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Our Lady of Grace, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

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Featured Windows, November 2003

Chapel of the Holy Trinity Window, Concordia University

Building: Chapel of the Holy Trinity - Concordia University

City: Ann Arbor

State: Michigan

Gabriel Loire had a philosophy for stained glass. It was his belief that the use of stained glass in a building was not important for what it said to the viewer but how and what it made that person feel. "(It should) be an environment, an enveloping," said Loire in a 1987 interview with Charles and Joan Pratt in Stained Glass Quarterly. "More important for the viewer today is the atmosphere (the windows) create."

And that atmosphere, that enveloping, is what a person receives when first stepping into The Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Chapel was first built in 1962 as a gift of the Lutheran congregations of Michigan for the Lutheran college campus. Its intriguing shape, a triangle, set forth a precedent of uniqueness that called for windows that would be just as striking. Hence, the master craftsman and pioneer of faceted glass in the United States was chosen, Gabriel Loire.

Gabriel Loire was born in 1904 in Pouance, France. He studied the art of stained glass while at the Catholic University of Angers and wrote his thesis on it at the age of twenty. In 1926, Loire worked with Charles Lorin (1874-1940) in Chartres, France. He immersed himself in learning all he could from Lorin, and even designed some stained glass of his own. By 1936, Loire aspired to have his own studio, and to break his contract with Lorin, Loire agreed not to work in stained glass for ten years. Loire spent the next decade painting, illustrating and writing books for children, and finding other outlets for his creativity. However in 1946, he returned to his true passion, stained glass.

The technique that Loire specialized in, faceted glass, appeared in France in the first third of the 20th century, and Loire thought it perfect for the architecture of the times. His work really took off when, in 1950, a Frenchman and admirer opened Loire Imports in New York, contributing greatly to Loire's work being seen outside of his native France. It was around this same time that some of his most famous windows made their mark on the United States. Loire designed windows for the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford, Connecticut. The church there is in the shape of a fish and surrounds the viewer with faceted glass walls. As described in the SGAA Reference and Technical Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Stained Glass, this church paved the way for new ideas in church design, with its overwhelming colors saturating the interior. It was thought of as one of the "most powerful modern churches in the world."

When Loire worked on his windows, he preferred to collaborate with the architect first, to get an idea of what was desired. Then came the color. Loire would work on a first sketch of colors and tones, drawing the details later. This tone-first process explains the emphasis that Loire placed on color in his work and how, when the viewer walks into a church of Loire windows, the color is what strikes the viewer first. A perfect example of this is the windows in The Chapel of the Holy Trinity.

The window behind the altar at The Chapel "The South Portal," which is the window of the month, demands the viewer's attention immediately upon entry. The brilliant blue throughout its large expanse sets off the bold jewel tones of Christ, hues that are not as brazen as in the other portals, and draws the viewer into its warmth. Here Christ is depicted as the triumphant Lord walking on a green path symbolizing the earth. It is one of the few places in any of the windows that the color green is used.

The Easter morning sun rays are on Christ's left, and next to them is a lamb standing over the seven seals from the book of Revelation. Other symbols in this window include a triangle for the trinity, a dove, a sword for the non-sacrifice of Isaac,

the Eucharist cup, and a serpent from the prophecy of Christ's death on the cross. This portal is the second window in a series of three which depict moments in Christ's life. The other two are "The East Portal" showing John baptising Jesus and "The West Portal" showing Christ sending his disciples out to evangelize the world.

More windows of note are the Academic windows that run along the top of the walls between the portals.

Some symbols of higher learning are a ship for geography, an insect for zoology, and the masks of the dramatic arts.

Of the Academic windows, however, the most interesting are a set of four windows that represent four great scenes of architecture: the Romanesque arch, the Gothic flying buttress,

the modern skyscraper, and the classical column.

1996 brought the passing of Gabriel Loire, whose work can be seen in over 800 locations worldwide. According to his obituary written in the summer 1997 issue of Stained Glass, on the morning of his death, when writing an iconography for a Versailles chapel, he wrote the following words: "the overwhelming and calming mystery of permanent resurrection." Overwhelming and calming indeed. The walls of windows he created evoke an awe and wonderment in their own right. As one steps into a church, such as The Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Concordia University, which hosts his work, one is, without a doubt, calmed and completely enveloped in a silent symphony of color.

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Concordia University in Ann Arbor was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Tricia Nault of Ypsilanti, MI.

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 2003.0009)

Text by Tricia Nault, MSGC intern, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan Stained Glass Census, November , 2003.