Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Stained Glass Project: St. Hedwig and St. Edward

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 third portrait window from the back of the South wall of St. Mary's church in Nanticoke, PA features portraits of Saint Hedwig and Saint Edward. Both stand against the "cathedral" backdrop, discussed previously.

Saint Hedwig has a long and complicated biography, and it would be tedious to try to relate it here. So I direct you to these online sources of information:

Nothing in my admittedly cursory reading of these biographies really explains the one thing that since childhood has stuck in my memory about this portrait:

What is that object?

To a kid, certain things about this images stuck out: Monsters. Weapons. Toys. Saint Hedwig holds what I always thought of as a toy schoolhouse, maybe even a toy church. Why? As I began my research I assumed that she was responsible for the founding of schools or construction of churches. But I am not seeing that. Instead it seems that she was heavily involved in the founding of monasteries. Is this object meant to represent a monastery?

And what did she do to earn a crown? Certain portraits show saints wearing crowns, while others do not. Is there a code here, like the alleged code involving the number of horse's legs that are raised in a statue? Or could this simply be in recognition of her status as a Duchess of Silesia?

The second portrait seems a little more straightforward: St. Edward the Confessor was a king of England, renowned (if the stories are to be believed) for his healing touch. Unfortunately, he was also uncle to St. Edward the Martyr, who was also king of England. Which one is this? I have no idea. The youthful appearance could mark him as the latter, who was only sixteen or seventeen when he died. The spear could be a clue - Edward the Martyr died, according to one account, due to injuries received in a stabbing by an assassin while he was visiting his wicked stepmother during a hunt. Have a look at this source material and see if you can figure it out:

The lines across St. Edward's body and the dark blotch on his head are not cracks, but are the chain once used for opening and closing the vented window above the portrait.

The upper round window is the one I have dubbed the "Temple." The calligraphy on the scroll at the bottom is not readable in this image.

The person who presented both of these windows has a name immediately familiar to the people of Nanticoke: K.M. Smith, the namesake of the K.M. Smith Elementary School. Unfortunately, almost all references to "K.M. Smith" that I can find online refer to this school, not to the person. I may need to go to the Nanticoke Historical Society for more information.

1 comment:

The turtle who burped said...

Hedwig is often depicted holding a church because she built several of them in her lifetime. She often wears a crown because she was the Duchess of Silesia, and also a claimant to the Polish throne. She is sometimes shown merely holding the crown, because she set aside the life of the nobility for the simpler life of a nun.