The Story of the Windows of St. John’s

The Story of the Stained Glass Windows

St John’s is blessed with beautiful windows that serve to tell the story of salvation.  The following represents several sources including material from The Rev’d D. Joe Dunlap, onetime rector of St John’s, an original letter from Isaac Witter to the vestry of St John’s in 1937, along with other materials found in the archives of the congregation.

From “About our Stained Glass Windows” by Fr Dunlap:

When the present church building was dedicated January 19, 1930, temporary plain glass filled the window spaces.  The first windows installed were in the chancel.  These were the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roye M. Rogers, and were blessed on May 30, 1937.  The windows in the nave were given by Mr. and Mrs. Isaac P. Witter, and were blessed in October 1937.  All the windows in the chancel and nave were executed by the Conrad Schmitt Studios of Milwaukee.

From Isaac Witter to the Vestry of St John’s dated September 14, 1937:

Gentlemen,

I am herewith presenting the new polychroming work which has been done in St John’s and also the stained glass windows with certain reservations. 

            The windows are numbered 1 to 16 (exclusive of the large rear window), the numbering commencing with Number 1 and ending with Number 16 beginning at the pulpit and gospel side of the church and running around the church to the epistle side and the lectern. 

            Window Number 1 – Seven Branch Candlestick, Number 2 – The Censor, Number 15 – Chalice and Stole and Number 16 – Three Branch Candlestick are what we have called our Priests’ Windows and these are not to be sold.

            Number 15 Window has been given as a memorial to Right Reverend Reginald Heber Weller, long bishop of our Diocese and Number 16 window has been given as a memorial to Reverend Johannes Rockstroch, who was for many years Priest of this parish.  Number 1 Window has been reserved as a memorial to Reverend James Madison Johnson and a suitable bronze plate will be placed there when he shall have passed on to his reward which, of course, we hope may not be for many years.  The number 2 Window is to be reserved as a memorial to some future priest who might serve this church and whom the wardens and vestry at that time might think deserving of a memorial.  These memorials have been given not only because we have regarded the Bishop and the Priests so highly but also because they had so much to do in the inspiration and building of the new St John’s.

            Window Number 13 has been placed as a memorial to Mrs. Louis H. MacKinnon, who was the founder of St. Katharine’s Guild and Window Number 14 has been placed as a memorial to Falkland MacKinnon, who was longa vestryman of St John’s.  Mr. and Mrs. MacKinnon had much to do in the re-opening of St John’s Church on the west side of the river after it had been closed for many years by lack of support and it is with a sense of great gratitude to them that these windows are placed in their memory.

            The rear window over the entrance of the door is to be known as the Witter Window and will ultimately be a memorial window when a proper bronze tablet will be placed.

            The rest of the windows:

                        No. 3 – Annunciation

                        No. 4 – Birth of Christ

                        No. 5 – Christ in the Temple

                        No. 6 – Baptism of Christ

                        No. 7 – Marriage at Canna (sp.)

                        No. 8 – Healing the Leper

                        No. 9 – The Penitent Mary Magdalene

                        No. 10 – Raising the Daughter of Jairus

                        No. 11 – Transfiguration

                        No. 12 – Christ in Gethsemane

            are presented to the church for resale to those who should wish to purchase memorial windows at a price of $200 per window.  (This price is $100 less than any other bid we were able to get upon the windows.)  The reservation made by me is that the money for the sale of any window shall be placed in a fund known as the “Reredos Fund” in a savings account at the First National Bank, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.  When all the windows shall have been sold (or a sufficient number to purchase a satisfactory Reredos) then any funds remaining coming from the sale of the balance of the unsold windows, or any sum in the fund over the amount necessary to purchase the Reredos, shall in no case be used for the general running expenses of the church nor for repairs to the church.  That I feel should be taken care of by the then members of the church and any sum from the sale of any of these windows must go into new and permanent equipment for the church.

            This work has been a labor of love as you know.  I have taken it upon myself to purchase all of the windows for the church.  First, because we could get a better price on the stained glass windows by purchasing them all at once than we could to get window by window; second, we were able to carry out the story of the incidents in Christ’s life and thirdly, because the windows would all be in harmony if made by the same firm and since the windows which were given by Mr. and Mrs. Roye Rogers were already in the church and done by the Conrad Schmitt Studios, Milwaukee, Wis., it seemed wise that the rest of the windows should be placed with the same firm so that the same care and workmanship and coloring should maintain in the windows in the nave of the church that have already been placed in the chancel of the church.  We are deeply grateful to Mr. & Mrs. Roye M. Rogers for the wonderful memorial windows they have placed in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Stange and John Rogers and their window which is in their own name, over the altar.

