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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Stained Glass Project: St. Anne and St. Peter

This is part of an ongoing series called The Stained Glass Project, in which I am attempting to photographically preserve the stained glass windows of my parish church, Our Lady of Czestochowa (St. Mary's) in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.


The subjects of the fifth pair of windows from the rear of the South side of St. Mary's church in Nanticoke really need no introduction. Outside of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph), Saints Anne and Peter are probably among the best-known figures in the Communion of Saints.

Saint Anne is the mother of Mary, and the grandmother of Jesus. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia notes that everything that is known about Saint Anne - including her name - comes from apocryphal sources:

All our information concerning the names and lives of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, is derived from apocryphal literature, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Protoevangelium of James. Though the earliest form of the latter, on which directly or indirectly the other two seem to be based, goes back to about A.D. 150, we can hardly accept as beyond doubt its various statements on its sole authority. In the Orient the Protoevangelium had great authority and portions of it were read on the feasts of Mary by the Greeks, Syrians, Copts, and Arabians. In the Occident, however, it was rejected by the Fathers of the Church until its contents were incorporated by Jacobus de Voragine in his "Golden Legend" in the thirteenth century. From that time on the story of St. Anne spread over the West and was amply developed, until St. Anne became one of the most popular saints also of the Latin Church.

The Wikipedia entry on Saint Anne notes that a book is one of her saintly attributes, often shown in depictions of her, though no explanation is given. Nor is it clear why she is shown holding a Triregnum, or Papal Tiara.

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Saint Anne
Wikipedia entry on Saint Anne

Next to Saint Anne is the portrait of Saint Peter. The obvious attribute shown here is the pair of keys (one behind the other) clasped in his right hand.

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Saint Peter
Wikipedia entry on Saint Peter

There are two other items worth noting about this pair of windows. One is the remarkable similarity in pose, composition, and coloration of the two portraits: both are depicted in almost identical orientation to the viewer, and both wear vestments of rich ruby red, pale aquamarine, and wheat. (Saint Anne also has some purple in her clothing.)

The other is the fact that these windows are considerably modified compared to most of the other portrait windows in the church, missing the upper and lower openable panes and the "PRESENTED BY" tags. These modifications were likely made in the 1950's when the side door of the church (shown above) was installed. (I believe this was in 1953.) So, tragically, the names of the donors are probably lost to history - unless some separate record of these donors, or perhaps even the missing pieces of the window themselves, are stored somewhere!


The upper round window depicts a Lily of the Valley, mentioned in the Song of Songs and another element of the hortus conclusus. Additional religious relevance, from the Wikipedia entry:
The flower is also known as Our Lady's tears since, according to Christian legend, the tears Mary shed at the cross turned to Lilies of the Valley. According to another legend, Lilies of the Valley also sprang from the blood of Saint Leonard of Noblac during his battles with a dragon.
The script on the banner beneath this image is, unfortunately, unreadable.

1 comment:

Todd HellsKitchen said...

This is such a great project that you are doing!