Tag Archives: Pontifical Institute of Christian Art

Architecture and Design: Angels in Stained Glass, St. Michael Catholic Church in Old Town, Chicago. (11 Photos).

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ASSUMPTION WINDOW (central panel/detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

INTRODUCTION:

St. Michael Church in Old Town on Chicago’s north side is one of the oldest parishes and church buildings in the city. Founded as a parish in 1852, the church building’s brick walls from 1869 withstood the flames of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

Yet those flames left it a charred, empty shell. Hot flames fed on clapboard wooden houses that surrounded the historically-German parish. The bell tower collapsed in the fire’s intense heat as it continued its northward march out of downtown until it petered out completely about one mile away. The Great Fire had started about three miles to the south at the site of today’s Chicago Fire Academy. In 1871 that was the site of Mrs. O’Leary’s barn and her cow.

In 1869 the St. Michael Church building cost over $130,000 to build– approximately $2.25 million in today’s dollars. After the fire in 1872 its repairs cost $40,000, though not including unknown insurance money amounts, or about $700,000 today. Reconstruction did not include the stained glass windows included in this post that were photographed in 2015. Gloriously preserved in the sanctuary today, they were created and installed in the early 20th century.

In preparation for St. Michael’s Golden Jubilee in 1902 the tall, thin stained glass windows made in Bavaria, Germany, were installed. They were the fourth set to be installed into church architect August Walbaum’s original design. The first sets of glass in the same windows–in 1866, 1873 and 1878– were either frosted or tinted.

The Golden Jubilee windows in 1902 drew on centuries of craft and technique in stained glass-making. The Franz Mayer & Company of Munich produced some of the finest stained glass in the world. For St. Michael’s east and west walls they created colorful glass depicting familiar New Testament scenes.

For the Golden Jubilee St. Michael Church also had hand-crafted and installed five new altars by Hackner & Sons of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The realism and expressiveness of the Franz Mayer & Company windows –in 2013 these windows underwent a complete professional cleaning– offered to the prospering Chicago parish an added sense of wonder and joy in their sacramental worship that can still be experienced and seen today in its intact form.

Mayer’s WEST windows depict events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the (non-biblical) Presentation of Mary and (biblical) Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Epiphany, and Assumption.

The EAST windows depict events in the life of Jesus: Finding Jesus in the Temple, Jesus Blesses the Children, Jesus’s feet washed by Mary Magdalene, the Ascension and the (non-biblical) Sacred Heart.

The windows’ rich color tones are rendered by using precious metals — gold dust for red; cobalt for blue; uranium for green.

The story scenes are given a Renaissance Europe setting.

All of these faith events are accompanied by Mayer’s fine depictions of the heavenly host of angels.

Franz Mayer & Company, founded in 1847 as “The Institute for Christian Art,” established a stained glass department in 1860. In 1882 it was awarded the designation as a Royal Bavarian Establishment for Ecclesiastical Art by “mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886) . The Pope later pronounced the foundry a Pontifical Institute of Christian Art. Instead of thinking of St. Michael Church commissioning a venerable Old European arts company to create their stained glass as would be Franz Mayer & Company’s status today, in 1902 Franz Mayer was a new German arts company whose religious artwork would mirror the sensibilities of a new parish on the north side of the new city of Chicago.

The founder’s son, Franz Borgias Mayer (1848-1926), continued to grow the royal manufacturing company for Christian Art. Ten years after St. Michael’s stained glass windows were installed, Saint Pope Pius X (1835-1914) commissioned the same German company to make stained glass for St. Peter’s Basilica as well as windows in important chapels throughout Vatican City. 

In the United States, Mayer’s client base and prestige grew in its service of an increasingly prosperous and broad-based Catholic immigrant community. Their ecclesiastical work can be found in Chicago, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Washington and California. As of 2016 Franz Mayer & Company continues as a family-owned and operated business (see http://www.mayer-of-munich.com/werkstaette/). 

NOTES:
valuation comparables – http://www.in2013dollars.com/1870-dollars-in-2015?amount=40000

stained glass department in 1860- Franz Mayer of Munich, edited by Gabriel Mayer, University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Pope Pius X commission – Nola Huse Tutag with Lucy Hamilton, Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1987. p. 152.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

ASCENSION WINDOW (side panel/detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

ASSUMPTION WINDOW (central panel/detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

ASSUMPTION WINDOW (central panel/detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany- Oct 30, 2015.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

SACRED HEART WINDOW (detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

ANNUNCIATION WINDOW (detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

PARABLE WINDOW (detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

VISITATION WINDOW (detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

CHRISTMAS WINDOW (detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

ASCENSION WINDOW (side panel/detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.

St. Michael Church, Old Town, Chicago.

ASSUMPTION WINDOW (central panel/detail), 1902, St. Michael Church, Chicago. Franz Mayer & Company, Munich, Germany.