            I may say authoritatively that the artists at the Schmitt Studio put not only their work and labor in the designing of the windows but also their hearts and souls and I feel that the windows are a dedication by themselves to the cause of Christianity and therefore, their work is not purely a commercial transaction.

            It is with a deep sense of privilege that I offer these windows to St John’s, a church in which Mrs. Witter and I have spent most of our lives and in which we cherish our membership.

            With deep affection, I am

            Yours very sincerely,

            Isaac P. Witter            

From the Story of the Windows written by Fr Dunlap:

The production of stained glass windows reached its perfection in the twelfth century.  The windows of St John’s are of this twelfth century process. They depend for their beauty and richness upon the colored glass itself and a minimum of applied, then fired, painting upon the glass.  This in contrast to the late 19th and early 20th century gross and decadent work whose dull, lifeless coloring and over-emphasis upon detail left no room for inspiration of the reverent imagination.  While the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany produced some work of merit, imitations of it and “Art” or “Cathedral” glass cannot compare with work in the medieval style.

The glass developed in the 12th Century Europe and England was the product of separate families who had discovered the secret of making one special colored glass of striking richness.  The glass was blown in the home.  It was all hand work and of varying thickness and texture.  The secret of a special color was handed down from generation to generation. A window might combine varying colors by using glass of many families from all over Europe and England.

The craftsmen of Conrad Schmitt studios assembled glass from some thirty European families in the production of our windows.  The painting on the glass is only incidental and used as sparingly as possible.  The glass is all hand made.  In order to get its depth of color, it is much thicker than machine made glass.  This reduces the amount of light coming through the windows, and results in the church interior being darkened somewhat unless artificially lighted.  A wait of just five minutes until the viewers’ eyes are accustomed to the light level will result in greater appreciation of windows.  The tranquility of the predominant blue may lead to reverent devotion, yet the brilliant red conveys vigor and other colors offer their complement.  The clarity, the gem-like sparkle and lively color of every individual piece of glass combine with the Creator’s gift of light to convey to the viewer the beauty and vitality of Christ’s life and the awe-filled truths of Christian faith.

One of the greatest blessings the parish of St John’s received in the gift of these windows was their design and completion as an integral, harmonious whole in a short period of time.  Unlike some church memorials, there is no element of a donor’s personal caprice or artist’s faddish notion.  Our windows possess a stately timeless quality that will be ever fresh to their beholder. 

The current (1990) spiritual and esthetic value of these windows is beyond words’ descriptive powers.  Crass discussion of their monetary value, or cost of replacement should they be destroyed, is without sense, because since World War II and the Iron Curtain captivity of Czechoslovakia (much of the glass is Bohemian), they are irreplaceable.

The following is taken from “The Story of Isaac” (unknown writer) and breaks down the symbolism of the Witter Memorial Window over the entrance of the Church.

  1. God tells Abraham that He is the protector and makes his covenant with him.  Abraham’s aged wife who has been barren for nearly 100 years is to become the mother of Isaac.

1a         Medallion is a reference to God’s promise to Abraham when he said, “Look to the

            heavens, count the stars, so shall thy seed be.”

  • Medallion – Three celestial figures appear to Abraham who not knowing them

or their mission acted as their host.

  • Medallion – Isaac shown carrying fagots to what was to be his own sacrifice – to

fulfill the command of God to Abraham who was told to offer up Isaac.

  • Medallion – Angel from heaven stays the hand with sacrificial knife, and told

Abraham to seek ram in the thicket for a Holocaust.

