Mausoleum windows are a hidden treasure

By | May 26, 2010

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A faceted stained glass window inside Allouez Catholic Mausoleum depicts St. Francis Xavier, patron of the Diocese of Green Bay and the patron saint of foreign missionaries. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“This is the largest project that we’ve done,” Pickel told The Compass in a telephone interview. “We’ve done large windows for the Chicago Archdiocese, but this project, for the size of the windows and the number, this is largest.”

According to Pickel, one faceted glass window created and installed by his studio at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Ill., holds the Guinness Book of Records for the largest window in the world.

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View our slide show of all 33 windows at Allouez Catholic Cemetery and Chapel Mausoleum at this link.

Multimedia: View our audio slide show at this link.

Only one larger collection of stained glass windows with a religious theme exists in the state, at the Wisconsin Memorial Park in Brookfield.

Faceted glass is a special type of stained glass window that uses one-inch thick colored glass slabs called dalles. The glass slabs are hand cut in various shapes, giving the edges a unique sparkle, said Pickel. The slabs of glass are then cast in an epoxy resin.

“It’s a very time-consuming project,” said Pickel. “The beauty of (faceted glass) is the richness. You have color and the dark negative space. The combination of that makes those windows extremely rich.”

The finished weight of a faceted glass window is 10 pounds per square foot.

Allouez Mausoleum has a total of 33 faceted glass windows in its collection. Many are full length, floor-to-ceiling size, but several are housed in atrium windows. All of the windows have a religious theme.

From traditional themes, such as the resurrected Christ (depicted in four windows), to windows with local flavor (such as two windows depicting Jesuit missionaries Pierre Marquette and Claude Allouez), the mausoleum offers visitors a fascinating look at church history through art. Best of all, the art exhibit is free.

“The windows are not mere decorations. They serve an enlightening, spiritual purpose and can be sources of consolation and healing for those who are grieving,” said Steve Gooding, administrator of Allouez Cemetery and Mausoleum. “We encourage people to tour the mausoleum buildings so they may experience these treasures firsthand.”

Gooding said that the windows are more than impressive works of art. To families they hold spiritual significance.

Windows capture taste of Wisconsin

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St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is depicted in one of the faceted stained glass windows at Allouez Mausoleum. (Photo by Sam Lucero | The Compass)

GREEN BAY — If you go to Allouez Catholic Cemetery and Chapel Mausoleum to view the stained glass windows, pay particular attention to windows with local ties.

Several of the windows include scenes unique to the area, including windows devoted to 17th century Jesuit priest-missionaries Claude Allouez and Jacques Marquette.

Perhaps the most unusual window, titled “Jesus in the World Today,” but more accurately described as “Jesus in Green Bay,” includes two local landmarks.

The first is St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and the second is the Leo Frigo Bridge. According to Paul Pickel of Conrad Pickel Studios, the window’s intent is to show a figure of Christ watching over and protecting the world today.

Another window with local imagery is titled the Pentecost window. A description of the window states, “An outline of the Green Bay area is shown with some of the early religious buildings of the area. A bark chapel is on the left, while one of the first churches is shown. A ship of faith is in the upper right section and a canoe with missionaries is in thelower right.”

“Decisions to purchase crypts or niches in certain locations, believe it or not, have been based on the proximity to a certain window,” he said. “Someone may get a great deal of comfort knowing they will be laid to eternal rest near a saint they strongly identify with, for example.”

Faceted glass windows date back to the early 1920s, whereas traditional leaded stained glass windows date back much earlier. “Stained glass is the way it was done for centuries, using mouth-blown glass leaded together,” said Pickel.

The method used to create faceted glass windows originated with the invention of reinforced concrete in the late 19th century. It took several decades for artists to begin experimenting with concrete and glass slabs. “They started with a concrete matrix to hold the pieces of glass together. But that was short-lived because they had problems with concrete,” said Pickel. “Then epoxy resins were developed.”

According to the Michigan State University Museum Web site, www.museum.msu.edu, the first faceted glass windows were created in 1922 at Notre Dame du Raincy Church in France. It wasn’t until the 1950s that this new style of stained glass was introduced to the United States.

One of the earliest and largest faceted stained glass collections in the United States was created in the late 1950s at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn. The collection consists of 24 windows devoted to “Christ the Savior.”

Today, due mainly to the expense and dearth of material, faceted glass has again given way to leaded glass, said Pickel. “Faceted glass became quite expensive to produce. In Florida and other areas where you need hurricane protection, you would have to test each panel (for wind load) and there’s no industry-wide testing standards. The trend is more toward leaded glass because of function.”

Pickel said it would take four or five people about one month to create one of the mausoleum’s faceted glass windows. “There are well over 10,000 pieces of glass in the entire collection” at the mausoleum, he said.

To duplicate the collection of windows at Allouez Mausoleum would cost a fortune.

“I would say the windows are worth approximately $1 million based on square footage and a current price of about $300 to $350 per square feet for faceted glass,” said Pickel. “Faceted glass dalles, the slabs of glass that went into making the windows, are very difficult and expensive to obtain.” Most of the glass was made at Blenko Glass Company in Milton, W.Va. They no longer make glass dalles, added Pickel.

Without that supply, Pickel said his studio does very few faceted windows.

“There still are a couple of glass suppliers who can provide the dalles, but the color range is more limited,” he added. “We still carry a supply of glass for any maintenance that might be required and for continuation of projects begun earlier.”

Pickel agreed that the windows inside Allouez Catholic Mausoleum are a community treasure — a veritable hidden treasure.

St. Francis Xavier is the patron of the Diocese of Green Bay and the patron saint of foreign missionaries.

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