Mary and Mercy

Liam sent me this image he captured at Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston. From his message to me:

These are enameled (painted) glass windows are from the Thomas & John Morgan Studio of New York, which often worked with Patrick Keely, the designer of the cathedral. Unlike St Patrick’s in NYC, Holy Cross Cathedral’s glazed window program was almost entirely in place within a few years of its dedication in 1875, though the sanctuary windows were late replaced by medieval (meaning each piece of glass came from a sheet that was kilned with chemical to be intrinsically a given color) stained glass by the renowned Connick Studios of Boston, the great American exemplar of the recovery of high medieval stained glass technique. (Enameled/painted glass became the norm by the mid-15th century for a variety of technical and aesthetic reasons, and remained predominant until the latter part of the 19th century).

The Blessed Virgin under the title of “Mother of Mercy” is well on the Catholic tongues that pray the Salve Regina. There is no major liturgical feast in the Roman calendar. Our Lady of Mercy is observed today. In Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, there is a special Sunday observance in mid-November. With mercy on the ascendancy in the Catholic spiritual firmament these days, I’m surprised some connection of Mary and Mercy hasn’t somehow been raised a bit higher on the spiritual consciousness. 

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Mary and Mercy

  1. Pingback: Mary and Mercy — Catholic Sensibility – yazım'yazgısı (typography)

  2. Liam says:

    Thank you. A bit of technical history on the evolution of what we call stained glass:

    In the later Romanesque period, windows with pieces of colored glass joined by what are known as lead cames were crafted with pictorial designs and painting to focus how the light was perceived. The glass was made by combining sand and chemical compounds that set the glass as a specific inherent color. As structural innovations in the High Middle Ages allowed for and encouraged bigger windows (which changed and lightened structural loads), stained glass artistry came into full flower. But there was not architectural and artistic stasis; both continued to develop in the Late Middle Ages. A desire for more interior light, especially in northern latitudes of northwestern Europe (in southern Europe, stained glass and painting thereon actually helped to modulate otherwise harsher light), combined with advances in glass-making, had a couple effects. One was dedicating more of the space in the window to white or grissaille glass to permit more translucent light to penetrate church interiors. The other was the ability to use panels of glass, instead of small pieces; this allowed windows to be lighter in structural terms, but it meant that instead of many pieces of glass of different colors, clear glass was used and colors were applied by enameled paint and annealed – this also allowed painterly effects like shadows and perspective to be deployed in the evolving styles of Renaissance art. This became the dominant style of stained glass until the mid-19th century.

    Then came changes we now associate with the Arts & Crafts Movement but were broader in source. There was a school of fused layers of decorative glass and windows depicting scened with greater jewel-like three-dimensional effect, of which Tiffany and LaFarge were the most famed champions in the USA. But there another school that recovered the stained glass techniques of the High Middle Ages, and it was felt these were more “honest” (in the form-follows-function sense) because they were resolutely two-dimensional, non-naturalistic styles where the window clearly remained what it functionally was instead of posing as something it was not; Connick Studios in Boston was among the most famed champions of this school in the USA.

    • Liam says:

      PS: Painted glass panels also allow for a full range of painterly colors and shading that, once annealed, can have a jewel-like saturation/intensity.

      Btw, for stained glass in the high medieval style the most costly color was red, for which gold (specifically, gold chloride) had to be used to remain colorfast over centuries of exposure to ultra-violet rays of sunlight. Yellow was the next most costly. (The cathedral of Leon in Spain is famed for its expanses of glass rich in reds and yellows and purples, rather than the vast expanses of blue-dominated windows in northern French cathedrals.) Green was the least costly.

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