Monday, November 23, 2015

Photo Essay: Stained Glass Crawl Through a Cathedral Crypt

I took a tour of LA's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels before I'd heard of Judson Studios' stained glass. I didn't know that Saint Vibiana was a Roman martyr, or that there had been a cathedral named after her, or that Our Lady of the Angels was the successor to the Cathedral of St. Vibiana.

And during that first visit, I was in such a rush to take the next tour somewhere else, I didn't stay there long enough to really experience the cathedral.

So, three years later, I went back and spent some time.



This time, I had a couple hours to kill and a new camera that could better capture the low lighting conditions of the crypt.



The 19th century stained glass windows that were rescued from the earthquake-damaged and decommissioned St. Vibiana's Cathedral...



...are now artificially illuminated...



...and glow, whether it's day or night.



Although they were initially designed and fabricated by the Franz Mayer Company in Germany...



...their installation in LA's newest and most modern cathedral required the know-how of LA's own Judson Studios...



...whose artisans painstakingly and lovingly restored them to their prior glory.



For centuries, windows like these have told the stories of the Bible without requiring anyone to read.



Although the literacy rate is exponentially better now than it was in the 13th century...



...non-native speakers and early readers of English can still follow the religious storylines easily through the light, color, and lines of images like The Winged Man of St. Matthew...



...The Lion of St. Mark...



...or The Bull of St. Luke.



This particular version of Catholicism is very familiar to me. It feels very German.



Though I don't remember a lot of the Bible stories depicted on these windows, like Jesus and the children in the garden...



...where they offer Him bunches of Lily of the Valley...



...their underlying messages of peace, love, blessings, and forgiveness still come across.



Other images are indelible and effortlessly familiar. Even if I weren't raised Catholic, I'd probably recognize the nativity scene...



...or The Good Shepherd finding his lost lamb...



...or the sacrificial Lamb of God.



Walking around the underground mausoleum, while mass was being conducted upstairs, I followed the entire life story of Jesus Christ from his official presentation in the temple...



...to The Garden of Gethsemane and his ascension into heaven.



Regardless of whether you believe that Jesus was a man, just a man, or actually the Son of God, these windows are a thing of beauty and inspiration.



And the stories they tell are compelling, whether or not their characters—like St. Cecilia, patron saint of music—



...and their heavenly achievements are a work of fiction.



The windows that were rescued from St. Vibiana's include nine "lunettes"...



...each shaped as a quatrefoil and designed in the Versailles style...



...which pale colors in the background with bold jewel tones surrounding each window's unique symbol.



Among the nine symbols there above the mausoleum's central aisle are a bishop's mitre, a flaming heart, and the Holy Spirit, represented by a white-winged dove.

The art and the stories represented are worth more than just a passing gander. And walking through them felt like a meditative ritual, like following the Stations of the Cross, but taken at my own pace, with my own thoughts and feelings as my companion.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Updated for 2015)
Photo Essay: Judson's Historic Glass Studio