Stained Glass – A Love Story
If you’ve been reading my posts, for awhile . . . and let me just pause to share my gratitude for that . . . it might be pretty obvious that I’m a bit traditional in my personal lifestyle. As an interior designer, it doesn’t mean I’m limited to one style. I’ve got several clients who prefer modern lines and feel I totally “get it”, when it comes to designing their interiors. It simply means that I embrace the concept of relating to the past, while looking towards the future. I prefer a concept of tradition, different from being overly conservative or stodgy. To me, it means depth, warmth, and being wrapped in a sense of place.
That sense of place began in a smaller southern city, Durham, North Carolina. My father was born and raised there, as was his family before him. He attended Duke University, where he met his future wife, (my mother), who was a newly capped nurse at the time. Their eyes caught one another while she was awkwardly trying to light a cigarette in order to appear a bit more intriguing - perhaps a little flirtation to have him offer her a light. (I know, it’s a bad habit, but back in the day . . .) Durham, after all, began as a tobacco town, and the name, ‘Duke’, was related to that industry.
Fast forwarding, a couple of years later, my father was in the waiting room trying to finish studying for a final exam, while my mother was in the delivery room, giving birth to their eldest child. (Again, it was a different time . . . ) Years later, that daughter, who had begun to appreciate things of beauty – music, architecture, and art – would go to the Duke University campus, so she could sit in a chapel, (which seemed to be from a world away), to listen to the organist practice on Saturday evenings, for the next day’s service. Something about the raised, groined vaulted ceilings, the sounds of the massive pipe organ, and the stained glass windows made it a truly holy experience.
As you have probably surmised, that daughter is the one who is penning this post. Though quite a few years have passed since those Saturday nights at the chapel, I recall them vividly, and especially the richness of the stained glass windows. It was love at first sight!
The interior of Duke Chapel. It’s an architectural feat of over two hundred feet of ceiling height. Not only were churches of this period, (Neo-Gothic), designed with soaring height so one would feel a sense of being lifted upward, they also emphasized the smallness of man, in the scope of the universe. (Image: Adam Gerik)
The Chapel holds up to sixteen hundred people. Just imagine sitting in the front row, for your own private concert! (Image: Adam Gerik)
Behind the façade, pipes, and carved oak screens, the Kathleen Upton Byrns McClendon Organ is lodged in chambers on both sides of the chancel. It remains Duke Chapel’s original organ, built and installed in 1932 by the Aeolian Organ Company of New York. The pipes visible from the nave only hint at the Aeolian’s size, for approximately 6,600 pipes are located in the large chambers. (Cited from: Duke University Chapel Website.)
The Chapel’s 77 stained-glass windows were designed and composed by G. Owen Bonawit, of New York, working with fifteen other artists and craftsmen. The Chapel’s windows depict every major scene in the Bible and contain an estimated 800 to 900 figures, including 301 larger-than-life-sized figures in the chancel and transept windows. The largest window measures 17-1/2 by 38 feet. All of the ruby, and most of the blue glass, was made in the United States, and the glass of other colors was imported from Europe. (Cited from: Duke University Chapel Website ) (Image: Adam Gerik)
Just recently, I visited Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens for an afternoon Christmas tea. In the main entry, there was a stained glass dome, encircled with a series of crests. While not quite the same as the chapel, it’s still a heavenly work of art!
If a cathedral, basilica or chapel is not within local driving distance, you could bake your own little slices of heaven! They are edible, but I can’t imagine crunching into their divine beauty. From: Simple Recipes
To this day, I appreciate the beauty of stained glass. I’ve used it in several design applications, especially in windows where the view needs to be more beautiful than what could be created in nature, or to create privacy while still allowing light to pass through. Most of all, I appreciate the memories of past holidays and being able to share them with my parents. I’m thankful they are still with me, to reminisce and laugh about the beginning of my story.