Friday, January 14, 2011

Surprise appearances in churches

Church of the Saviour, United Methodist, in Cleveland Heights is built in french gothic splendour, in limestone and granite. I came across this, after becoming interested in the Cleveland glass artist R(obert) Toland Wright. He was the maker of the great orient window in the church. He died and the other windows were done by other artists. The opposite window, in the west, is the grander. There are 32 medalions in the two tri-lancets of this loft window made by Joseph Reynolds of Boston. The entire window is named Te Deum Laudamus (We praise Thee God). It is interesting, protestants have some tendency to have less in visual arts. This is not universally so. In some denominations there is a continuum, a sliding scale.

Now, the windows are a great study. The oak carving about the sanctuary is even better. The lectern, the pulpit, the chair and a 20 foot baptistery cover. This hood for the water is 20 times the height it needs to be. In oak there is carved octagonally, at the base, seven scenes, that are often depicted in windows. Some feet higher are eight trumpetting angels, and the whole rises like a crocketted cathedral spire.

Well, there are a lot of catholic elements in this church. They balance it by having several windows portraying prominent protestants in history. Savonarola and Huss are there too. Girolamo Savonarola is listed to be in one of the medallions of the grand window. He is listed with Stephen the Deacon, who has a great small window in the stairwell, and Elisabeth of Hungary and Thuringia. They are identified in the church's literature (as is usual there are mistakes) as three martyrs. Perhaps the three are witnesses to charity. The four great latin doctors share another medallion. In another window, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is seen. There are many great elements to focus on. There are people who have attended there for years and have not examined all the beauty. We live in a quick get there, and quick leave there society. I am sure many people would be surprised to see St. Elisabeth in the balcony. In the scene, Stephen is carrying rocks, for he was stoned to death. Elisabeth was a generous woman and an early lay franciscan. Her husband, and his family, did not approve. Miraculously, the bread she was about to deliver, turned to roses. She was married at 14, widowed at 20, and died at 24 in service to the poor.

Now, Savonarola was a dominican, and his portrait was painted by Frà Bartolomeo in 1498. He was an opponent of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI. Some dominicans are promoting his cause for sainthood. In the glass, the figure on the left is not so distinguishable. In the clerestory lancet Savonorola is in a dominican habit, and shaved with a tonsure. The bearded fellow does not have a readily identifiable iconography. Reynolds was the glasier of both.
left medallion: somebody, St. Stephen and St. Elisabeth; right: Girolamo Savonarola

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