Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Stained Glass Project

I've already given a little preview of this project in Angel, Dark Angel. Actually, this post was supposed to be the preview, but I couldn't wait to post the images of St. Michael (visible in context in this detail of a wedding photo.)

This project is starting to grow, and some people have expressed an interest in it. Here's how I summed it up in response to one inquiry:

I grew up in Nanticoke and have lived here most of my life. I attended St. Mary's Church and School as a child, so I've spent nearly every Sunday (and lots of other days back in grade school) in that church looking at those windows. I suppose being in such frequent proximity causes you to take things for granted. I have traveled many miles to see Marc Chagall's stained glass windows at Union Church of Pocantico Hills in New York, and I must say I like our little windows more!

With the possibility of the closing of St. Mary's looming into a probability, I have started to look at all these things I have taken for granted in a new light. Often I have thought that it would be wonderful to arrange for some professional photographer to come into the church with a specially-designed rig to capture detailed images of the windows. But as I sat in the pew before my cousin's wedding last week, camera in hand, I thought "Well, why not?" and started taking pictures.

St. Mary's isn't the only church in this area with beautiful stained glass windows or other works of art. Nor is it the only church in this area slated for closing. (Or potentially slated; Bishop Martino is now advising the people of the diocese that nothing is decided yet, though - but as we saw with the school closings, and the bishop's fight with the teachers, once Bishop Martino has made up his mind, no appeals to reason or mercy will sway his decision.) I'm sure there's at least one person in each congregation with a camera. I think it would be fantastic on so many levels if the people of this area were to take it upon themselves to photographically document the things that mean so much to them, so that these things are not lost forever when they are gone. Or, perhaps, so future generations might understand just what has been lost.
So that's what I'm doing. Beyond just photographically documenting the windows, I will also try to dig up as much information on them as I can. When were they installed? Where were they made? Who are the people whose names are listed at the bottoms as donors?* The church itself may have records that will answer these questions - but if I wait too long, those records may be lost or discarded. Already many of the people with memories of the church stretching back decades beyond my mother's have passed from the scene. I guess I should have acted on another of my little projects sooner.

As I noted in the e-mail I quoted, there are a lot of churches in this area with art worth preserving, even if only photographically, and many of those churches are slated for closing. I wonder if I can generate enough interest to get someone from each parish to take on the task of photographing and researching the windows in their church?

*My mom thinks the answer to the second question may be Baut Studios, a local stained glass manufacturer. Until today, I had no idea there was a local stained glass manufacturer. But if they are the suppliers, then the answer to the first question would have to be "sometime after 1927." And the church is over 100 years old. I'll see if I can grab the priest after Mass this weekend.

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