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Franciscan Sisters gratefully present an artistic reflection by Bryan Lean religious artist from Dallas, Texas and graduate of St. Mary’s School in McHenry, Illinois.

Nativity of Our Lord

F. X. Zettler Studios of Munich

Stained Glass Window

1915-1916

The glorious arrival of Our Lord in all its magnificence is portrayed in this large (3 x 12 ft.) window at St Mary Catholic Church in McHenry, IL.

The scene is painted like a classical oil painting, with Christ at the center, your eyes then traveling anticlockwise to Mary, Joseph, and spiraling outwards. The shepherd is represented as a Franciscan, dressed in brown robe and leather strap sandals like those worn by the Franciscans in the holy land today. For decades St Mary’s was home to a convent of Franciscan teaching sisters, several of which educated your author in middle school. Note that the cow and ass are included along with poppies in the lower right and poinsettias in the upper right. The predominate color scheme in all the windows is blue, casting Mary’s calming and nurturing light throughout the interior.

Following two fires in the original 1898 structure, Zettler studios were commissioned in 1915 by Pastor Edward Berthold to create ten side, six transept, and two apse and choir loft windows for the church. At the time this area was still a rural outpost of the Chicago region, but the German parishioner/farmers donated abundantly to not only build an outstanding example of German gothic architecture but furnish it with classic European art. Zettler windows can be found in numerous churches in the Western Great Lakes region, including neighboring St. Patrick’s church a few blocks away from St. Mary’s.

Most church windows of this period were truly stained – painted – not just colored glass. Clear glass was cut to the shapes needed, then laid over the cartoon (drawing) and the scenes painted onto the glass. The glass was then fired in a kiln fusing the painting onto the surface. An abundance of color, texture, and pattern only add to the overall composition.

My observations come not only as a liturgical artist but as a former knight of the altar at this church. I had plenty of time to study the windows when not swinging a thurifer.

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