Stained glass windows have a long history in the Catholic Church, with the earliest surviving examples dating to the 7th century. The windows were used in churches to enhance their beauty and to inform the viewer through narrative or symbolism about key moments in Salvation History.
Because of the lengthy process of making and creating each section of a window, some as tall an 14-feet, these windows are often the last additions when a new Parish Church is completed.
Such was the case at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch which was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on April 22, 2018. The only stained-glass window in place on that date was a 11-foot 4-inch diameter rose window of Our Lady of the Angels, the patroness of the Parish. It is located above a triple arched entrance canopy.
The church design at Our Lady of the Angels features more than 60 exterior windows, which were bare and open to the sunlight and gradually filled in by professionals from Conrad Pickel Studio Inc., of Vero Beach. The final gap, located above the south transept exit, were installed on July 22, 2022, revealing the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
This key window caused much comment prior to the installation, as at certain times of the day the open window would allow direct sunlight either onto the altar or onto the choir during Mass.
Of course, after the installation of the new stained glass, the view transformed from stark sunlight to a colorful image of Our Lady.
Father Sebastian Szczawinski, Administrator of Our Lady of the Angels, blessed the windows during a Mass on July 24. He thanked the faithful for their support and patience and said that it was well worth the wait.
“It is a real delight for me to realize there are those who are willing to sacrifice in making a Church more beautiful,” Father Szczawinski said. “After more than three years, this church is officially finished.”
The faithful applauded this pronouncement and following the Mass many remained behind to admire the windows, four of which were installed the previous week. Some of the reactions included: “Stunning!” “What amazing colors!” “Perfect!”
Paul Pickel, President of Conrad Pickel Studio Inc., said the company designed and fabricated the 24 sanctuary windows over a period of 3 ½ years. Present for the moment were the staff of the studio as well as the artist, Lyn Durham.
The mouth-blown glass, coming from factories in France and Germany, is made by hand and eventually folded down to a very thin sheet. The Pickel studio has many color shades and pieces that work together with lead once a client, such as Our Lady of the Angels Parish, approves the final design.
Durham said she offers a scale color drawing, with the lines denoting where color transitions and lead lines are to be placed. She then physically makes a full-size sketch. Once the glass is laid out, she hand-etches the glass, painting figures and faces. Any parts of the glass where there is a bright white shining through the etchings is called flashing. This requires a delicate touch on Durham’s part but creates a dramatic effect. This can be seen in the clothing of Mary in some windows, or in the stars of night scenes.
The windows, paneled to custom fit each window section from the inside, were installed by two men on scaffolding. With well-practiced ease, as the final screw was placed, those gathered from Pickel Studios, as well as a group of staff and volunteers from the Parish, let out a small cheer and applauded the completion of a job well done.
The front section of the main sanctuary has six key scenes of the life of Jesus including the Nativity, Holy Family, Holy Child Jesus in the Temple, the Last Supper, and Resurrection. The transepts have images of Our Lady in scenes from Jesus’ life and crucifixion, the Annunciation and Assumption among others, as well as under her various titles, such as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Guadalupe and more. Each window has a title marker at its base.