Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Charles Lorin Stained Glass Windows at St. Jean Baptiste Church, New York


Signature of Charles Lorin, Chartres
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
The stained glass windows of my parish church are among the most interesting in New York City.  The church is located at Lexington Avenue and East 76th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (www.stjeanbaptiseny.org).  The parish was founded in 1882 as a national church for the French-Canadian community in Manhattan and named in honor of the patron saint of Quebec.  In 1900 it was placed in the care of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious order founded in France in 1857 by St. Peter Julian Eymard (see my article about him here), and dedicated to spreading awareness of the great mystery of the Eucharist (www.blessedsacrament.com).  By 1910 the original church was bursting at the seams and a new church became necessary.

The splendid new Beaux-Arts Baroque church was built through the exemplary generosity of the financier and art patron, Thomas Fortune Ryan, who paid all the costs of construction.  Construction began in 1911 and was completed by the end of 1913.  The church was dedicated by John Cardinal Farley (a distant cousin of my paternal grandmother) in January 1914.  The interior decoration, financed by members of the parish, was planned specifically to give visual form to aspects of Eucharistic theology and to complement the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which is one of the long standing traditions of this religious congregation and of the parish.  The interior contains many Eucharistic symbols and features multiple adoring angels, but the crown jewels of the interior are the windows.


History of the Windows
The principal stained glass windows in Saint Jean Baptiste were crafted by the atelier of Charles Lorin in Chartres, France between 1912 and 1914.

This stained glass atelier was founded in 1863 by Nicholas Lorin and continued from 1882 by his son, Charles. It remains in business to this day, as the firm of Lorin-Hermet-Juteau (www.lorin-hermet-juteau.com), and is considered the oldest continuously operating stained glass workshop in Chartres. It is still producing important new windows and renovating older ones.

Finished in 1914 the installation of the windows was delayed until 1920 due to the outbreak of World War I. Considered too fragile and valuable to risk delivery by sea during the war, they were stored underground until after the Armistice that ended the war. In the late 1990s they were removed from their settings for the first time since their installation and restored and reset by the firm of Sunlites Stained Glass of New York (www.sunlitesstainedglass.com).  This year marks the 100th anniversary of their completion.

Only one other set of Lorin windows exist in New York City, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and they are an earlier work in the Gothic style by Nicholas Lorin.

Style of the Windows
Nicolas Poussin, The Eucharist
From the Louvre Seven Sacraments series
French, 1640
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Stylistically, the windows are traditional in design and classical in tone.  They emanate from the great tradition of classicizing French painting that stretches from Poussin and his followers in the 17th century, through Ingres and his followers in the 19th century, right up to the moment in 1912 when they were commissioned. At that point, Impressionism was a recent phenomenon and Cubism was in its very earliest infancy. The windows are a perfect reflection of their period. They tell their stories with calm, serene confidence. Space is realistically depicted and each of the stories is set in a classically depicted building or landscape. Figures are realistic and appear to be solidly placed in their surrounding.

It may be noted that the Old Testament scenes in the upper story have more deep color saturation than those in the lower story. This is probably due to the fact that they are so much higher above the viewer’s head than those in the lower story. In addition, the sunlight at the upper level is stronger than at the lower level, although this has probably become less true as the construction of taller buildings than those which surrounded the church at their installation has resulted in blocking some of the light that once reached them. For the same reason the windows of the lower story now receive even less light than they originally did. So, we are fortunate that they were prepared using lighter colors.

Furthermore, the windows of the upper level present their scenes in a taller format than in the lower level.  That is, the scenic portion of each of the upper windows occupies more space within the window than the scenic element does in the lower window.  In the lower window, the framing element is larger.  This is doubtless because the upper windows are designed to compensate for the distance between them and the viewer.  Seen from the ground level, the windows appear to be the same size.    This disparity and the color balance difference already noted, suggest that the entire effect of the windows was carefully planned in advance, as does the carefully chosen iconographic program, which is described below.

Outline
For the purpose of this guide the windows are broken into four groups:
1. Those in the nave,
2. Those in the crossing and transepts,
3. The lunettes in the transepts and
3. The Saint John the Baptist lunette above the central entrance of the nave.

