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Featured Windows, October 2004

St. Mary’s Catholic Church Window

Building: St. Mary's Catholic Church

City: Grand Rapids

State: Michigan

This panel is part of the "Near Gospel" window at St. Mary's Church, one of five large lancet windows located in the church's altar/apse area. Four of the apse windows all share the design of three tiers of panels, each measuring 23' x 5', capped with the depiction of an Evangelist. The Near Gospel window depicts the scenes of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, three angels appearing to Abraham, and the image featured here, of the three youths in the furnace. The window is crowned with the image of the Evangelist St. Mark.

In the Old Testament's Book of Daniel, when king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon seized Jerusalem, he brought certain gifted children of Israel into his palace, "children in whom was no blemish, but well-favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chalde'ans" (Dan. 1:4). Among them were Daniel and his friends, Hanani'ah, Mish'a-el,and Azari'ah. In the palace, their names were changed to Belteshaz'zar (Daniel), Shadrach (Hanani'ah), Meshach (Mish'a-el), and Abed'nego (Azari'ah).

When Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that disturbs him, Daniel has a vision that allows him to interpret the king's dream and save the lives of the wise men in the kingdom. The king then makes Daniel ruler of the province of Babylon, a position which he shares with his three friends (Dan. 2:1-49). After this Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant golden statue, and decrees that all his subjects shall fall down and worship the image, upon punishment of death in a fiery furnace. It comes to the king's attention that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed'nego would not worship the golden image. But upon being cast into the furnace, the three youths survive, unharmed by the flames. Astonished, Nebuchadnezzar praises the god of the young men, and promotes them within his administration (Dan. 3).

While this story refers specifically to the choices faithful Jews must make when participating as minorities in pagan/gentile society, the greater moral has to do with the risks the faithful may face caused by the conflict between god and government. It is an assurance that God will protect the faithful who are steadfast in their beliefs, and that the rewards for faith can be worldly as well as spiritual.

The stained glass windows of St. Mary's Church were designed by H. Oidtmann of Linnich, Germany and installed by the firm Hebert Gotzes, Inc., of Chicago in 1926. The gothic-style church was completed in 1873-1874 and designed by Hempel of New York. It is the second location of the Grand Rapids church, which was formed in 1855 to serve the area's German Catholic community. The majority of the church's windows depict scenes related to the life of Mary, from her birth to her crowning in heaven. The impressive five generation-long history of this studio began when the H. Oidtmann Glass and Mosaic Studios were founded in Linnich, Germany in 1857 by Dr. Heinrich Oidtmann I (1838-1890), who started his career in medicine before turning his interests to the business of stained glass. Dr. Heinrich Oidtmann II (1861-1912) and Heinrich Oidtmann III (1888-1929), a doctor and engineer respectively, both published prolifically in scientific texts and works on stained glass. After Heinrich Oidtmann III's death in 1929, his wife Ludovika (1899-1945) managed the business through Germany's difficult years of depression and war, allowing the business to pass to further generations of Oidtmanns. Today the company's legacy is maintained by Heinrich and Dr. Stefan Oidtmann, grandsons to Heinrich Oidtmann III and Ludovika Oidtmann.

Heinrich Oidtmann III wrote of the windows in St. Mary's Church: "All in all, we aimed for beauty of line and color, as well as the holiness of the subject matter, for the edification of the faithful. The effect of the windows in the sanctuary and the apse is an imposing one, thanks to the careful design in Europe, and the sound judgment of the installers in America. If you are pleased with, and enjoy, the beauty and color of these fine samples of glasswork in Saint Mary's Church, then their purpose is fulfilled: The highest expression of faith, truth, and comfort set in glass!"

St. Mary's Catholic Church was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Dorothy T. Kant of Grand Rapids.

—Text updated, June 16, 2006

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 1995.0015)

Text by Michele Beltran, Michigan Stained Glass Census, October , 2004.