FEATURE IMAGE: West Bronze Door. Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Chicago. University Village/Little Italy, Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, 12/2013 6.72 mb
The West Bronze Door, dedicated in 2004, depicts the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii (1923), 1224 West Lexington Street in Chicago. Clockwise from top left, the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the Visitation (Luke 1:39-56), the Nativity of Jesus (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:18-2:23), the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40) and Christ among the Doctors (Finding in the Temple) (Luke 2:41-52). The shrine is the oldest continuous Italian-American Catholic Church in Chicago and is today a place to pray for peace that embraces pilgrims of all faiths.
Our Lady of Pompeii was originally established in Chicago in 1911 as an Italian national parish. The present church building at 1224 West Lexington Street in Chicago’s westside University Village/Little Italy neighborhood was constructed in 1923 and dedicated to Mary, Queen of the Rosary in 1924. The parish began under the Scalabrinian Missionaries, a religious institute founded in Italy in 1887 to aid and serve the Italian immigrants to America.
In 1994 Joseph Cardinal Bernardin proclaimed Our Lady of Pompeii church a Shrine, dedicated to honor Mary, the Mother of God and Queen of the Holy Rosary. Ten years later practically to the day, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. dedicated the Shrine’s bronze doors. On that same October day in 2004, Bishop Carlo Liberati, Pontifical Delegate to the Shrine of The Blessed Virgin of The Holy Rosary in Pompeii, Italy, established “a most fervent and fraternal link of communion” between the shrine in Pompeii, Italy, and that of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago.
Inspired by the main gate (“Porta del Paradiso”) of the Baptistry of Florence made by Florentine goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) between 1425 and 1452 and located in front of Florence’s cathedral, the bronze doors in Chicago were made by Biagio Governali, native of Corleone, Italy. The artist modeled each panel in wax which were then sent to Verona, Italy, to be cast in bronze and polished. These Veronese craftsmen came to Chicago on two occasions to mount and position the doors before they were dedicated and blessed by Cardinal George in 2004.
1. The Annunciation (top, left)
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27).
2. The Visitation (top, right)
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”‘ (Luke 1:39-42).
3. The Nativity of Jesus (center)
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7).
4. The Presentation in the Temple (bottom, left)
“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”‘ (Luke 2:21-24).
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (bottom, right)
“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it … After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:41-47).
BETWEEN 1870 AND 1930, ART GLASS OF GERMANY AND AUSTRIA COMES TO AMERICA, PARTICULARLY TO CHICAGO’S CHURCHES
The colorful stained-glass windows in Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, were ordered, produced, and installed towards the end of a 60-year-long run for the predominance of German and Austrian-made stained glass found in heritage Chicagoland churches today.
With only a couple of exceptions, the stained glass in Naperville’s historically pioneer and, later, German Catholic parish church was created in the mid1920s in Innsbruck, Austria. Innsbruck at the time was one of the European centers of stained-glass making. It is about 100 miles south of Munich, Germany, the home base of two other popular and well-regarded stained-glass studios – that of Franz Mayer & Company and F.X Zettler Company. These art glass manufacturers notably filled many Chicagoland Catholic churches starting in the 1870s. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, a building and population boom commenced in the city and its surrounding communities that went on for over a century unabated. In addition, from the 1870s to the 1920s, Chicago became the most influential center of Catholic culture in the United States.1
It was a unique period of history for Catholic churches in America whose state-of-the-art church design usually included brightly colored art (stained) glass windows. These windows often displayed action-packed scenes from the Bible, including episodes from the life of Christ, His Blessed Mother, or a patron saint.
This continuous appeal over multiple generations for the purchases of vast orders of Munich and Austrian style glass in U.S. Catholic churches declined greatly starting in the 1930’s with the onset of the Great Depression. The European traditional glass market did not recover its former popularity making its stained-glass windows from 1870 to 1930 in Chicagoland churches – including Saints Peter and Paul Church in Naperville – increasingly rare and valuable to preserve and appreciate.
Stained glass made by Tyrol Art Glass Company of Innsbruck, Austria, and Franz Mayer and F.X. Zettler of Munich, Germany, was characterized by its traditional painted stained glass. This style fit into the traditional-style church architecture that Catholic parishes, such as Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville, and many others, built between 1870 and 1930. By the mid20th century these European traditional glass makers faced competition from the rise of American glass manufacturers such as Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) which extended to quality, price, and style. Tiffany stained glass which frequently incorporated natural scenery elements, contained intricately cut opaque and opalescent glass, overlaid with wide varieties in thickness. This product became better fitted into modern worship spaces which were often smaller. Such modern art and architectural trends worked to displace traditional glass made in Europe used for grandiose classically styled houses of worship that were from an earlier historical period.
