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The Adoration of the Magi Stained Glass Window, Basilica of St. Francis Xavier

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Inspired by Fra Angelico's (Brother Angel) frescos in the Monastery of San Marco, Florence, .


 
 
Gothic architecture seems to have developed so that church walls could be pierced windows that let in the light in abundance through beautiful stained glass windows.

And so it is with the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier: 64 Gothic stained glass windows and lancets flood the church with bright Iowa sunshine.

They also illustrate the faith with splendid scenes of the life of Christ and the Saints, becoming, in fact, an illuminated book or prayer, as John B. F. Steger, my guide to the Basilica, so aptly put it.

The Adoration of the Magi is found to the left of the sanctuary. The familiar scene of the Wise Men presenting the Infant with their gifts occupies the central part of the window. It is bordered, below, by flower motifs, crowned, above, by a gold crucifix.

Just below the crucifix, St. Peter is shown, holding the keys to the Kingdom, flanked by two angels. More flower motifs fill the deep blue of the Gothic window arch, and, above it are foils in geometric patterns.

The Adoration seems almost even more luminous, set as it is against a dark background, and radiant light combines with the rich colors to create a superb example of stained glass art.

An homage to the Basilica

It's Saturday night, and I've been thinking of the Basilica Mass tomorrow. That glorious church filled by the sound of the pipe organ? I can only imagine it.

So I set out to create a video featuring The Adoration of the Magi, and to find a beautiful piece of music — Pachelbel's Ciacona in F-minor — to accompany it, as an an homage to the Basilica that has had such a profound effect on me and to the pioneers who build it.

My own adoptive parents told me stories how, when they arrived in the Midwest in 1918, they worked hard to build their church. With other Greek Orthodox, they'd go around hat in hand to raise money. Their church become a place of refuge, a home-away-from-home, a place to celebrate their faith so far away home and the loved ones they left behind.

I have no doubt that, if I had been able to speak to the pioneers that built St. Francis Xavier's, I would hear similar sentiments, the echoes of my adoptive parents' words.

The Adoration of the Magi video

The only way, really, short of getting on top of tall ladder — which I'm sure my new friend John F. E. Steger would obligingly provide — to view this beautiful stained glass window is to have it glide by your eyes, while your sweet organ music reaches your ears.

In the beginning of the video, The Adoration stained glass window appears as it does in the Basilica, with all its black horizontal iron bars necessary to support all the heavy glass. They're not as thick as they appear in the photograph, but they look much more so by the perspective of shooting from so far below.

In the video, when the camera moves in for a closer view of the Holy Family and The Magi, you'll notice that those horizontal bars are gone. Did I ask my friendly Basilica guide, John F. E. Steger, for a blow torch — so I could cut and remove those bars before I took the photo?

I should have! I can just imagine John's reaction at such a request. He loves his Basilca so much, I think he would have called the sheriff.

Of course, I wouldn't dream of even getting close to those treasured stained glass works of art. All iron bar removal was done at a safe 400 mile distance, with Photoshop.

A frame with the Eight Choirs of Angels

For the video frame I chose the Eight Choir of Angels that appear on the vaulted ceiling, the work of gifted brother-and-sister artists Alphonse and Lottie Brielmaier. So I thought of them working on scaffolding, high above — as I've watched so many iconographers do in Greece.

And, like the time I was invited to climb a scaffolding at Santorini Cathedral so I could see the iconographer's work up close, so it is with the Alphonse and Lottie's Eight Choirs of Angels: my telephoto lens is my scaffold that has allowed me to really appreciate the mastery of the Brielmaiers.

I think I'll click the play button, watch The Adoration video one more time, and remember how my heart danced with joy in the Basilica.

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