Stained Glass Windows
Sixteen stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the Blessed Virgin and the Eucharist form a major decorating feature of the Church. The windows were purchased from the Emile Frei Company of St. Louis, Missouri who had them cast in Munich, Germany. Installed in the Church in 1922, they are considered outstanding examples of stained glass. From the dedications, funds for specific windows were donated by parishioners, parish organizations and the pastor, Father Brockmeier. The difficulties of carrying out a contract with two countries and three cities involved must have been many, but mistakes were few. A window when installed has a dedication in which it was attributed to Mrs. Vincent de Paul instead of the St. Vincent de Paul Society or Young Lady’s instead of Young Ladies Sodality. This type of mistake made in stained glass had to be accepted.
Since the official descriptions of the windows could not be located, Jeanie A. Attenhofer of New Orleans provided descriptions using biographies of St. Francis and reference works on Christian lore and legend as well as her knowledge of the process of casting stained glass windows. She also describes for each window areas of interest. The plan of the Church indicates by number the position of the stained glass windows.
This window depicts an incident in the life of St. Francis which occurred in 1204. St. Francis went as a knight in the army of the Norman captain, Gualtieri de Brienne, to fight for Pope Innocent III’s political interests against the German princes. Doubts caused by visions and unsettling dreams got the better of his military aspirations and St. Francis returned to Assisi.
Thomas of Celano wrote that while on this crusade, St. Francis met a knight so ill-clad that he was almost naked. St. Francis gave this knight his own sumptuously embroidered garments. The man in the window appears to be a beggar, but this could possibly be the knight of the legend. Note the fine ermine trim and the vivid red cloak as well as the magnificent white charger with the costly fittings. St. Francis’ squire looks quite startled at his master’s generosity. The castle town in the rear may be Assisi or Perugia, the neighboring town.
This window probably depicts St. Francis and his father in confrontation before the Bishop of Assisi in 1207 when St. Francis strips himself of worldly clothes and begins a life of poverty.
In 1206 while absorbed in prayer in the half-ruined Church of San Damiano, he heard Christ speaking to him from the cross above the altar. Christ said, “Francis, go and restore my house, which, as you see, is going to ruin.” Taking this literally St. Francis sold some bolts of cloth from his father’s firm and used the money to restore San Damiano. His father was enraged and locked his son up, considering him mad. His mother released him while his father was away and he again began the restoration. His father was so incensed he brought suit against St. Francis with the Bishop of Assisi. He wanted St. Francis to forego all claim and return his goods. St. Francis removed his costly clothes and stood with only a hair shirt before the bishop and said to his father, “Up to today I called you father but now in all honestly, Our Father who art in heaven is my patrimony and I put my faith in Him.” The Bishop was astonished with the fervor of St. Francis and embraced him covering him with his cape. A servant brought an old smock which, after drawing a cross on it, St. Francis put on and tied with a rope. This habit he judged worthy of a beggar and a follower of the Crucified Christ. He then left Assisi.
Note the beautiful crucifix in the background and the use of the vivid red glass in the Bishop’s cape.
This window depicts the reception of a Poor Clare, whether of St. Clare herself is not clear. The other female in the brown habit may be Agnes, Clare’s sister who followed her into the order.
In 1212, St. Francis received Clare Favarone, a well to do young lady of Assisi into his way of life. On Palm Sunday he cut off her long blonde hair and dressed her in penitential serge, and sent her to live at San Damiano, along with other members of her family who had joined the order with her. She was to be the foundress of the Second Order of Franciscans now known as the Poor Clares. The relationship of Clare and St. Francis is one of the greatest of pure spiritual friendship in the annals of the Church. Outliving him by many years Clare became one of the greatest female figures in the medieval Church, an advisor of popes and a staunch defender of St. Francis’ “way” when it was attacked.
Note the richness of the red robe with glass in various shades of red from crimson to pale rose and the intricate painting of the brocade. The beautiful crucifix should also be examined.
Probably the most charming and beautiful of windows in the Church, it depicts St. Francis in a setting which testifies to his love for the creatures of the world. He felt that all things came from the same source, our Heavenly Father, and therefore insisted on the integrity of all creatures in the scheme of things. Gardens should reflect in the green grass and wild flowers the beauty of God, and the sweet smelling flowers are reminders of His sweetness. Early legends speak constantly of St. Francis preaching to the birds and animals among the flowers and in the words of Thomas of Celano “embraced them with rapturous devotion speaking to them of the Lord and encouraging them to praise their Creator.”
Note in this window the beautifully depicted small rabbit, the baby birds, the raven, the owl seated in the tree and the sly smile of the fox. Also notice the beautiful varying blues of the bell shaped flowers. The jewel-like redbirds in the tree are created with “flash glass” or “sandwich” glass. Red glass and clear glass are fused together and then the red glass is etched away so that the finished piece is two-toned.
The other friar in the scene may be St. Francis’ long time companion, Brother Leo.
The theme of this large triptych to the right of the altar is probably the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Although the Assumption is not mentioned in the New Testament other than a brief passage in the Book of Revelations, Chapter 12:1, it is deduced from tradition and scriptural references in the apocryphal book of James. The Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven.
The Virgin is shown rising bodily and the face is exceptionally beautiful. The rays around her are amber glass in various hues. There is a town depicted at the bottom of the window which may be Ephesus, where according to the Book of James, Mary resided with St. John before her death and where the Assumption occurred.
This panel was one of three donated by the pastor, Father Brockmeier. The window depicts a noble lady and a nobleman with a beggar at the lady’s feet. The lady could be St. Francis’ “Lady Poverty.” Thomas of Celano wrote about St. Francis dreaming of a palace where a beautiful and charming bride was waiting for her bridegroom. A voice revealed to St. Francis that this beautiful lady was reserved for him. St. Francis awoke with happiness since he thought the vision symbolic of future success. However, this was not the true interpretation of his strange dream. While on his way to fight a Apulia, the Lord spoke to him telling him to return to his country.
