in the church, six on either side, plus a pair of non-portrait stained glass windows at the back of the church on either side. Each of these pairs formed a major window, surmounted by a round window. I had twelve images. There should have been fourteen. What had I missed?
I quickly realized one of the missing images was on the North side all the way at the front of the church. This was one of the least-accessible windows, and one of those that gets the least light. My current image of it is poor and blurred and cuts off the round window entirely. Soon I will be arranging to reshoot these windows with a tripod to get the best possible images with my equipment. But where was the other?
The other, it turned out, was in the back of the church above the South side non-portrait window. It was visible only from the choir loft, and only from a part of the choir loft that I had never been in before.
I found myself in church unexpectedly on a Sunday morning two weeks ago. I had already been to Saturday evening Mass that week, but since I didn't have anything better to do that morning, and since it was the first Sunday after Erin Moody's excellent article on the Stained Glass Project had appeared in the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice, I decided to attend Sunday services and see if anyone was looking at the windows with renewed interest. (They weren't, as far as I could tell, though a few people did stop me to comment on the article.)
After Mass I made my way over to the South side of the choir loft to get my picture of the overlooked window. The light was not at its best, so I knew that getting a sharp image would be very difficult. But when I saw the window I was a little taken aback.
Someone, at some point in the past, has used this window for target practice with a BB gun.
With some effort I could probably pinpoint the position of the shooter. Just based on the pattern of cracks I could probably place him - it was almost certainly a him - to within plus or minus twenty feet. To determine when this happened, though, I would have to call in someone with better skills in crime scene investigation. At best I can assert that this most likely happened within the last hundred years or so.
Another obvious question, though, is : What the heck is this an image of? The banner script will likely be of little assistance, since key parts of it are missing - rubbed away, or simply evaporated - and the impact scar left by the BB eliminates the first letters of the first word. The object itself looks strangely mechanical. At first glance I thought this was some sort of musical instrument with a horn attached, or a sort of record player with a tone arm. On closer inspection the object above the multi-sided structure looks like it might be a pump handle, or perhaps a pulley attached to the structure. Could this be a representation of a ciborium, or a pyx? Or could this be a baptismal font? The linked Wikipedia entry notes:
The simplest of these fonts has a pedestal (about 1.5 metres tall) with a holder for a basin of water. The materials vary greatly consisting of carved and sculpted marble, wood, or metal. The shape can vary. Many are 8-sided as a reminder of the "new creation" and as a connection to the practice of circumcision which traditionally occurs on the 8th day.
This structure appears to have six sides, not eight, though this may be an illusion; compare to this image of an actual baptismal font. If this is a baptismal font, does this one have a lid on it? (Many modern fonts feature lids.) And is the object on top a pump-handle, or a ladle for conducting baptisms?
It's hard to say, particularly without the full inscription. But that helpful information has been taken from us by a small ball of stainless steel, fired by some wanton boy perhaps many decades ago.
UPDATE, 12/15/08: Once again, Dee solves the mystery!
Hortus conclusus -- literally an enclosed garden, but used as a metaphor for the Virgin Mary. From wikipedia: The term hortus conclusus is derived from the Song of Solomon (also called the Song of Songs) 4:12: "A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed."
It's not a baptismal font, it's a sealed fountain.
The Latin for "fountain" is "fons." So if this is a "sealed fountain," then the inscription is most likely "Fons Conclusus"!
Dee, your scholarship once again has been amazingly valuable!