Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Stained Glass Project: St. Victoria and St. John the Baptist

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.

Continuing to move from the front of the North side of St. Mary's Church in Nanticoke, PA to the rear, the second window we come to is another truncated one. Like the window featuring Saint Anne and Saint Peter directly opposite it on the South wall, this one seems to have been modified from an original, full-sized window, since the donor tags at the bottom are missing.

This pair of windows depicts Saint Victoria and Saint John the Baptist.* As noted above, the windows appear to have been modified after installation, with the lower openable pane and the donor tags removed. Previously I have suggested that the upper openable pane has also been removed, but this appears not to be the case since the upright piece of the red cross at the center point of the semicircular fan window at the top is continuous with the top border of the portrait itself.

These windows are positioned directly above the alcove that until recently housed the church's baptismal font, which is now located on the South side of the main altar. This would seem to be an intentional coincidence, although the alcove itself appears to be, like the side entrance opposite it, a relatively recent addition to the structure - perhaps in the last fifty years or so.

The baptistery contains another stained glass window, but this window is clearly not contemporaneous with the twelve pairs of portrait windows that line the walls and will not be included in this study.

The left-hand portrait is of Saint Victoria. Victoria is a problematic figure: the name can apply to any of several poorly-documented and possibly apocryphal figures. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia does not even have an entry on anyone named Victoria, except in an entry for Diocese of Perpignan which states

In memory of former ties with the metropolis of Tarragona, the Church of Perpignan honours several Spanish saints: St. Fructuosus, Bishop of Tarragona, and his deacons Augurius and Eulogius, martyred at Tarragona in 259; some martyrs of the Diocletian persecution (end of third century); Justa and Rufina of Seville; Felix and Narcissus of Gerona; Aciselus and Victoria of Cordova; Leocadia, of Toledo; St. Ildefonsus (607-67), Archbishop of Toledo.

"Victoria of Cordova" is apparently the sister of Acisclus, who was martyred along with her. But other saints bearing the name of Victoria include Victoria of Albitina, Victoria the sister of Anatolia (also martyrs), Victoria the servant of Edistus (with whom she was, unsurprisingly, martyred - or at least martyred soon after), and, not to be outdone, a Victoria who was martyred along with Denise, Dativa, Leontia, Tertius, Emilianus, Boniface, Majoricus, and Servus. It is unclear which Victoria this portrait represents, but it is a pretty safe bet that she was a martyr.

Catholic Online lists three of these Victorias: Victoria the sister of Anatolia, Victoria of Tivoli (twice), and Victoria the sister of Acisclus. There is also a Blessed Victoria Strata, who has not been canonized as a saint; perhaps this is related to the fact that unlike the many Saints Victoria, she was not martyred.

No description of any of the various Victorias lists either a crucifix (which may symbolize martyrdom) or a lily (which may symbolize purity) among her attributes. However, the Wikipedia entry on Saint Acisclus (the brother of Victoria of Cordova, or Córdoba) notes as his attribute "with Saint Victoria, his sister, crowned with roses" - much like the Saint Victoria portrayed here. So perhaps this figure is Victoria of Cordova.

As obscure as Saint Victoria is, she is paired with one of the best-known saints: Saint John the Baptist.

John the Baptist is sufficiently well known that I will omit any details on him as an individual. Here is his entry in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, and here is his Wikipedia entry.

Saint John the Baptist stands before a unique backdrop. Like most of the other saints portrayed in these windows, he appears to be in the "cathedral" setting, judging from the stone pavers on which he stands. But his background is not columns and arches, nor is it a window on the sky or the sea; instead he stands in front of a wall made of stone blocks. Like many of the other figures, this background is partially obscured by a curtain, though this curtain appears to be of a simpler design than the curtains in the other portraits, which feature details like this stitchwork seen over the shoulder of Victoria, and virtually invisible to the observer's unaided eye:

These two portraits have aged worse than many others in the church. This is especially noticeable in Victoria's hair and the loss of detail from John the Baptist's face and beard.

In contrast to this apparent weathering, the upper round window is sharp and clear, with some of the most legible script: "Civitas Dei", City of God, which I have conjectured is the setting for the "cathedral" images of the saints.

*Note: This image has undergone more correction than most of the others in this series. Apparently I succumbed to the temptation of getting as close to the window to photograph it as I could, which resulted in a perspective distortion - the bottom is much wider than the top. I have attempted to correct this by "stretching" the image at the top corners. This may have resulted in some distortion in the vertical dimension - when I was able to make the top as wide as the bottom, I realized the figures were too short, and I adjusted them by eye. Here is the image I started off with:


whimsical brainpan said...

Simply stunning D.B.!

Meldelen said...

In fact there's no way to prove which Saint Victoria is this one. Most of female martyrs appear crowned by roses as symbol of her virginity and martyrdom. Also Saint Victoria of Tivoli, fellow of Saint Anatolia, is often depicted with this crown of roses.

So, provided that Saint Victoria of Tivoli is far more known and venerated than Saint Victoria of Cordoba, I think this one depicts the Italian martyr, not the Spanish one.

Thanks for the photos :)

D.B. Echo said...

Thank you so much!