At his return, he was a changed man – he appeared to have divine grace and his friends scarcely recognized him. The thought he must be thinking of a woman and asked him if he was planning to marry. St. Francis replied, “You’re right! I am thinking of marrying! And the girl to whom I intend to plight my troth is so noble, so rich and so good, that you have never seen her like!” Who was this lady of his thoughts? St. Francis did not know. While he waited for God to show him, he withdrew from the world and prayed constantly. Finally he came forth in peace, for God had delivered him from uncertainty and had enlightened him. The peerless princess he would wed was “Lady Poverty”.
Panel appears to be the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and reflects the story told by Luke 1:26-38.
Note the Virgin Mary, the archangel Gabriel and the dove which is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The beautiful vase of lilies traditionally is the symbol of Mary’s purity.
Based on Luke 24:13-32, the panel depicts Jesus meeting and celebrating the Eucharist with his disciples at Emmaus outside of Jerusalem.
Note the three crosses on Calvary in the background.
Mother Pauline was the foundress of the Sisters of Christian Charity who taught at St. Francis of Assisi elementary school from 1891 until it’s closing.
The panel depicts Christ giving the Eucharist to a female with a halo while two angels hold the altar cloth. The woman’s cloak is a beautiful blue and the wings of the angels are a vivid red. While the Blessed Virgin is usually depicted with a blue cloak, this is not considered to be a representation of Mary.
X. Dedication: In memory of John Brockmeier, my father This is another panel donated by the pastor, Father Brockmeier.
The panel depicts a young man, obviously wealthy, for he has on an ermine cape, receiving the Eucharist from a Bishop.
This may be Frederick II, son of Constance, the heiress of the Norman princes, and Henry VI. After his father’s death, Prince Frederick’s tutelage was turned over to Pope Innocent III who lived during the time of St. Francis. The German princes did not approve of Pope Innocent III’s involvement with the young prince and went to war. It was during this conflict that St. Francis first had his calling.
Note the noble couple in the background with the friar holding a candle and the soldier with the halberd (a long lance with axe).
This is a large triptych, a set of three panels depicting one theme, probably the Adoration of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-11.
The three Magi are pictured on the right panel with the star of the East above. The town of Bethlehem can be seen in the background. (The Magi were a Persian cast of royal advisors or astrologers – not kings.) They are shown with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Note their robes and the intricate painting technique.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are in the center panel. The Madonna’s face is exceptionally beautiful. Note the sweetness of the shepherd child with his lamb.
In the left panel are the shepherds. Note the horns at the bottom of the panel. These are modern looking horns, not the usual rams’ horns. Many artists draw designs of things they are familiar with even though they are not historically correct. The stars in the upper right side are actually tiny flower like pieces of glass. This is a particularly touching dedication. Given the recent close of World War I, it can be assumed the “the three soldiers” had died in that conflict. However, this is only a surmise.
This panel was donated by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, not a Mrs. Vincent de Paul.
Panel depicts a vision that St. Francis had of the Blessed Virgin Mary with heavenly worship and the second coming of Christ. In the book of Revelations, Chapter 4:3, John states, “A throne was standing there in heaven and on the throne was seated the exalted Christ whose appearance had a gemlike sparkle as of jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a rainbow as brilliant as emerald.”
Note the multicolor rainbow and the golden rays with cherubs surrounding the figure of Christ. The full figure of an angel on the right may be St. Michael the Archangel, the leader of the hosts of heaven. St. Francis displays the stigmata which historically did not occur until later in his life. The rays of sun around Christ may have reference to the “Canticle of Brother Sun” composed by St. Francis.
This panel depicts an incident in 1219 when St. Francis was in the Nile Valley of Egypt near Damietta, a city under siege by the Crusaders. Disgusted with the immorality and cruelty of the so called Christian army, St. Francis decided to visit the Sultan, Melek-el-Kamel. He was received with cordial hospitality and stayed for eight days discussing religion and peace. Though no tangible results came from the visit, St. Francis left a strong impression on the Sultan.
Note the magnificent drapes of the Sultan’s quarters and the lavish furnishings including the bowl of fruit at the bottom of the window and the beautifully crafted scimitar (saber) in the Sultan’s left hand. The aquiline semitic faces of the Sultan and his followers are exceptionally realistic.
Panel depicts the first crèche of St. Francis in 1223. In order to dramatize the real poverty of the first Christmas, St. Francis decided to celebrate it as described in the New Testament. He found a cave at Greccio and attended Mass with the animals traditionally identified with the feast. This began the universal custom of building the crèche at Christmas.
Note the woman with the child in the left background. This could possibly be St. Elizabeth with the infant St. John the Baptist. The richly clad gentleman holding the torch may represent one of the Magi, although his dress is not historically correct. Unusual also is the Virgin Mary kneeling behind St. Francis, who is wearing the green chasuble of a priest over his robes. St. Francis was always a brother, never a priest.
This panel depicts St. Francis receiving the Stigmata, purplish patches or blood marks which appear spontaneously on the feet, hands, side, forehead and back simulating the five wounds inflicted on Christ. St. Francis was the first person known to have received them. The incident occurred on September 14, 1224 (the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) while St. Francis was on retreat at Mount Laverna, a remote mountain in Tuscany.
In his vision of the event, St. Francis saw a seraph with six flaming wings coming down from heaven. He saw the image of the crucified man in the middle of the wings with stretched out hands and feet nailed to a cross. Two of the wings were pointed above the head, two flew and two covered his body.