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