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Window of the Month
Our Lady of Grace, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

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Featured Windows, August 2006

Central United Methodist Church

Building: Central United Methodist Church

City: Muskegon

State: Michigan

These windows are among many created in the 1930s by the Chicago firm of Giannini & Hilgart for Central United Methodist Church in Muskegon. The six side aisle windows shown here depict heavenly beings as described in the Bible and apocryphal writings. Although seldom seen in Michigan's stained glass windows, they have been represented throughout the Christian era in various ways, based upon differing literary sources, traditions and artistic aims. According to early Christian writings and traditions, heavenly beings are divided into three categories or hierarchies, each with special responsibilities. The first hierarchy, who surround God in perpetual adoration, includes the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

The second hierarchy, seen as governors of the stars and the elements, includes three types of heavenly beings known as Dominations (or Dominions), Virtues and Powers, depicted in the above three windows. Dominations, representing the power of God, is shown wearing a triple crown and carrying a sword and cross. Virtues, viewed as possessing great courage and the bearer of prayers to God, carries an incense censer that symbolizes rising prayers. Powers, protector of mankind and overseer of nature, holds a mace, an emblem of authority.

Within the third hierarchy of heavenly beings are the Princedoms, who protect earthly kingdoms, and the Archangels and Angels, divine messengers of God to man. Four Archangels are mentioned by name in early Christian texts: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.

The Archangel Raphael, whose name means "God heals," is traditionally identified with the healing waters of the pool of Bethesda, described in the Book of John. He is often depicted holding a walking stick and a fish, a reference to his travels with young Tobias, as recounted in the apocryphal Book of Tobit. In the Book of Daniel the Archangel Gabriel helps Daniel to interpret his visions, and in the Book of Luke he appears to Mary to tell her that she will bear a son to be named Jesus. Gabriel is frequently shown holding a lily, a symbol of purity. Uriel, the Archangel of instruction and light, holds a book. His special role is to interpret prophecies. In addition to these six windows, two other side aisle windows represent the Archangel Michael, chief among angels, and the legendary St. George, both of whom are discussed at length and pictured in the image gallery of the Windows of the Month for October, 2005.

Central United Methodist Church originated in a Protestant society formed at Muskegon in 1843. Early services of the society were conducted in a boarding house by itinerant Methodist preachers, including former slave Abner Bennett who walked several miles to Muskegon from his home in White River Township. The church was formally organized in 1856. Its first building, dedicated in 1859, was replaced by a second structure erected on the same site in 1888. The present limestone church, completed in 1930, was designed in a neo-Gothic style by architect Thoralf M. Sundt of Philadelphia. Its windows by Giannini & Hilgart, installed in 1930 and subsequent years, were restored in 2002 by the Hershey Studios of Milton, IA. Other stained glass windows in the church were created by Paul Welch of Welch-Holdeman Studio in Traverse City, Barbara Saint Denis of Saint Denis Studios, John Vander Burgh of Zeeland, MI, and an unknown artist.

The firm of Giannini & Hilgart was founded at Chicago in 1899 by Orlando Giannini (1861-1928) and Fritz Hilgart (1869-1942). Giannini, born in Cincinnati, became a sculptor like his father before turning to mural painting and the designing of mosaics and stained glass. Hilgart was trained in his native Germany as a glass cutter. The partners created stained glass windows and mosaics for numerous architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as glass lampshades for popular Teco pottery lamps. Although Giannini left the partnership and moved to California in 1907, the firm continued to operate. Giannini & Hilgart still exists in Chicago under different ownership.

Central United Methodist Church was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Marcia R. Cooke and Velma Schafer of Muskegon, MI.

Photos by Carlean Erickson and Mary Lou Hubbell

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 1995.0020)

Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, August , 2006.