This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stained glass at St. Joseph's Chapel (1 of 3)

The Saint Joseph's College Chapel has the most impressive stained glass windows in Rensselaer, and I long ago suggested that I might someday use them as the topic of Sunday posts.

Both the east and west sides of the chapel have five large windows. The largest on both sides is the first one. On the east side it shows the Sacrifice of Melchisedek, mentioned in Genesis 14: 18-20 and Psalm 110:4, which prefigures the Mass. The dedication of the window is "in memory of August J. Kistner May 23, 1909"
The second window on both sides is the shortest of the five windows. On the east it is St. Catherine of Alexander, who was martyred about 310. Very little is certain about her life but a great deal of legend grew up around her, and she was a tremendously popular saint in the medieval period. She is a patron of philosophers. The inscription on the window states that it was "donated by Rev. Ambrose Schumack." Under the window is a small plaque that states, "The restoration of this window was made possible by a gift from Michael G '79 and Christine Haws Burman '80 and family, June 2001." About ten years ago a freak windstorm did a tremendous amount of damage to the windows. The Fellows Program at the college raised almost $400,000 to restore them. Most of the windows have similar small plaques with donors. There were many other donors, and they are all listed on a document in the vestibule or foyer of the church.
The third window shows Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential of the early Church theologians and philosophers. The dedication in the windows states, "Donated by Rev. August. Seifert. C.P.P.S." Fr. Seifert was president of the college from 1902 until 1913. A residence hall is named for him, and there is a statue of him in front of the hall.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was the most famous of the Cisterians, and a tremendously busy man in the twelfth century. He died in 1153. There is no dedication in this window.
Below is a closeup of the face of St. Bernard.
The last of the windows on the east is St. Charles Borromeo, who died in 1584. This window also lacks a dedication.
The closeup of his face shows a fellow with a rather large nose. Other portraits have an even larger nose. Charles Borromeo was the archbishop of Milan in the years after the Protestant Reformation. He played a large role in the Council of Trent, and he was instrumental in founding seminaries to better prepare candidates for the priesthood. He also tried to reduce the ornate decorations of his cathedral, so he might have been happy with the extensive renovations of the college chapel that took place after the Second Vatican Council. Pictures of the chapel before that council show a far more decorated interior than what is there today.
The four smaller windows all feature saints who had something to do with education or scholarship. They earliest is nearest the altar, and as you move toward the entrance, they become more recent.

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