However, the windows of the nave and the crossing and transepts form one continuous and interlocked narrative of the history of salvation, with particular emphasis on the Eucharist, in keeping with the charism of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

1. NAVE Windows

Layout
The layout of the nave windows is diagrammed below. It begins at the entrance doors on the north side of the building, moves toward the altar, and then reads back from the altar to the doors on the south side of the building.

The windows are arranged on two levels, with scenes taken from the Old Testament on the upper level and related scenes from the New Testament, from the life of Jesus, or from later church history on the lower level.

The windows of the Crossing and Transept areas is diagrammed later, but the windows in that area form part of a continuous narrative with the windows of the nave and should be “read” as part of a whole.

Narrative
“Reading” the subjects of the windows from the doors to the altar area and back around the entire nave, including the crossings and transepts, can be done on two distinct levels of meaning.

On the most basic level, the simple horizontal, one can read two separate, chronological, depictions of events from both the Old Testament (upper story) and the New Testament (lower story). The New Testament scenes are followed by three scenes from church history from the Middle Ages to 1910 (lower level).

However, on another “deeper” level of meaning, the stories in the upper and lower levels can be read both horizontally and vertically, since the upper scenes can be read as foreshadowing those in the lower story. This kind of reading, called “typology” was common in earlier centuries. Its origins can be found in the very first years of the growth of the Church, shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, within the books of the New Testament itself.

Section of the Klosterneuburg Altarpiece showing
several of the sets of images.  The events Before the Law
are shown in the top row, those Under the Law in the
bottom row and those Under Grace are in the middle row.
By the 11th century there was a fully developed schema of subjects from the Old Testament that were linked to events in the New Testament.  In the arts these events were generally presented as “sets” of three images, two from the Old Testament and one from the New. The Old Testament scenes were further divided into those occurring Before the Law (i.e., events from the Book of Genesis) and those Under the Law (i.e., events from the Book of Exodus and later texts). The New Testament scenes were thought of as occurring Under Grace (i.e., events from the Life of Christ or the Acts of the Apostles).

Probably the best known example is the Klosterneuburg Altarpiece, the work of the Mosan metal artist, Nicholas of Verdun, which was completed in 1181 for the abbey of Klosterneuburg in Austria, where it remains to this day.

Rambures Master, Joseph, Jonah and the
Burial of Jesus
From a Biblia pauperum
Northern French or Flemish, ca. 1470
The Hague, Musuem Moormano-Westentrianum
MS MMW 10 A 15, fol. 33r 

In the later Middle Ages this kind of typology was a feature of such popular lay picture Bibles as the Biblia pauperum and the Speculum humanae salvationis. An example from a 15th-century Biblia pauperum illustrates how these documents looked. The central New Testament (or Under Grace) image was flanked by the two Old Testament images (Before the Law and Under the Law).

In this example, the dead Christ is laid to rest in the tomb by His Mother and disciples, flanked on the left by the images of Joseph being placed in the well by his jealous brothers and on the right by Jonah being thrown overboard. (Biblia pauperum, attributed to the Rambures Master. The manuscript is dated circa 1470 and is in the collection of the Museum Moormano-Westentrianum at the Hague (MS MMW 10 A 15, fol. 33r).

Our windows share in this venerable history.


Nave Windows
The correlation for the nave windows of our church is as follows:
Upper Story (Old Testament, Before the Law)                   Lower Story (New Testament, Life of Jesus)
The Tree of Life                                                                 The Annunciation
Sacrifice of Cain and Abel                                                  The Nativity
Sacrifice of Melchisedech                                                   The Marriage Feast at Cana
Sacrifice of Abraham                                                          Promise of the Eucharist (Feeding of the Five                                                                                               Thousand)


The Tree of Life and The Annunciation of Our Lord
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Tree of Life
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Annunciation
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























 The focus of this pair of windows is obedience to God. In the upper level window Adam and Eve are shown hiding from God after their disobedience in eating the fruit of the Tree of Life. In the lower window Mary accepts the Holy Spirit.

The disobedience of Adam and Eve was healed through the Incarnation of Jesus, made possible by Mary’s obedient response to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. In addition, long-standing Christian tradition, going back to the first years of Christianity, have identified Jesus as the new Adam and Mary as the new Eve in a redeemed, renewed creation. St. Paul makes the connection between Jesus and Adam in 1 Corinthians 15. The Fathers of the Church picked this up and began to write about Mary as the New Eve as early as the 2nd century (Irenaeus of Lyons).


