JEWELS OF GRACE - The Connick Windows at Grace
Cathedral, San Francisco
Michael D. Lampen, Archivist, Grace Cathedral
||San Francisco's Grace Cathedral
is the third largest Episcopal cathedral in the nation. The Gothic-inspired
concrete-and-steel building was built from 1927 to 1964 to a design by
architect Lewis Hobart. From the opening of the first cathedral unit,
the Chapel of Grace, in 1930, to the installation of the last choir window
in 1966, the Connick presence has been strong and steady. Grace Cathedral
contains some of Charles Connick's finest work: the Gospels windows in
the Chapel of Grace, as well as the last window he ever designed; the Angels
window in the cathedral choir. Connick hoped to create all of Grace
Cathedral's 67 windows (7290 square feet of glass), and prepared a named
window plan, but at his death in 1945 the building was only half completed.
Changing tastes in the 1960s and 70s introduced new studios and new designers,
notably Willet and Loire. Yet Connick's 33 Grace Cathedral windows
stand as a lasting monument to his vision, and to the continuity of that
vision in the windows created by his studio during the decades following
Charles Connick formed a close friendship with Dean J.
Wilmer Gresham, first Dean of Grace Cathedral, who served from 1910 to
1939. A poet, healer and something of a mystic, Gresham found similar
qualities in Connick, and the Twenty Third Psalm window, a 1941 memorial
to Dean Gresham's wife, is a Connick tour-de-force, one of the most beautiful
windows in the Cathedral. Connick's first Grace Cathedral windows,
in the Chapel of Grace and adjacent Baptistry (1930), glow in medieval
splendor, and were inspired by the windows of the Sainte Chapelle, Paris.
For the transept facades, Connick designed two huge windows - 23 feet wide
by 45.5 feet tall - the New and Old Testament windows (1931,1932), their
intricate tracery framing 200 glass units. His ambitious choir series
was the Nine Choirs of Angels, each double lancet soaring 41 feet.
Begun in 1931, the series was completed in 1966. An intimate Chartres-inspired
grisaille window graced the Chapel of the Nativity in 1936. A Patriarchs
and Prophets series begun in the transept clerestories was only half finished.
The Fruit of the Spirit series in the nave aisles, was almost half completed,
its five completed windows covering the years 1934 to 1960. A sixth
(Fortitude, 1961) broke the theme. Connick chose St. Francis' Canticle
of the Sun for the cathedral's facade rose window, designed later in faceted glass by Gabriel Loire (1964). The final Grace
Cathedral window, a fused glass work by Narcissus Quagliata, was installed
Storm damage to choir windows, caused by flying glass
from a nearby apartment tower, brought Connick window repair to the attention
of the cathedral authorities in 1995. A restoration project was undertaken
employing Reflection Studios of nearby Emeryville, and involved cleaning,
restoration and releading of the exposed south-side choir windows.
The Connick windows at Grace Cathedral received national recognition in
1999 from the Save America's Treasures project of the National Trust for
Historic Preservation. The resulting support, combined with a munificent
donation by Mrs. Nancy Hammon, made it possible to complete the choir project.
The tall windows now sparkle in the sunlight and the famous "Connick blues"
glow with their full intensity. The restoration is the first step
towards ensuring that future generations will be inspired by Grace Cathedral's
Connick windows, and will continue to recognize them as spiritual and artistic
treasures; as jewels of grace.
Michael Lampen began at Grace Cathedral as a chorister in 1956.
He has been the Cathedral's archivist since 1982 and is the authority
on its history and sacred art. On Thursday, May 22, 2003 Michael Lampen and Dean Alan
Jones will be giving a free evening lecture/tour/homily entitled "Creation, Prophecy,
Brotherhood" which will be an in-depth look at the Canticle of the Sun window
by Loire and the Old and New Testament windows by Connick. The lecture will be
in Grace Cathedral from 6 to 7 pm. Interested persons will need to sign up with Mary
Wood (415-749-6327) as the size of the group will be limited. Binoculars or opera
glasses are highly recommended.
Design for Emily Gresham memorial window in lower East
wall of South Transept - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California. Photograph
from the Connick Collection, Fine Arts Department, courtesy of the Trustees,
Boston Public Library
|Annemarie Sawkins, Associate Curator of the Patrick and
Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, will
present a paper on the Connick windows in Joan of Arc Chapel (Marquette
University) at the 23rd Canadian Conference of Medieval Art Historians
at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, March 20-22, 2003.
The Coronation of the Virgin in
Heaven. One of fifteen of the
medallions in the series of five
windows devoted to the Mysteries of
the Rosary Church of Saint Mary of
Redford, Detroit, Michigan.
Photograph courtesy of the Trustees
of the Boston Public Library.
The Gallery at the American Bible Society Presents
Reflections on Glass: 20th Century Stained Glass in American Art
Coronation of the Virgin, a stained glass medallion (1927) by the
Connick Studio is part of this eclectic, diverse exhibition, curated by Dr. Virginia Raguin.
When Charles Connick was especially pleased with a work, he would have the studio also make a selected portion of the window to have as a portable record and to be used for exhibitions that the studio organized to educate people about stained glass. A Connick Studio record book of
exhibitions shows that Coronation of the Virgin panel was exhibited also at the Boston
Athenaeum in 1927; Architectural League of New York, 1927; Currie Gallery of Art,
Manchester, NH, 1947 and University of New Hampshire, 1948.
The original piece, Coronation of the Virgin, is one of
a series of 15 medallions made for Saint Mary of Redford, in Detroit, Michigan,
a church designed by Cram and Ferguson. The panel in the
American Bible Society exhibition is on loan from the Boston Public Library's
Connick Collection. The exhibition is free and open to the public
at the American Bible Society's Gallery, 1865 Broadway (at 61st Street),
New York City from December 13, 2002 until March 16, 2003. The current
exhibition follows Glory in Glass: Stained Glass in the United States,
Origins, Variety, and Preservation which was also curated by Dr. Virginia
Raguin at the American Bible Society during the winter of 1998-99.
A catalogue is available as part of the current exhibition and can be purchased
by calling 1800 322 4253. The catalogue item is 112836 and is $35.00.
"I want to make beautiful interiors for both churches
I want...[all people] to hear my windows singing..."
Charles J. Connick