Win­dows to the soul Re­stored stained glass brings re­newed lus­tre to St. Paul’s United Church in Dun­das

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - REGINA HAGGO Regina Haggo, art his­to­rian, pub­lic speaker, cu­ra­tor and for­mer pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dun­das Val­ley School of Art. dhaggo@thes­

They’re a feast for the eyes and food for the soul.

That’s the idea be­hind stained glass win­dows in places of wor­ship. But you don’t have to be a wor­ship­per to en­joy them. This is es­pe­cially true next Satur­day, when St. Paul’s United Church in Dun­das holds a pub­lic open house to cel­e­brate the ren­o­va­tion of its win­dows.

“All the win­dows were cleaned and straight­ened, and many, many were re­moved and re­stored and then re­in­stalled,” Rev. Rick Spies tells me. “The restora­tion project be­gan in the sum­mer of 2016 and con­tin­ued to now.”

Spies says An­drew Stir­ling of Cayuga “did an ex­cel­lent job” on the win­dows.

Most of the 24 win­dows in St. Paul’s United were made in or af­ter 1933, when the present build­ing re­placed an older one de­stroyed by fire.

The glory days of stained glass dec­o­ra­tion were be­tween 1200 and 1400, when the great Gothic cathe­drals of France and Eng­land were built. By look­ing at re­li­gious nar­ra­tives and fig­ures, peo­ple learned about their faith.

The richly coloured win­dows were also much ad­mired for their beauty.

Since stained glass win­dows of­ten reach the roof, the sto­ries and events they de­pict must be clearly con­veyed.

Here are two ex­am­ples from St. Paul’s.

The mid­dle win­dow on the south side of the nave de­picts Christ vis­it­ing Mary and Martha, the sis­ters of Lazarus. The story ap­pears in the Gospel of Luke (10:38-42).

Glances and ges­tures link the fig­ures and move the story along the three pan­els. Each panel con­tains one of the three pro­tag­o­nists placed in front of a ta­ble cov­ered with a white cloth.

In the left panel, Mary, dressed in blue and white, sits at Christ’s feet. With head raised to­ward Christ, she lis­tens to him. She rests one hand on her chest as though open­ing her heart to him.

Christ, blond, bearded and haloed, sits in the cen­tre panel. His body faces Mary, but his head turns to­ward Martha on the right.

Martha has pulled her hair up un­der a white scarf, a less for­mal

head cov­er­ing than Mary’s long veil. That’s be­cause she’s been work­ing, pre­par­ing food for the spe­cial guest.

Martha raises her left hand as she asks Christ to tell Mary to help her. But Christ, point­ing heav­en­ward, tells Martha that mat­ters of sal­va­tion take prece­dence over worldly wor­ries.

An­other nar­ra­tive, also set at a ta­ble, takes cen­tre stage in the Grafton Win­dow at the west end, op­po­site the en­trance.

Christ stands alone in the left panel. One hand is raised in bless­ing. He holds bread in the other. A chal­ice with wine rests on the ta­ble in front of him.

Images of Christ bless­ing are com­mon enough. The key to iden­ti­fy­ing the ex­act nar­ra­tive lies in the two dis­ci­ples in the right-hand panel. The one with the white hair and beard might be Peter. A serv­ing woman stands in the back­ground.

Luke (24:13-31) says that on the day of Christ’s Res­ur­rec­tion, two of his dis­ci­ples were walk­ing to the vil­lage of Em­maus. They were joined by the Risen Christ, whom they did not rec­og­nize.

They in­vited the stranger to eat with them. Dur­ing the meal Christ blessed bread, broke it and handed it to them. As he was do­ing this, they rec­og­nized him.

The win­dow fo­cuses on the mo­ment the dis­ci­ples rec­og­nize Christ. Im­me­di­ately af­ter this, he van­ishes.

Far left: Christ’s visit to Mary and Martha is the sub­ject of the three pan­els of a win­dow on the south side of the nave.


Christ’s ap­pear­ance at Em­maus fills the two central pan­els of the Grafton Win­dow at the west end of St. Paul’s United Church. The win­dow is named af­ter the Graftons, a well-known Dun­das fam­ily.

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