The Sacrifice of Cain and Abel and The Nativity of Our Lord 
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Sacrifice of Cain and Abel
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Nativity
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























The focus here is on sacrifice, purity and peace. In the top window Cain is shown in the background reacting angrily to God’s more favorable reception of the sacrifice of a pure lamb by his brother, Abel. In his jealousy and rage Cain killed Abel, committing the first murder.
In the Nativity of Jesus, shown in the lower window, the true Lamb of God and perfect sacrifice was born to reconcile man with God and to bring peace on earth, the message of the angels above His manger cradle.

The next two pairs of windows should probably be read together, as they represent different aspects of the promise of the Eucharist as sacrifice and gift.

The Sacrifice of Melchisedech and The Marriage Feast at Cana 
Atelier Charles Lorin
Sacrifice of Melchisedech
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
Marriage Feast at Cana
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























Melchisedech, a somewhat mysterious Old Testament figure, was king and priest of Salem (which later was known as Jerusalem) and was considered a “type” of Christ, the eternal high priest as well as the perfect sacrifice.
In the upper window Melchisedech offers a sacrifice of bread and wine, seen as a prefiguration of the Eucharist. The lower window depicts the Marriage Feast of Cana, at which Jesus performed the first of his miracles, changing water to wine, also seen as a foretaste of the Eucharist.

The Sacrifice of Abraham and The Promise of the Eucharist (Feeding of the Five Thousand)
Atelier Charles Lorin
Sacrifice of  Abraham
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
Promise of the Eucharist
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























In the upper window we see Abraham, obedient to God’s command, preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. He is being stopped at the last moment by an angel who provided a ram as substitute.
Jesus, the Son of God and the perfect Lamb of God, foreshadowed the creation of the Eucharist when he multiplied a few loaves of bread into enough food to feed 5,000 people, a scene depicted in the lower window. The Eucharist is both a daily sharing in His passion and death and His persistent Presence in the world, in a sense a physical substitute for His everlasting Presence in heaven.

FOR THE WINDOWS IN THE CROSSING AND TRANSEPT AREA, PLEASE SEE SECTION 2.


Moving back up the nave the windows should be read beginning with those nearest the altar and ending with those nearest the doors. These are:

Upper Story (Old Testament, Under the Law)              Lower Story (New Testament, Church History)
The Bread of Proposition                                              The Disciples at Emmaus
The Sword of Gideon                                                   The Vision of St. Juliana of Liege
The Bread of Elijah                                                       A Procession of the Blessed Sacrament at Lourdes
The Archangel Raphael and Tobias                                Pius X and Frequent Communion

The Bread of Proposition and The Disciples at Emmaus
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Bread of Proposition
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Disciples at Emmaus
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























The Old Testament scene at the top is drawn from the instructions for the treatment of the Ark in the Book of Exodus. Each Sabbath twelve blessed loaves of unleavened bread, known as the “Bread of the Presence” were to be placed on a table in the Holy of Holies, near the Ark of the Covenant. Each week the previous Sabbath’s loaves were consumed by the priests of the Temple.
In the lower window we see an event from New Testament. On the evening of the first Easter, the Risen Christ is recognized by two of his disciples, who had walked for several hours in His presence without recognizing Him. The recognition occurs in the breaking of bread. “The Breaking of the Bread” is the name given by the earliest Christians to the Eucharistic meal and this window is intended to commemorate that first post-Resurrection Eucharist, presided over by Christ Himself. It is easy to see in the Old Testament sacred bread, which stood in the presence of the Ark, as a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, which is the abiding earthly form of the presence of God, the Body of Christ.

