Presenter: Fr. Miguel Irizar, Former Associate Pastor, St. Joseph’s Basilica
Keeping these two challenges in mind, let's try to explore the Stained Glass windows with what we have.
A Stained Glass Window is a window made of glass that has been coloured by adding metallic salts during its manufacture. This coloured glass is then cut and arranged to form pictures. What holds together the small pieces of coloured glass are strips of lead and rigid frame. This is how the Stained Glass Windows of this Church have been made, according to Franz Mayer & Company.
Franz Mayer & Company are based off in Munich, Germany. Msgr. Malone, after some consultation, chose to commission the Stained Glass Windows for the Basilica through this German company in 1962. Looking at the documents found in the archives of the Church, it seems Msgr. Malone wanted the windows of the Church to be beautiful, crafted with the best of materials and put together by a reputable studio. After receiving proposals from Ireland, Spain and Netherlands, Franz Mayer & Company was quickly chosen by Msgr. Malone and the Window Project committee.
Founded in 1847 as an "Institute of Christian Art", Franz Mayer & Company was named a "Pontifical Institute of Christian Art" by Pope Leo XIII in 1892. To this day, this German firm has crafted Stained Glass Windows for Churches across the world, including St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
As you can imagine, putting together a Stained Glass Window is an art, a craft, which requires the artistic skill to conceive a drawing, and to bring the drawing to life. One first has to conceive the design, and then try to bring it to life while making sure that the final work, the entire window, is able to fit into the space for which it is intended, resist wind, rain, snow and also, especially, in larger windows, support its own weight.
The Stained Glass Windows in this Church have withstood time, over fifty years, and we hope that they remain here for many more years. The original plan was to have only 46 windows. Places such as the choir loft staircase and the sacristy, and other places that remained outside the main nave, were supposed to have simple coloured glass. The original plan changed. From 46 windows, a total of 69 were eventually commissioned. It took over twenty years for the entire project to be completed with the last windows being installed under the supervision of Fr John Hesse, rector of the Basilica in 1978.
Braunmiller is the artist responsible for designing each Stained Glass Window, and also responsible for designing the Stations of the Cross. In the main body of the Church, the windows can be divided into two, the upper windows and the lower windows. The upper windows are the largest in the Church, measuring 23 feet by 4 feet. Even though the lower windows and the windows in the Baptistry are much smaller than the upper windows, they are far more expensive. The reason for this is that the closer the windows are to the eye, the more detail they need and thus the more resources and more time are needed to fashion them.
The theme of all 69 windows centres on Salvation History. As we know, Salvation History is the history of God who sends his Son to become flesh for our salvation so that we might become, in him, adoptive children of God. Our Lord is at the center of Salvation History, for in him God gives us the greatest gift possible, the gift of himself.
This is beautifully portrayed by the centrality of Christ depicted in the Stained Glass Windows of this Church: He is at the center in the front and in the back. In the front he is depicted as the Risen Lord, and behind as the Child Jesus, together with Mary and Joseph.
On this side (my right), we have the 11 Apostles (Judas has been excluded) and St Paul. On the opposite side (my left), we have the great men of the Old Covenant, beginning with Abraham and ending with John the Baptist.
The windows that we see on the lower part of the Church depict specific moments in the life of our Lord such as the Transfiguration or the Epiphany.
To the question: how were the funds raised to pay for the windows, the answer is quite simple. Even before plan was formalized, many families, religious communities, and priests came forward to donate to this incredible project.
The last modification done to the windows was in 2007. After Archbishop Smith was installed as seventh Archbishop of Edmonton, his coat of arms was placed on the lower part of St Philip window. This was to continue with a tradition that goes back to the beginnings of the Stained Glass Window project, which consists in placing the coat of arms of those bishops who have been Ordinaries in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
As we continue our Centennial Celebration, let us ask the Lord to grant us the quality of "transparency", a quality these Stained Glass Windows have. They are transparent, allowing the light of the day to go through them, thus illuminating the interior with beauty. May the light of Christ shine through us, and may we be transparent enough to let that light shine in the world.