  • Medallion – Isaac and Abraham kneel before the altar and see Holocaust consumed

5a        Emblem – The hand of God in Benediction would be most appropriate because the

            life of Isaac from beginning to end was under Divine Guidance

  • Medallion – an allusion to Isaac’s marriage, shows Isaac meets Rebecca, whose

kindness to men and animals was the fulfillment of a prophecy that she was elected

to be his wife

      6a        Emblem – Sun, Moon and Twelve stars is the symbol of Jacob and his wife and their

                 twelve sons

  • Medallion – Shows Isaac aged and blind blessing Jacob who with Rebecca’s

influence assumes the place of Esau

       7a        Emblem – a symbolic representation of Jacob’s dream 

The following summary of the Witter Window is provided by Fr Dunlap:

This window is a memorial to the Witter family.  It portrays the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  (See Genesis, Chapters 17-35)  The carved wood Stations of the Cross, the figures upon the Room Beam, the statues of St John and St Mary, the angels either side of the Altar, and the figure of Christ with children carved in Florence, Italy.  The great bronze doors of the Baptistry at Florence, considered the work which initiated the Renaissance, portray the sacrifice of Isaac, also.  Is there any coincidence in the choice of this subject and Mr. Witter’s given name, Isaac?  Surely Mr. Witter’s generosity was shaped by his trust in the key words of Isaac’s Bible story, “The Lord will provide.”

A Description of the Stained Glass Windows as provided by Fr Dunlap.  Another document, from an unknown source, provides reflection using scripture to each of the windows.  These reflections are in italics.

Let us begin with the windows above the statue of Mary, Our Lady of Mercy, on the North, or Gospel, side of the nave.

This group of two windows, with their opposites on the South Wall, portray Priestly power and authority.

Beginning on the left-hand side of the Nave or Gospel Side

Windows 1 and 2

The first window’s symbol is the seven-branch candlestick.  It is a memorial to the Rev. Fr. James Madison Johnson, who was Vicar of St John’s during construction of the present church building.

The second window portrays the censer.  It is a thank offering for the ministry of the Rev. Fr. Beauford Marceil.

It is written that Jesus said to His Disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I choose you.”  Again He said, “Simon, Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.”  Thurs in the small four windows (1,2,15,16) we find symbols of Priestly Power, and they alone have authority to minister sacraments of the Church.

Windows Three and Four

The third window begins a sequence of portrayals of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry.  Here is the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announcing to the Blessed Virgin Mary her role in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

The window was given in memory of Daniel and Thomas Rezin, early founders of this Church.

The fourth windows portray the Holy Nativity of our Lord.  Our Lady Mary is flanked by a Magus, representing the Gentile world, and a Shepherd, representing Israel.  The artist’s portrayal of the Infant Jesus’ hand raised in blessing appears at first glance like a baby sucking his thumb.

This window was given in memory of Hannah Albee, Nurse, and early founder of St John’s.

Annunciation

Were man faithful to God’s ordained plan at the time of creation, we would not today have a complete series of episodes from the beginning of time up to and including the life of Jesus Christ and His elect in centuries following.  We all believe God created man to His own image and likeness, endowing him with reason and senses, placed him in paradise over which was master, with one lone exception, man could enjoy all its beauty and fruits, that was he should not touch the tree of death.  Temptation too great, lead to Adam and Eve to follow the suggestion of the evil spirit and taste of the forbidden fruit.  This sin as the bible tells us was not only the cause their downfall, but their children also must carry the stigma of their error, and in due course of time our Lord, would thru woman cause the evil spirit to suffer his success.  Thus, was He who choose Mary o be the Human Sanctuary to harbor His Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and sent Archangel Gabriel to announce to Her that She was the elect.  Since God has seen fit to so honor Mary we can do little less than give her an honored position in our meditations and prayers.

Nativity of Our Lord

Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth to men of good will.  Were the praises of angels heralded through the land of the birth of Jesus Christ, the new born King, born to Mary and protected by Joseph, his foster father, as he lay in a manger at Bethlehem.  Angels appeared to shepherds of the fields and a guiding star lead kings to his birthplace where they offered frankincense and myrrh, worshipping the Babe who was later to prove their Redeemer.

Windows 5 and 6

The fifth window portrays twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, amid the teachers and priests, astonishing them with his wisdom.

This window was given in memory of Charles Edward Anderton.

Christ in the Temple

Jesus at the tender age of 12 years, with Mary and Joseph journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual festival of the Pasch; at the end of the festivities when all were homeward bound the child was missing and thought not to be lost, possibly with other kinfolk.  However, upon reaching home and not found a return journey disclosed to Mary that Her Divine Son was midst Doctors and Priests of the temple who plied Him with questions and were astounded at His wisdom.  When Mary asked, in anguish, why He failed them – His reply was.  “Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

The sixth window shows John the Baptist baptizing his cousin, Jesus, in the river Jordan.