The Sword of Gideon and The Vision of St. Juliana of Liege
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Sword of Gideon
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
Vision of St. Juliana of Liege
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























Both of these windows commemorate visionary experiences. In the upper window we see an event from the Old Testament Book of Judges. Gideon, the Jewish hero, has disguised himself and infiltrated the camp of the enemy Midionites. In his disguised state he overhears one of the enemy soldiers telling another of a dream in which he saw a loaf of bread roll through the Midionite camp, destroying it. His fellow soldier interprets the dream as “the sword of Gideon”. Gideon returns to his own troops and does indeed lead a successful attack. The form which the visionary “sword” takes, a loaf of bread, has obvious Eucharistic significance.
The lower window depicts one of the visions of St. Juliana of Liege (also known as Juliana of Mont Cornillon), a 13th-century nun, in which she sees a procession of angels bearing the Body of Christ in the form of the Host in a monstrance. Her visions lead her to propose a special feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament.  Within a few years of her death Pope Urban IV declared this feast, the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ for the universal Church. To this day it is celebrated with processions of the Eucharist in the monstrance through city streets.

The Bread of Elijah and A Procession of the Blessed Sacrament at Lourdes
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Bread of Elijah
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
Procession of the Blessed Sacrament
at Lourdes
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level

























These two windows depict scenes of the intervention of God in restoring the health of individuals and providing sustenance for their journeys of faith. In the upper window Elijah, having fled from the vengeance of Queen Jezebel and having prayed to be delivered by death, has lain down under a tree and fallen asleep. An angel, sent by God, awakens him and insists that he eat the hearth cake and jug of water that the angel had brought. Strengthened by this food for his journey Elijah walks to Mount Horeb where he has a direct encounter with God.
In the lower window, we see a modern event, set at the grotto of the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, in France. The basilica of Lourdes can be seen in the distance, while the statue of the Virgin Mary in the grotto occupies the right side of the composition. In the central foreground an invalid, lying on a stretcher encounters Christ directly in the monstrance held above him by a priest. Strengthened by his encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, the ill person is prepared for whatever may come. It may be one of the miraculous healings for which Lourdes is famous or it may be his final journey to God.

The Archangel Raphael and Tobias and Pius X and Frequent Communion
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Archangel Raphael and Tobias
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level
Atelier Charles Lorin
Pius X and Frequent Communion
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level
























This pair of windows focuses attention on the guidance of the young and the need to provide them with support on their life journeys. The Old Testament Book of Tobit relates how the Archangel Raphael came to earth in disguise to assist the young Tobias on a difficult and dangerous journey. In the upper window we see an incident from the first night of that journey. After making camp on the banks of the river Tigris, Tobias slipped his feet into the water and was nudged by a large fish. The disguised archangel urged Tobias to catch the fish and then instructed him to save parts of it for future use. These preserved parts of the fish enabled him to overcome the perils of his journey, defeat demons and, eventually, to cure his father of blindness.
In the lower window we see another instance of guidance and support being given to the young. In 1910 Pope Saint Pius X ordered that the age of a child at First Communion should be reduced from the then-common age of about 12-14 to the age of the use of reason at about the age of 7. The reasoning behind this order was based on a study of the practices of the early church, which admitted young children to the Sacrament, and on the reflection that because of the restrictions that had been imposed in subsequent centuries “children in their innocence were forced away from the embrace of Christ and deprived of the food of their interior life; and from this it also happened that in their youth, destitute of this strong help, surrounded by so many temptations, they lost their innocence and fell into vicious habits even before tasting of the Sacred Mysteries” (Quam singulari – Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments on First Communion, August 8, 1910).
This window also has a particular significance for the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Following the example of St. Peter Julian Eymard, their founder, in guiding and teaching the destitute children of Paris, and instilling in them love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the fathers were among the leading proponents of lowering the age of First Communion. It is interesting to note that this window was commissioned in 1912, only two years after the decree was promulgated and long before the canonization of St. Pius X, which took place in 1954.


2. WINDOWS OF THE CROSSING AND TRANSEPTS
In the crossing/transept area the imagery becomes a bit more complex. The upper level windows (with the exceptions of the lunettes above the doors) primarily record events from the story of Exodus. In the lower windows of the transepts we see two events from the Last Supper, the Passover celebration on the final night before Jesus was crucified.


