Stained Glass Glory

The sanctuary of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is open on most weekdays, and well worth visiting for the sake of the incredible stained-glass windows alone. The four stained glass windows were all done by the famous Tiffany Company of New York. Behind the altar, the image of St. Michael slaying the devil, a likeness of Raphael’s famous painting in the Louvre, was done in 1893. Also on the East wall is Easter Morning, done in 1897. On the North wall, The Annunciation window was created in 1897, and on the South wall, the 1915 Tiffany is in the style of Art Nouveau.
The most striking aspect of the windows is the color, made possible by a technique that Louis Comfort Tiffany perfected, called opalescence. He discovered in the late 19th century that he could add silica (opals) to molten glass by mixing in melted jelly and candy jars, whose chemical makeup allowed for diffraction of light in various angles and waves that intensified the color in the glass. Previously, stained-glass was highlighted by painting the panes, but Tiffany’s concept made this obsolete. The color is remarkable in the paintings, and with the diffraction that comes from any exterior light source, makes the vividness truly awesome.
Interestingly, both the Annunciation and Art Nouveau windows were once doors, leading to a central crossing aisle that led from Broad Street to the churchyard to the South. The changing sun position during the day gives each window a greater radiance when the diffracted rays of light shine through, which is even more remarkable considering that storm windows have been added to protect the glass, and certainly affects the intensity of the light.

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