Emergency work was ordered and performed on the stained glass windows on the north side of the Oratory this Christmas.
One of the consequences of the shifting foundation of the church tower is the cracking in the masonry and the bowing of the historic stained glass windows of the church. The windows most seriously affected are the ones on the north side, on the right side of the choir loft. Unfortunately, the structural damage of the windows has reached a point where it is now necessary to remove the stained glass segments in order to save them.
Detail of damaged stained glass window, showing daylight streaming through the opening created by the bowing of the wondow.
Exterior view of the bowed window.
Due to compressive stress exerted on the main church building by the tower whose foundation has shifted, one of the stained glass windows has been seriously affected. The metal support of the stained glass artwork has been bent outward over time, resulting in a gap in the seam. Immediate intervention is necessary to maintain the integrity of the window and to salvage the irreplaceable artwork.
After removal, the stained glass sections will be carefully stored, and the large openings in the window covered with painted wood for the time being. Complete restoration of the stained glass windows cannot take place until the tower foundation is stabilized. In addition, extensive work is now needed to reinforce the terra cotta columns with horizontal steel bars to maintain its stability.
The stained glass artwork in St. Francis de Sales Oratory was made by Emil Frei, Sr., who immigrated to the United States from Bavaria, Germany, in the late 1800s. The stained glass creations overseen by several generations of the Frei family is renowned throughout the country. Stephen Frei, the great-grandson of the man who designed and made these windows at St. Francis de Sales, is now managing the removal and repair of the windows. We are indebted to Emil Frei Associates, Inc. for their dedication to find an innovative solution to preserve these windows until future repair may take place. The permanent restoration of the stained glass windows will begin only when the tower foundation is stabilized.
All photos courtesy of Mark Abeln of Rome of the West.