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Featured Windows, November-December 2008

Holy Family Catholic Church Detroit, MI

Building: Holy Family Catholic Church

City: Detroit

State: Michigan

Holy Family Church, Detroit's first Italian Catholic parish, was organized in 1908 to serve the spiritual needs of immigrants from Sicily and southern Italy. For 100 years the parish has played an important role in preserving the cultural traditions of their native lands and its centennial anniversary has been celebrated throughout 2008. Completed in 1910, the pale yellow brick church was designed by Detroit architect Edward A. Schilling in an Italian Renaissance basilica style. Although surrounded today by downtown Detroit's tall office buildings, Holy Family Church continues to be the spiritual home of many Italian families in the greater metropolitan area. It was listed on the Michigan Registry of Historic Sites in 1989.

The stained glass windows of Holy Family Church were installed at different times. The aisle windows, made in 1910 by an unidentified studio, include scenes of the Holy Family, the life of Christ and revered Italian saints. The clerestory windows, created in the early 1980s by perhaps another studio, depict Adam and Eve, various saints, and additional scenes from the life of Christ. Inscriptions on the aisle and clerestory windows record the names of many parishioners during the past century. Another window installed in the 1980s was designed and fabricated in Italy.

Left: Saint Anne. 1910. St. Anne, the traditional mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, instructs her young daughter in this scene. Right: Saint Joseph. 1910. St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, with the young child Jesus. Joseph, a carpenter, is known as the patron saint of laborers and fathers.

Left: Santa Monica (St. Monica). 1910. St. Monica died in 387 A.D. in the Italian town of Ostia while traveling from Rome to her home in North Africa. She was the mother of St. Augustine, famous bishop of the Catholic Church. Monica is shown with her hands crossed in prayer to denote the years she spent praying for her son’s conversion to Christianity. Right: San Vittore (St. Victor). 1910. St. Victor was a Roman soldier of Italian ancestry who served in Damascus during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius. He was martyred in 160 A.D. for his Christian beliefs.

Left: St. Michael the Archangel. 1910. St. Michael, one of seven archangels mentioned in the Book of Revelation, is known as a “warrior angel” who battles against the powers of evil. He is often pictured with a sword, casting a dragon (the Devil) into a fiery pit, or Hell (Rev. 20: 1-3). Right: The Resurrection. 1980s. This scene of Jesus rising from his tomb is different in style from other windows in Holy Family Church. It was designed by Sergio Papucci, Artistic Director of M.V.Guido Polloni & C. Studio, Florence, Italy, which made the window. The Guido Polloni firm, established in 1919, is the oldest stained glass studio in Italy.

Left: The Expulsion. 1981. According to the Book of Genesis, God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for eating forbidden fruit from the Tree of Life. In the expulsion scene on this clerestory window, an angel with a flaming sword guards the tree, which is entwined with the serpent that tempted the couple to disobey God’s command (Gen 3: 23-24). Right: The Descent of the Holy Spirit. 1981. As related in the Book of Acts, this event occurred during the Jewish season of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended like “tongues of fire” upon the Apostles as they gathered for prayer, enabling them to speak in various languages. Depictions of the Pentecost scene often include Mary, mother of Jesus, at the very center of the group (Acts 2: 1-43).

The Good Shepherd. 1981. This clerestory window presents the popular image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who watches over his flock and seeks for any sheep that have strayed. (Matt. 18: 12-14).

Holy Family Church was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Bonnie Leone of Detroit, MI.

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 2008.0003)

Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, November , 2008.