In the late 19th century, Tyrol Art Glass Company of Innsbruck, Austria, with the Munich studios of Franz Mayer and F.X. Zettler, began to send representatives to sell their new patterns for churches in Chicago and around the United States. These three studios often worked together and their style is basically interchangeable. In Saints Peter and Paul Church – as well as many other churches with classically-styled architecture – traditional painted stained glass was the stand-out choice, It is usually very colorful whose iconography often depicts highly recognizable religious, often biblical, scenes and religious symbolism. This is definitely the situation with the beautiful stained-glass windows of Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville, including the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven windows.
HOW SAINTS PETER AND PAUL CATHOLIC CHURCH GOT STARTED AND GREW IN NAPERVILLE, ILLINOIS
Naperville, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, was founded in 1831 – the oldest town in DuPage County.2With its origins as a mixed settlement of Easterners and Hoosiers, Naperville’s strong religious character was established starting in the 1830s.3 Today it boasts a population of around 150,000 and is one of Illinois’s largest cities. The downtown area is bustling with shops and motor vehicle and foot traffic, yet Naperville’s 19th century origins can still be found in and around the DuPage River with its River Walk and its Historic District that maintain much of the suburb’s original charm and historic significance.
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville was founded in 1846 and is the oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in DuPage County. The county was established in 1839 with Naperville originally as the county seat. This changed in 1867 when, by county referendum, Wheaton became the county seat which it remains today. Naperville’s first religious institutions were the East Branch Settlement, Congregationalist, Evangelical, and Baptist churches. These churches were all established in Naperville between 1833 and 1843.4
The Catholic parish was originally founded as a mission of the Joliet Catholic Church – Joliet, Illinois, about 20 miles to the south of Naperville is its Diocese headquarters today. In the 1840s, when Illinois was the edge of the frontier, a priest traveled the rigorous 20-mile journey – Naperville did not get a railroad for another 30 years (1864) – once a month to say mass in pioneers’ homes. The first church, named St. Raphael’s for Fr. Raphael Rainaldi, the first pastor, was a small frame structure with a lean-to across the street from today’s church building. In the 1840s the church served about 25 families – 175 years later it serves 4,000 families.5
The first official act at Saints Peter and Paul Church was a festive event – the wedding of Mr. Robert Le Beau to Miss Emily Beaubien, recorded on Tuesday, September 8, 1846. The parish also purchased an acre of land for a cemetery.
In 1852 the church was enlarged by a frame addition and Fr. Charles Zuker established a parish school in the lean-to with a lay headmaster. In 1855 the first school building was built. By 1864 the first frame church building was used for school purposes as the cornerstone was laid for a new stone church on the site of the present church building. By this time the parish was renamed to Saints Peter & Paul by Fr. Peter Fisher and the parish had grown to about 250 families. The stone had been obtained locally from the parish’s own quarry along the DuPage River. The new stone church building was dedicated in 1866 and the school now served around 100 students.6
Continual improvements were made to the parish church and grounds in the 1870s and 1880s so that by the start of the 1890s, following Naperville’s incorporation as a city, the parish launched significant building projects. In 1892, a year where it rained almost all that spring, a new brick school building for the parish’s 200 students was built that cost $30,000. Saints Peter and Paul also built a new rectory in anticipation of the new century.
In the 1880’s Naperville, illinois, like much of the rest of the country, expanded its industrial base, grew its city services, such as the fire department and city hall, and established new utilities including the first public telephone service.
With its new wealth generated by industry, Naperville built some of its first impressive homes. Shops and stores were established to service them. While agrarian in flavor, by the end of the 1880’s and into the early 1890s Naperville was already a bustling, modern, forward-thinking city. In 1893 Naperville hosted its first “Bicycle Parade” – a big public affair whose purpose was to “show our citizens the increased interest lately in this comparatively new mode of locomotion.”
In the 1890s the area that included Saints Peter and Paul Church, other denominational churches, and Northwestern College (renamed North Central College in 1926) affiliated with the United Methodist Church, came to be known around town as “Piety Corners.”
