Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Stained Glass Project: St. Stanislaus Kostka and Assumption Mary 1

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 second picture window from the rear on the South side of St. Mary's church in Nanticoke, PA features one of two saints named Stainislaus and one of several images of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In this case we have St. Stainislaus Kostka, a Polish Jesuit novice who died at the age of eighteen in 1568, and Mary in what I believe is a depiction of the Assumption.

On the left side of this pair of portraits, St. Stanislaus Kostka wears the cassock and surplice which mark him as a Jesuit novice. The habit, the lily, and the infant Jesus are all noted in his Wikipedia entry as "attributes," symbols associated with a particular saint. He is depicted with the "ocean" backdrop, which is, like the "cathedral" backdrops, partially blocked from view by an obscuring curtain. I like to think of this as being part of the same structure - possibly the "New Jerusalem" - depicted in the images of Saints Leo and George, but perhaps with a view of the outside world. I call this the "ocean" because there seems to be a subtle difference in color - not really visible in these photos - between the two panels behind the saint's head and the one panel above it; the dark structure I interpret as a shoreline, delineating the slightly lighter blue above as sky and the slightly darker blue below as water.

On the right side we have both the first of several depictions of Mary seen among these portraits, and the first example of an irregular background. This is apparently a depiction of the Assumption, which is the Catholic tradition (later to become dogma) that after her death Mary was raised bodily directly into Heaven, leaving behind an array of flowers where her body had once been. These may be the flowers shown at the bottom of the window.

As with all portrayals of Jesus and Mary in these windows, there is no identifying tag at the bottom as there is with portraits of the saints, only the words "ORA PRO NOBIS" - "Pray for us."

I have to say that this is not my favorite of the portraits in the windows of St. Mary's. The set of the infant Jesus' jaw, the dead blank eyes of Stanislaus Kostka (who looks much older than his eighteen years), the disproportionately large hands and small head of Mary - which bears an almost cartoon-like face - all compare poorly to some of the details seen in other portraits. It would be surprising if a single artist were responsible for each portrait image; it would be quite a coup to determining who was responsible for the creation of each, and then look for similarities within the works of a single artist, and differences between different artists.

Both the New Advent and Wikipedia entries make reference to a portrait of Stanislaus Kostka by Scipione Delfine that is supposed to be the most accurate depiction of his face. Unfortunately, neither entry depicts the portrait, and online searches have so far come up empty. On a recent visit to nearby Holy Trinity church in Nanticoke, I observed a large and elaborate stained glass window that contained a head-and-shoulders depiction of St. Stanislaus Kostka and the infant Jesus that appeared almost identical to the one in St. Mary's. Were both images created by the same artists and artisans? Are both drawn from the same source material? Unfortunately, at this time the windows of Holy Trinity are beyond the scope of my investigation. Perhaps someday someone will perform a similar study of those windows.

Note that the dark objects in the background of Mary have clearly rounded edges, rather than the sharp tailings-off we will see in the "ocean" backdrops. This suggests to me that the objects in the sky behind Mary are representations of clouds, while the distinctly different objects such as the one seen in the St. Stanislaus Kostka portrait are not.

Once again I have managed to get a surprisingly sharp image of the round window at the top of the pair of portraits. This time the banner with the accompanying text is clearly visible. But for the life of me, I can't figure out what it says.

In this close-up shot, taken (like the close-up images of the saints' portraits shown above) from the choir loft, we can see that the text is a highly stylized calligraphic script which renders the words pretty darned near unreadable. I think I can make out the top word, which is apparently in Latin; but I cannot find any biblical reference online which pairs the word at the top with anything resembling the word at the bottom. Any help here would be very much appreciated.

The St. Stanislaus Kostka window was presented by George Hill and William Evans, while the portrait of Mary was presented by E.E. Ritter. There is a George Hill listed as a Nanticoke assessor in 1874, though I cannot say for sure that this is the same one referenced here. I can't find any definite information as to who William Evans or E.E. Ritter were, although I do see a reference to an "E.E. Ritter" as an architect in other parts of Pennsylvania.

Here is what this window looks like from the outside. Not as impressive, and not quite the same effect. But someday - weeks, or months, or possibly years from now - someday, this is the only way you will be able to view this window, or any of these windows: from the outside looking in. And not long after that, these windows will probably be gone, relocated to newly-constructed Catholic churches in other parts of the country or sold to the highest bidder on the lucrative architectural antiquities market.

But that day has not come, not yet. For now you still have the opportunity to see these windows for yourself, every Sunday at 11:30 AM Mass. Come and see what this church is like, and how the windows look during a midday Mass with a congregation present. Come and see them now, before it's too late.


dee said...

This unintelligible latin on the round window had me flummoxed, but after a little detective work on teh Google, I believe it is the latin name of the plant. I can't make out the species, but the genus is cornus, which is the dogwood tree. Legend has it that the wood of that tree was used to make Christ's cross, and to spare it any further distress at being used in such a way, Jesus decreed that from now on it would grow gnarled and short (not good wood for crosses) and that its blossoms (in the shape of a cross), its reddish tinge and center that looked like a crown of thorns would remind all who looked on it of his passion and death.

D.B. Echo said...

Hmmmm. I thought the top word was "scorno". The bottom word looks like "eraltina", but the only place I find that word is in a linguistic analysis of an artificial language. So I thought maybe it was "exaltina" with part of the x missing - or could that second letter be an s? I was wondering if it could be Latin for something like "scorned, exalted."

A Latin phrase containing the name of a dogwood would be consistent with this, and with the "Oliva speciosa" seen here:

Oliva speciosa

Paula said...

I came across your blog on the St. Stanislaus window searching for a picture of him to verify that the 'unknown' statue in our school is indeed of St. Stanislaus Kostka as it is handwritten under it's base.
The statue in question is an almost exact replica of your window. I state this as in reading your blog you spoke of investigating the origins of the window's design.
I will look into getting a picture taken of it if you have further interest.

D.B. Echo said...

Paula, that would be very cool!

David Marlow said...

If you are still looking for the first painting of St. Stanislaus, I actually found a link from another source with the painting. The link has the picture down just a bit. I could not just link the picture, but scan down this article and you will find it.

D.B. Echo said...

Thank you so much!