Part One of this series looked at some of the details of the Gothic style interior. Tonight we're going to take a look at the stained glass windows. I'm not going to be able to bring you a complete gallery of every window - that would be an exhausting project that would take days or weeks and some specialized camera gear to do it full justice. But, I think I have a few highlights and images that will well repay your time. Follow me past the Orange Omnilepticon, and prepare to be amazed.
Before I get too far in to this, let me make some disclosures. I promise I'll get to the pictures right after that. The photographs you are about to see were taken with an iPhone 4 and a Nikon Coolpix point and shoot digital camera. Some of them were stitched together into panoramas using a phone app called AutoStitch with some further editing in iPhoto and Photoshop. Resolution has been reduced so this diary won't take forever to load. A few photos were taken using flash; most were taken using available light.
Photographing stained glass is a real challenge. The full range of bright to dark light levels is not as easily captured by a camera as it is by the human eye. HDR photography is starting to address that, but I didn't get the chance to try it with equipment I was using. The camera is a lot more sensitive to the source of light in a picture as well; incandescent lights add a yellow tinge, fluorescents tend to a bluer tint, and outdoor light is entirely dependent on the weather and the time of day. Then, try passing that light through glass of various colors, textures, and thicknesses and coming up with an acceptable image.
It ain't easy. Plus there's the perspective effect. If you stand at the bottom of a window reaching all the way up a tall wall and photograph it, you get a window that gets increasingly narrow the higher up you look. The eye and brain can sort it out, but the camera can't without some help. One trick is to get way back and zoom in with a telephoto lens, ideally from a point level with the midpoint of the window. A second is to use a perspective correcting lens that can be tilted and shifted to compensate for the angles involved. Some correction can also be applied after the fact with image manipulation software. Anyone who wants to do architecture photography on a regular basis has to deal with this.
Okay, on to the windows!
If you look at the top part, you can see there are small pieces that somehow seem to glow within the larger design like illuminated jewels. Somehow the artisans that crafted the window were able to use tricks that allowed some pieces to transmit more light than those around them, so they always appear brighter. It's not just a trick of the color of the glass; if I heard the guide correctly, they also shaped the individual pieces to pull it off. I'm speculating, but I can imagine something like a curve to the outside of the glass piece that acts like a magnifying glass to collect and focus the light.
A couple of other points. I used Photoshop to 'fix' the perspective - but you can see I was less successful balancing the bright sections against the darker. No matter - the closeup below brings out some critical details.
If you look at the large structural element that goes right up through the middle of the scene, there's another element at work. It bisects an arch - but the columns holding the arch have the same spacing as the other arches in the picture. The scene is composed so that you don't get the sense that you're looking at one picture split into two halves - it's one continuous scene that happens to have that bar blocking the view of part of it. It's not like looking at a scene on a piece of flat glass - it's like looking through an opening into that scene. Now let's contrast that with another window from a different company.
Let's go on to one more example of Tiffany before getting to the most dramatic window in the church. Here's another detail from a window in the north wall of the church, a scene of Christ blessing the children.
The church website history page notes that: "Among Tiffany's experts was J.A. Holzer, an artist renowned for his mosaic work as well as stained glass." As to the other windows, "Other windows, by Cox and Sons of London, the Lamb Studio of New Jersey, and a Boston firm, relate harmoniously to those of Tiffany's Holzer". According to wikipedia, Holzer contributed to numerous Tiffany projects; if they're comparable to what he executed in Troy, it's a wonder he isn't better known.
While the rest of the church is certainly worth seeing, the east wall is especially outstanding. Holzer outdid himself with one huge scene composed across multiple sections. Here's a picture of the altar, the icons on the wall behind it in little alcoves, and the window rising above them.
Consider the light. It radiates out from God on His throne - you see the figures to either side and below illuminated by it. The solitary figure of Christ glows in the light from above, amid the darker elements around him.
Consider the control of color. It flows across the figures and the landscape. There's no sense that the picture is made up of separate pieces of colored glass.
Consider the control of perspective. It becomes clear that the angels at the top are ranked in an arc that passes behind the throne. The figures ascending to Heaven rise up on either side and pass into glory.
When you look at the entire window montage above, it is not all hard to imagine that you are looking through a clear window into another dimension. It's like a portal into another world, a scene set on a vast stage. Imagine what it must be like during the day, as the light coming through the window changes with the angle of the sun and vagaries of the weather - and all the other windows of the church. It would be worth having a web cam set up just to watch that alone.
I'll leave you with one more image from the church. This is a shot of the pulpit I took several years earlier on another visit. You can see the ornate grill work in harmony with that around the lectern (in Part One). The large canopy rising over it has several functions, I'm guessing. It's certainly decorative. I suspect it's curved shape might act as a sound reflector, helping whomever is preaching be better heard out among the pews in the days before microphones and sound systems. I think it also helped in blocking out the glorious light coming from behind - one could look at whomever was speaking from the pulpit without being blinded.
I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into a veritable jewel of architecture in the service of faith. There's more to be seen at the church, of course, and I haven't even touched on the organ and the music outreach program. If you'd like to see still more pictures of the windows and other parts of the church, the Friends of St. Paul's have information on a Tiffany conference that was held there in April, 2013, including a gallery of photos.