Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series on church liturgical art in observance of the diocese’s 150th anniversary.
STURGEON BAY — Do you have a favorite piece of local church history? The churches in the Diocese of Green Bay each hold some art that can be seen nowhere else.
One such example is the stained glass windows in St. Joseph Church in Sturgeon Bay. The limestone, twin-spired church was dedicated on Nov. 14, 1910.
Today, the parish community is 153 years old and proud of its windows, at least one of which was made by the Munich Studio of Chicago. That studio ceased operations in 1932, due to the Great Depression.
Other windows — some of which may actually have been installed in the parish’s second church — were furnished by the Milwaukee Mirror and Art Glass Co. (The second church, built in 1899, was at least partially razed and materials recovered or rebuilt from it into the present church.)
The 20 windows, in 10 pairs, depict a variety of religious scenes and art, including the life of Christ from his birth to his resurrection.
According to Monica Hilbert, parish secretary, the window that “captivates the viewer the most, and the most valuable window,” depicts Jesus as the Sacred Heart appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
This is the window created by the Munich Studio — there is even a Munich Studio signature glass plate with it.
A studio representative from the Willet Hauser Architectural Glass, Inc., from Winona, Minn., reviewed notes from a 2001 visit it made to the church and confirmed for Hilbert that the signature on the window indicates that it was indeed made by the Munich Studio. This was further supported by a representative of Drehobl Art Glass in Chicago, contacted by The Compass. Many of the glass artists from the Munich Studio went to work at Drehobl.
The Munich Studio followed the Munich School style of artwork. Munich School artists either worked in Munich or were trained there in the last half of the 19th century. Using this style for stained glass became popular among Catholic churches in the United States at the turn of the 19th century. Chicago’s Munich Studio was founded by Max Guler in 1903.
Guler was a painter who had emigrated from Munich in the mid-1890s. He had been trained in China painting, a style of glazed porcelain painting. In Chicago, Guler hired a staff of German immigrant painters and craftsmen who specialized in the Munich School style. According to the Michigan Stained Glass Census, part of the museum at Michigan State University, Munich School style windows are known for their strong contrasts of light and dark, elaborate ornamentation and much architectural detail. The studio also advertised that its windows were produced to be fade-resistant.
Hilbert said that the Sacred Heart window in St. Joseph Church has especially vibrant reds and blues, even after all these years.
The Willet Hauser representative further explained that the Munich School style windows have distinct characteristics: robust and realistic figures, painted in a German Baroque style on antique glass. The figures are also set in realistic scenes, framed by columns and canopies.
Most of the glass for these windows was imported from France and Germany; however, some was also supplied by firms in Indiana and West Virginia. The “staining” in the glass was painted on with iron oxide pigments and then fired in ovens to fuse the paint to the glass. Milwaukee Mirror followed the same style in the windows it created.
Monica Hilbert of St. Joseph contributed to this story.