With the appearance of the first cars in the 1900s, Naperville was well on its way to an era of accelerated expansion and growth that continues in the 21st century.7
In 1911 the school was badly damaged by fire. When a new school opened the next year, 250 students were enrolled.9
In the 1920’s Naperville boasted around 5,000 residents. In June 1922 (sources vary whether it was on June 4 or June 8) the old stone church quarried from the parish’s own quarry and dedicated in 1866 was destroyed by an arsonist’s fire. By this time, the parish’s 350 Naperville families were from mostly German-speaking countries in Europe. Naperville’s quarries had brought waves of German immigrants to the city since the 1850’s since they knew how to mine and cut stone. After the devastating 1922 fire, the parish chose to rebuild their church in a magnificent red brick traditional cruciform-shape. It was dedicated on Sunday, September 25, 1927. The half German, half Irish Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, George Mundelein (1872-1939), participated in the dedication ceremony. This remains the church building that exists today and which contains its lovely and historically significant stained glass from Innsbruck, Austria. In 1927 the cost of the church building was $407,785 – or about $6.5 million today.10
WHO WERE SAINTS PETER AND PAUL?
St. Peter is the Rock, or “Cephas,” of Jesus Christ’s church. In Matthew 16 Jesus tells Simon, son of John, brother to Andrew the apostle and a married fisherman by trade: “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16: 18-19). Peter denied Christ three times before the crucifixion that is described in all four New Testament Gospels.
After Jesus Christ’s Resurrection (Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, John 20 and 1 Corinthians 15) and Ascension into Heaven (Luke 24:50. Acts 1, John 3:13, John 6:62, John 20:17, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:19-20, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 2:9-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 Peter 3:21-22) and following the events of Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter led an important life as a Christian evangelist and Church leader.
Though St. Paul’s pastoral heritage in his 13 letters were highly influential for the early church where he writes on church structure, the theology of the Body of Christ, and the nature of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter also has an epistemological heritage which explores the People of God.11These best-known apostles also both died in the 60s. For the rest of that critical first century of Christianity – until when John’s Gospel was written in the 90s – the churches had to go without two of its greatest authoritative figures who had seen the risen Jesus.
St. Peter was martyred by crucifixion in 64 A.D. in Rome. He requested he be crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, as witness to the apostle’s prolonged sorrow over his denial of Christ. On the church calendar, St. Peter’s feasts are June 29 and February 22.
St. Paul is one of Church history’s most significant figures. As Saul of Tarsus, the scholar, rabbi, and Roman citizen, zealously persecuted the first Christians and was personally present at the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 7: 54-60). On the road to Damascus making “murderous threats” towards Christians (Acts 9:1), Paul encounters the risen Jesus. The passage reads: “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-6).
The jolting event changed Paul’s life and outlook. More than anyone else in the Church’s first years, Paul realized Christianity’s universal message. Paul’s letters to various Christian communities in Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome, show him to be a solicitous and sometimes stern and exhorting pastor who had a deeply personal spiritual experience of the Lord. About half of the books of the New Testament are Paul’s writings that express his profound openness to humanity and its cultures which made him “Apostle of the Gentiles” and “Teacher of the Nations.”
Paul was martyred somewhere between 64 and 68 A. D. The circumstances of his death are not entirely known, although early Christian writers related that Paul was beheaded. St. Paul shares a feast with St. Peter on June 29.
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.
The Ascension of Jesus is recounted twice in the New Testament – and both times by Luke the Evangelist. One account is in his Gospel (Luke 24:50-53) and a second is in his Book of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1: 6-12).
One important difference in the accounts is that in Acts Luke mentions the appearance of Jesus for 40 days after the Resurrection until His Ascension. While it sets a time limit on Jesus’s appearances, it presents His sustained manifold appearances after the Resurrection to the apostles. It also situates the apostles and Christian community into salvation history’s imagery of Israel’s covenant.12Luke’s tradition likely would not have separated the Resurrection and Ascension events in time except for the clarity of a narrative purpose.13
The account of the Ascension in Acts 1:6-12 reads:
6 ”When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He answered them: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
10 While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”j
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. (New American Bible)
As Jesus rose from the dead it is clear to the disciples that he is the Messiah so their question as to when he will restore political self-rule to Israel is not illogical although Jesus was never a political leader in his historical ministry. Luke is writing his Gospel and Acts as a faith document for future Christians, so that Jesus‘s reply to their question about the kingdom of God’s ultimate temporal nature is indeterminate. In the next verses (7 and 8) Jesus tells them that the Second Coming (“Parousia”) is not a question for them to be asking God. Rather, it is important for them to bear witness to Him by ways of the power of the Holy Spirit for whom they should wait. Finally, as Jerusalem was the place of Jesus’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, the Holy City is where the Christians will start their mission that will reach to the ends of the earth.14
Another important detail Luke includes in Acts is that when Jesus is lifted up into heaven a cloud has intervened to take him from the apostles’ sight. St. Luke’s cloud imagery was used later in writings and reflections by the Christian mystics (i.e., The Cloud of Unknowing). Further, the Ascension takes place on Mount Olivet, which had eschatological or end times allusions. After Jesus is lifted up two figures appear in dazzling garments signaling the angelic presence as appeared at the Resurrection (Luke 24:4-7). The cloud image Luke uses is also linked to end times (Luke 21:27) or parousia – in that Jesus taken up in the Ascension “will come (again) in the same way that you saw him going.” (Acts1:11).
