MISSION AND MINISTRY | The uniquely historical stained glass windows in LMU’s Sacred Heart Chapel can now be viewed without entering the building, without looking up and without regard for the time of day. Through the use of digital photography, each window and the full interior of the chapel can be seen at eye level as well as from the floor in a newly completed website. An experience of beauty that is both modern and medieval has been made possible by the digital artistry of the present, and the design and fabrication of stained glass windows according to the excellence of 12th century artistic standards.
Sacred Heart Chapel is known by all on campus not only for the regular Catholic Masses celebrated there, but also for spontaneous gatherings when some extraordinary event, such as the death of a student or a public tragedy, affects the LMU Community. The exterior, with the accompanying carillon tower, is a consoling presence for those of all faiths or none. The interior provides an ambience of transcendence not simply because it is a chapel, but because it is a place of welcoming beauty. Events generally draw attention to what is taking place at the ground level. But there are times, especially when the sun shines through the stained glass windows that are high above the floor, when their beauty is communicated quietly to those who observe them. For those times you can’t make it to the chapel, the website provides the next-best option.
The website includes images of each window with an accompanying story of the central figure that is related to contemporary experience, and also a university seal of one of the 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. that existed at the time Sacred Heart Chapel was built. There are also three separate virtual tours that allow viewing of the entire chapel interior. In 1954, when the windows were designed for Sacred Heart Chapel, there were 26 Jesuits who were publicly recognized as saints, beginning with St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. Each saint is depicted in one of the windows, together with accompanying symbols that religious artists identify as proper to each saint as a martyr, preacher, missionary or an example of other outstanding dedicated service. In addition, three other images are used, those of Christ the King, Mary the mother of Jesus and St. Joseph. All the persons, even the martyrs, are depicted as serene and confident, with the most significant aspects of their lives being represented in their clothing and the various symbols that accompany them.
The images of the windows were taken with indirect sunlight, the best conditions for both photography and personal viewing. The website provides an excellent resource for becoming fully acquainted with the treasure of stained glass windows in Sacred Heart Chapel. But to sit or walk quietly within the chapel itself at midday allows for an experience of transcendent beauty that is available on almost every day of the year.
The Sacred Heart Chapel Stained Glass Windows website: http://mission.lmu.edu/stainedglass/