This window was given in memory of Llilyn Wallis Anderton.

John Baptizing Jesus Christ

John the Baptist the precursor of Christ, went about preaching penance and requesting works of justice.  He gave testimony of Jesus and as people were in suspense he baptized them, saying “I baptize you with water, but there will come One, mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoe I am unworthy to loose.  He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit of Fire.”  Later when John did baptize Jesus, and He came out of the water, while praying, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove descended upon Him, and a voice spoke from Heaven saying “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Windows 7 and 8

The seventh window symbolizes the first public miracle of Jesus, at a marriage in Cana of Galilee, when he turned water into wine.

Marriage at Cana

After having remained in seclusion for nearly eighteen years, our Lord appeared, and preparatory to His Public Ministry choose His Disciples, then went about working miracles and preaching.  One of His first miracles was that at a marriage at Cana of Galilee.  The wine having given out, Jesus ordered that earthen vessels be filled with water.  Blessing it, He ordered it be turned over to the chief steward, who when tasting was amazed it its quality.  He hastened to the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man at first setteth forth good wine, but thou has kept the good wine until now.”

The eight window, the last on the North wall, portrays Jesus healing the Samaritan leper.

Healing the Leper

When Jesus passed thru Samaria and Galilee on the way He met ten lepers who had been forbidden to enter the town or mingle with the people.  Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest, whilst going they were cured.  One of them returned and cast himself at the feet of Jesus, this man was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked if the other nine had not also been cleansed, and how came it that he was the only stranger to return to give thanks.  Jesus then consoled the grateful leper saying “Rise thy faith hast made thee whole.”

We now move to the South Wall of the Nave.

picture of the fifth set of windows, number 9 and 10

The ninth window portrays the penitent Mary Magdalene, at the feet of Jesus.

The Penitent Mary Magdalene

When Jesus accepted the invitation of the Pharisee, little did the latter know that within his home was to occur a manifestation of repentance, forgiveness and love.  When the repentant Mary Magdalene bowed down, washed and kissed the feet of Jesus, she was rebuked by those present.  After rebuking those who would put her aside Jesus explained her humility and penitent attitude as an act of love, and her sins were forgiven in fullest measure.

The tenth window portrays Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus.

Raising the daughter of Jairus

While Jesus was speaking to the multitude, a certain ruler came and adored Him, saying, “Lord, my daughter hath just died, come lay thy hand upon her, and she will live.”  Jesus followed with His disciples and on His way woman sick for twelve years, came upon behind and said to herself, “If I can but touch His garment I shall be healed.”  Jesus turned and said to her, “Be of good heart daughter; thy faith hath healed thee.”  When He came to the house of the ruler, and saw minstrels and noisy multitude, he said, “Retire, for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth.”  They laughed at Him.  He went into the room, took the maid’s hand, and the maid rose – and the news thereof went abroad.

The 7th thru 10th windows no longer have the plaques underneath them due to later construction of a coat room and cry room.  We do know that those windows were given in memory of Mary Elizabeth Kellogg, James Kellogg, Richard Rezin and Lloyd Rezin.

picture of the sixth set of windows, number 11 and 12

The eleventh window shows the Transfiguration, when upon the mountain top Jesus was transformed, joined by Moses and Elijah.

This window was given in memory of Mary and Herman Vos.

Transfiguration

Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him into a mountain.  Here Christ was transformed, lifted off the earth and His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.  Whilst thus, a voice was heard from the clouds saying, “This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him!”

The twelfth window shows Christ in Gethsemane, in his prayer of agony before his betrayal.

This window was given in memory of Leonard DeGuere.

Christ in Gethsemane

When Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray, He bade His disciples sit down and rest, while He prayed.  Leaving three to guard as He knew the time for His betrayal was near at hand, He prayed sorrowfully, not for Himself but for others, and in His humility accepted the chalice of sacrifice from His Father.  When finished He found His guards asleep and called to them to arise as the hour was near at hand.

picture of seventh set of windows, number 13 and 14

The thirteenth window shows the Resurrection of our Lord.

Resurrection of Our Lord

After Jesus suffered the ignominious death upon the cross, He was buried and on the day He arose again in all glory.  Fulfilling His prophesy when He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I shall rebuild it.”