In the Ascension of Christ into Heaven window, Christ is surrounded by a band of clouds and yet remains in a golden area representing the fiery light of God. Christ wears a multi-colored robe – red representing his death by crucifixion; purple representing his Divinity; and white representing martyrdom emblazoned with four-lobed crosses representing the four Gospels or the four corners of the earth.
Christ’s halo is elaborated in three parts. There are usually three Greek letters found in Christ’s cruciform halo that in translation spell out “He Who is” or “ I Am Who Am.” These are absent, however, in this stained-glass window’s cruciform halo.
Hierarchy of angels
There are eight angels in the window representing the hierarchy of angels. The baby heads of the cherubim – the lowest tier of angels – are accompanied by seraphim, the highest order of angels. Their name “archangel” literally means “chief angel.” Traditionally these highest order of angels are warlike in appearance and bear a sword, This is especially the case with the iconography of St. Michael the Archangel who leads God’s angels in battle to cast Satan and his angels out of heaven as told in the New Testament Book of Revelation.
The seraphim in this stained-glass depiction, however, carry palm branches in place of swords. In the years following World War I when this stained glass was made, the Austrian art glass manufacturer may have sought to symbolize angelic power by ways of symbols of peace. The fact that the range of angels from lowest to highest is present in the window appears to signal the presence of the whole choir of angels present at the Ascension of Jesus into heaven.15
Depicted at the bottom of the window is Mary and the 12 apostles. This was not precisely accurate to the New Testament for at the Ascension there were only 11 apostles. However, the replacement of Judas by Matthias took place almost immediately following the Ascension narrative (Acts of the Apostles 1:21–26).
In the center of the window at the bottom between Mary and a kneeling apostle with his right arm stretched out is an interesting detail. It is the outline of Christ’s feet showing where his resurrected body stood and was lifted directly from earth into heaven. This is significant beyond a souvenir of Jesus’s earthly memory, in that Mount Olivet from which the resurrected Jesus was lifted into heaven is exact the place to which “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27) will return at the end of the world. In that way, the window is a depiction of the Ascension and one that points to the Second Coming of Christ.
Each of the apostle’s halos are unique. Mary’s halo has 12 stars as she is often pictured with a circle of stars. The Zodiac is an ancient circle of stars where some are symbolically combined into 12-star signs or constellations.
Jesus’ Ascension – his going “up” to heaven – is the same imagery used for the Assumption of Mary. It is figurative to express the spiritual. The biblical heaven is mysterious. It is the intimate reserve of God and as God is pure spirit (John 4:24), the question arises, how does Heaven incorporate the resurrected fleshly body of Christ at His Ascension?
It is explained starting with the Incarnation at the Annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) where the divine humanity of Jesus, the Word who was “with God, and…was God (John 1:1) begins. In the Ascension, the Person of Christ is fulfilled where the “new, saved man” enters heaven into the intimacy of the Father, and becomes the perfect God-Man. As “God is love” (I John 4:16), the manner of being of the body in Christ in heaven, the perfect God-man, is love.16
The Ascension is followed by Pentecost when the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit from Heaven and will speak thereafter of “Christ (in Heaven) in us.”
The upper rondelle represents Christ the King. Christ’s crown obscures his elaborate three-part halo. The Greek letters on either side represent the “alpha” (“the beginning”) and the “omega” (“the ending”) which indicates Christ’s Godhead. Christ the King holds in his hands the symbols of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the consecration of the Mass. in his right hand is the species of bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Christ and in his left hand is the wood beam of the cross whose sacrifice on Calvary the Eucharist memorializes. Christ the King also reveals his Sacred Heart – a popular Catholic devotion- inside his chest. His heart is depicted as aflame encircled by a crown of thorns signifying his agape (or sacrificial) love. The entire Ascension window was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. William David Callender, parish members in the mid1920s.