All these are taken from the Book of Exodus. In addition, there is an interloping scene, of the Feast of Ahasuerus, which comes from the Book of Esther.
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Burning Bush
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level - North Transept west

Atelier Charles Lorin
Moses Striking the Rock
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level - North Transept east


























Atelier Charles Lorin
Feast of Ahasuerus
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level - North Apsidal Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Ark of the Covenant
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level - South Transept west

Atelier Charles Lorin
The Manna
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level - South Transept east

























Atelier Charles Lorin
The Pasch of the Old Law
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Upper level - South Apsidal Chapel of St. Joseph
Taken together all these images illustrate the saving power of God in the Passover of both the Old and the New Testaments. The events of the Exodus freed the People of God from bondage in Egypt or, in the case of the scene from the Book of Esther, from persecution in Persia. The sacrifice of Christ is the second Passover, the Passover of the New Covalent, which freed all people from the oppression of sin.

In addition, the inclusions of such scenes as God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush, of the spreading of the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of the Hebrews, of the gathering of the mysterious, bread-like manna in the desert and of the Ark of the Covenant all relate to the revelation of God in Jesus, of his sacrifice of Himself, of His institution of the Eucharist, in which bread and wine become His Body and Blood, and of His continuing presence in the world as the Real Presence in the tabernacle of the altar.

In the lower level of the sanctuary area are two New Testament events from the Last Supper, the Washing of the Feet and the Institution of the Eucharist.
Atelier Charles Lorin
The Washing of the Feet
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lower level - North Apsidal Chapel of Our Lady
of the Blessed Sacrament


Atelier Charles Lorin
The Last Supper
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Lowerlevel - South Apsidal Chapel of St. Joseph



























Each time Mass is celebrated on the altar, which is surrounded by these windows, that Mass becomes part of the story of salvation depicted in them and part of the eternal Sacrifice of Christ perpetuated in the Eucharist.

3. TRANSEPT LUNETTES

High above the doors in the transepts are two windows depicting events from church history related to the Eucharist, Saint Tarcisius Receiving the Eucharist and the Mass of Saint Gregory the Great.

North Transept - Saint Tarcisius
Atelier Charles Lorin
Saint Tarcisius
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
North Transept over door

Tarcisius was a Roman boy of about 12 who was what we would today call an “altar boy”. During one of the 3rd century Roman persecutions of Christians he was given the Blessed Sacrament to bring to a bedridden Christian. On his way he was challenged by a group of other boys to join them in their games and, when he refused, they attempted to see what he was carrying. His defense of the consecrated Body of Christ resulted in a savage attack, from which he died. He is the patron saint of altar servers and has long been regarded as a model for the devotion to and respect for the Eucharist which should be shown by every Christian.

South Transept - Mass of Saint Gregory
Atelier Charles Lorin
Mass of St. Gregory
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
South Transept over door
This was a frequent subject in medieval art. It depicts an event in the life of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. As Saint Gregory celebrated Mass one day he prayed fervently for a sign that would convince a doubter in the congregation about the reality of the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. At the consecration of the Mass, Christ appeared above the altar, crowned with thorns and bleeding. The doubter was converted and believed. The specific image of Christ which appeared to Gregory became known as the “Imago pietatis” and eventually as the “Man of Sorrows”. This image had a long life in late medieval and renaissance art as an independent iconographic subject.

Together, these two images remind the viewer of the devotion that should be shown to the Blessed Sacrament, even to the point of giving ones life to protect it.

4. LUNETTE OVER THE ENTRANCE DOOR

Behold the Lamb of God
Atelier Charles Lorin, Behold the Lamb of God
French, 1912-1914
New York, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste
Above Entrance Door
The final Lorin window in the church is the lunette that crowns the central entrance doorway. This window depicts Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of French Canada and of this church, at a crucial moment of his mission. He stands, surrounded by people who have come to hear him preach, at the banks of the Jordan River and point to the approaching figure of Jesus, saying “Behold the Lamb of God”. Thus, this window, in a sense, sums up the entire decorative scheme of the church. John the Baptist, its patron, points the way toward the person of Jesus, the Lamb of Sacrifice, and encourages both his followers in the design of the window and we, the congregation of the parish, to remember, as they leave Who they came here to meet and adore.

We have not yet discovered how this program of subjects for the windows came into being. It appears to reflect a serious plan, drawn up by someone with intent, and not a random choice of subject matter. Research is ongoing.

©Margaret M. Duffy, M.A., Ph. D. (abd) October 2012

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