The fourteenth window shows the Ascension of Our Lord. 

Window Thirteen is a memorial to Mrs. Louie H. MacKinnon, and window fourteen is a memorial to Mr. Falkland MacKinnon, both of whom were instrumental in reopening St. John’s after lack of support had kept it closed for many years.  Mrs. MacKinnon is noted on the memorial plaque as the founder of St Katharine’s Guild.

Ascension of Our Lord

After the glorious Resurrection, our Lord remained with His disciples instructing them and when work was completed He took His disciples to Mount Olivet, and said “All power is given Me in heaven and on earth.  Go into the whole world and preach Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”  Finished speaking he blessed them and was carried to heaven.

picture of eight set of windows, number 15 and 16

The fifteenth and sixteenth window mirror windows one and two in portraying Priestly power. 

The fifteenth window has the symbols of the Chalice and Stole.  It is a memorial to the Rt. Rev. Reginald Weber Weller, third bishop of Fond du Lac.

The sixteenth window portrays a three branch candlestick.  It is a memorial to the Rev. Father Johannas Rockstroh, sometime priest of this parish.

We now move on to the Windows in the Chancel, once again relying upon Fr Dunlap’s description of each.

pictures of the three windows on the gospel side

On the North (Gospel) side of the chancel are three windows.  Beginning from the western end, we see portrayed crossed keys, which are the symbol of the Apostle Peter.  In the center is an angel, lacking clear identifying traits, but perhaps the archangel Raphael, or else the angel that freed Peter from prison (see Acts 12).  Then is a book and a sword, symbols of St Paul.

Above the Altar is an exquisite window of the Crucifixion.  Done in a highly stylized medieval manner, with the figures at the base definitely not Mary and Mary, it offers superb contrast to the other windows.  As it is in the East, it is well lighted on Sunday mornings during the worship of the Faithful.

On the South (Epistle) side are six windows.  They portray the four Evangelists and the two archangels named in the New Testament.  Continuing around from the center, the next window has the face of a man in it, the symbol of St Matthew.  Then is a window with an angel, holding a trumpet, representing the Archangel Gabriel.  The next figure is a face of a lion, the symbol of St Mark.  The figure of a face of an ox in the next group of three windows, symbolizing St Luke.  The figure in amour in the center represents the Archangel Michael as the leader of the Heavenly army.  The last window portrays an eagle, the symbol of the patron saint of our parish, St John the Evangelist.  These symbols for the four Evangelists are derived from the four living beasts described in the book of Revelation, chapter four.

A final thought from Fr Dunlap on the windows:

These windows, magnificent as they are, have no meaning or worth apart from the love and splendor of God shown in Christ Jesus and given to Christian men and women.

The St Cecilia Window: found in the chapel

From the records, it would appear that the St Cecilia window found in the chapel was purchased from Universal Studio in Winona, MN in 1961.  There is little other information except for a letter from the Studio to Fr Beuford Marceil, rector of St John’s at the time, that explained some of the symbols that would be part of the window.

As the letter notes, St Cecilia is the patron saint of music and art.  She is often portrayed with a harp in hand in artwork, and there are many pieces of music composed over the centuries to her honor.  Cecilia was born in 200 in Rome, and died on November 22, 230 in Sicily.  She died a martyr, The sword in the window represents the instrument of her death, while legend has it she died a virgin,, thus the presence of the palm leaf partnered with the sword.

From a letter to Fr Marceil from Universal Studios in Winona, MN: November 1961:

Palm Leaf and Sword – symbol of martyrdom and virginity

Rose – showered on her from Heaven

Patron of music and art

St Catharine – patron of science of Alexandria

Roses also

Valerian 0 her husband – saw an angel crown Cecilia and himself with roses, in a dream, was a reward for the martyrdom they would suffer.

St Gregory discovered Cecilia’s body.

(In a handwritten note at bottom of page, it notes “Visited them on November 15, 1961)

The window on the left was given in memory of Katharine and Rudolph Schultz.  The window on the right was given in memory of Patricia Jeanne Martin.

This is the set of windows in the sanctuary of the chapel.  On the left is Jesus with a chalice, and on the right we have a crown and the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, referring to the beginning and the end. 

The window on the left was given in memory of William R. Mumford.  The window on the right in memory of Isabelle McArthur DeGuere.


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