In the New Testament, the Woman of the Apocalypse and the battle of St. Michael the Archangel against the Dragon are bound together in the same dramatic narrative in the Book of Revelation (Rev.12:1-9). The Woman with a crown of 12 stars who is against the Dragon in the Book of Revelation has been identified with Mary, particularly as the Immaculate Conception. This is how Mary is depicted in the Ascension of Christ into Heaven window at Sts. Peter and Paul.
The New Testament passage setting out these images is in Revelation 12:1-9:
1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a womanclothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.
4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.
5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
6 The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.
7 Then war broke out in heaven; Michaeland his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back,
8 but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9 The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.
EXPLANATION OF IMAGERY IN THE NARRATIVE OF REVELATION 12-14
About the middle of the Book of Revelation (Chapters 12-14), the author portrays the power of evil as represented by the figure of the Dragon who is opposed to God and his people. This Dragon pursues the woman about to give birth to devour the child but the child is born. Then St. Michael and his angels expel the Dragon and the Dragon’s angels out of heaven (Rev. 12:5-9). Adorned with the Old Testament images of sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 37:9-10), the woman symbolizes God’s people. As Israel gave birth to the Messiah (Rev.12:5) and the church suffers persecution by the Dragon (Rev 12: 6, 13-17), the Woman corresponds to an archetype of a pregnant goddess bearing a savior who is pursued by a monster looking to destroy the offspring. But her offspring, a son, in his turn, destroys the monster.
The huge red Dragon is a symbol of the forces of evil – the Devil or Satan (Rev. 12:9, 20:2), or the mythical Leviathan (Ps, 74:13-14) or Rahab (Job 26:12-13; Ps 89:11). It is also the ancient serpent who seduced Eve, the mother of the whole world (Gen 3:1-6).17
The Assumption of Mary into Heaven.
There is no mention of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven in the New Testament. There are biblical texts used frequently to point to the doctrine whose imagery is related to the Ascension of Christ into Heaven.
The Assumption of Mary intheology is the doctrine that Mary as Theotokos, or Mother of God, was taken (“Assumed”) into heaven, body and soul, at the moment, or what would be the moment, of her death. This phenomenon is not unprecedented in the Bible. It occurred in the Old Testament to Moses and Elijah who were pivotally important as Old Testament figures and who were present at Christ’s Transfiguration in the New Testament (Matt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10: Lk 9:28-36; and 2 Peter 1:16-21).
There has been debate whether Mary was assumed into heaven at death or after death – that is, whether Mary, the Mother of the Savior, experienced death at all. It is a debate not resolved even with the doctrine of the Mary’s Assumption into Heaven declared a dogma of the faith by Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) on November 1, 1950 in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus.
What is depicted in the window is biblical in the sense that it is the dogmatic theology deduced from it. The Assumption as a theme in Christian art originated in western Europe during the late Middle Ages—starting in the 12th and 13th centuries – a period when devotion to the Virgin Mary was growing in importance. It would be renewed vigorously again in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation. Before this Renaissance and Reformation period, Mary is represented surrounded by a mandorla, or almond-shaped aureole. But starting in the 16th century the mandorla was replaced by a cluster of clouds as depicted in the window.
The window depicts Mary standing upon a brightly-lit crescent moon reflected in imagery from Revelation 12.
Mary wears a blue cloak with a red shirt underneath as seen in the stained glass window by her right arm’s sleeve. The blue of her cloak is interpreted to represent the Virgin’s purity, symbolize the cosmos, and identify Mary as a Queen as blue was associated with royalty.
The red garment color signifies traits connected with motherhood as well as Mary’s presence on Calvary at her son’s crucifixion, particularly her traits of love and devotion.
These symbolic colors Mary wears expresses a universal definition of motherhood for her.
The Virgin Mary is mother to Jesus which expands to the whole of humanity. On Calvary, standing by the cross of Jesus were three Marys – Mary, his mother, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. From the cross, Jesus said in John 19:
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (New American Bible)
Mary wears a white robe representing her purity. Her halo has seven eight-pointed stars. In numerology the number 7 represents “perfection” and the number 8 represents “regeneration or rebirth.”
There are 12 angels, some carrying palms representing peace and victory, others carry lilies representing Mary’s virginity. Angels wear laurels of hyacinths (prudence, peace, and desire for heaven) and of roses (heavenly joy). Another angel holds out a bouquet of thornless roses signifying purity and the triumph of love. Mary will be crowned Queen of Heaven and the angels hold her crown.
God the Father wears a triangular halo as He blesses the scene. The Holy Spirit in the symbol of the dove emanates.18