The Stained Glass of Grace Church
The Stained Glass of Grace Church
By Cameron Allen
Published by Grace Church
Have you ever taken the time to study the windows in this beautiful old church of ours? Or have you grown so accustomed to them that you cannot even “see” them? Each of our windows has as double story to tell: the first, of the representations of figures and actions in the glass itself; and the second, of generations long since gone to a better world, people who found spiritual growth within these good walls and loved it in their day.
Stained glass was originally used in medieval European churches as a “Biblia Pauperum” – a “poor man’s Bible,” this in an era when the great mass of people were illiterate, and could not depend upon prayer books and hymnals as aids to devotion, and therefore especially in need of some substitute when services were not actually being conducted. This the stained glass helped in large measure to provide. Stained glass retains this function in part, of course, especially for small children. But all of us can learn from stained glass, if we but open our eyes.
The windows in our church date from 1869 to 1967. They replaced much ruder windows, the originals placed in the construction of the present building in 1847-48. Let us begin our brief look at the present windows along the Epistle side aisle (along Walnut Street). Two of these date from the major church building expansion of 1872.
The window closest to the entrance was given in memory of Joel Condit (1795-1860) and his wife Margaret (Harrison), (1800-1865), perhaps the most prominent family ever associated with Grace Church.
Negotiations between donor and vestry had been initiated in December, 1870, when it was recorded that “A communication having been received from Bishop Doane of Albany requesting permission to place in the north side of the nave next to the transept a memorial window to the late Joel W. Condit, deceased. On Motion it was: Resolved, the vestry gratefully accept the offer in Bishop Doane’s communication.”
Joel and Margaret (Harrison) Condit’s other children also joined in the effort. The Condit children, an exceedingly interesting group, were as follows:
Mary Condit, married the Rev. Horace S. Bishop, a curate at Grace Church in 1861, who later became Rector of Christ Church, East Orange;
C(aleb) Harrison Condit (1828-1881), Vestryman at Grace Church, 1861-67;
Margaret Condit (1831-1907), never married;
Sarah Katherine Condit (1833-1907), married in 1853 William Croswell Doane (1832-1913), first Bishop of Albany and one of Bishop Doane of New Jersey;
Estelle Condit (1835/6-1907), married 1863 Thomas Talmadge Kinney (1821-1900), editor of the Newark Daily Advertiser, for whose family Kinney Street was named; vestryman of Grace Church; children married into the Frelinghuysen and Clark thread families
Alice C. Condit (1843-1877), married in 1869 Andrew Kirkpatrick (1844-1904), Judge of the U.S. District Court of the District of New Jersey, and vestryman of Grace Church, 1867-1881.
The firm selected by the Condit children to execute the window was that of Lavers, Barraud, and Westlake, of London, one of the best English firms of the day, made so by the ability primarily of Nathaniel Huber John Westlake (1833-1921).
The Condit Window
The Condit window, of cathedral glass, consists of six panels, three in either light.
In the top panel of the left light is portrayed St. Margaret, the patron saint of mothers, with the dragon at her feet and a branch in her hand. The dragon in connection with St. Margaret represents the apocryphal legend that a dragon attempted to swallow St. Margaret, but that a cross she wore about her neck caught in the dragon’s throat.
It is interesting to note the representation of St. Margaret in the windows of Grace Church many years in advance of the coming of the Sisters of St. Margaret to our parish.
In the top panel of the right-hand light is represented Joel the Prophet, dressed in a red mantle lined in green, bearing a scroll, the symbol of wisdom. The coupling of St. Margaret with Joel the Prophet, at first thought a bit unusual, proves less so when it is remembered that this window is also honoring Joel and Margaret Condit.
Below St. Margaret is shown a youthful blond Isaac, dressed in green mantle over a red tunic, holding a bundle of faggots, representing the means of his projected sacrifice by Abraham.
In the panel to the right of Isaac stands Rebecca, white mantle over a red tunic, bearing her jug of water from the well. Isaac and Rebecca were bearing her jug of water from the well. Isaac and Rebecca were presumably intended to represent the ideal married couple, modes emulated by Mr. And Mrs. Condit.
In the larger panel at the bottom of the left light, the wedding at Cana is the theme, Christ being shown changing the water into wine, while a youth fills jugs therefrom. Thus is illustrated Christ’s approval of the “honorable estate” of matrimony.
In the companion panel in the light to the right, Christ is blessing the little ones, holding a baby while infants in the foreground appeal to him, and a woman in the background brings up another baby. Christ’s love for the fruits of the matrimony is demonstrated herein.
All in all, the window is a working out of the jobs of Christian domestic establishments.
The Mary Window
The middle window of the north aisle was also executed by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake in 1872. It was the gift of Thomas Talmadge Kinney, the Condit son-in-law, in memory of his own mother, Mary (Chandler) Kinney. It has appropriately been called the “Mary Window”, for in honoring his mother Mary, Kinney caused the designer to repeat the Mary motif throughout.
This window, like the Condit window, has six panels. The upper two portray the two sisters of Lazarus of Bethany, Martha, left, wearing a brown mantle over a green tunic, and Mary, right, in a green mantle over as white tunic, bearing the precious ointment, with which she was to bathe the feet of Jesus.
In the two center panels, Ruth the Moabitis stands, left, gleaning in the fields, clad in red mantle over a tan tunic; recalling the story of Naomi saying, “Call me not Naomi, pleasant, call me Mara, bitter, for the Almighty has deal bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20) and right, Miriam the Prophetess is shown.
The name of Miriam is of course believed to be another form of the name Mary, both of them presumed to mean “bitter.”
In the larger panel at the bottom, left, St. John is shown with St. Mary at the Cross, only the feet of Christ being visible. Below this is the inscription: “Ex illa hora accepit eam discipulus in sua.” (“And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home” (John 19:27). This was said in response to Jesus’ dying injunction, “Behold thy Mother!”
In the lowest panel at the right a bearded Moses at Marah is thrusting the branch in to the bitter waters and making them sweet, so that the Israelites, who had just passed through the Red Sea, could have water to drink in the desert (Exodus 15:25). The inscription in the window at the point reads, “Ille clamavit ad Dominum” (“So he cried unto the Lord,” as we are told in the story off the Exodus.) Thus it will be seen that all panels of the Mary Kinney window deal with Mary or with Old Testament foreshadowing of her bitterness.
It needs to be pointed out that somewhere along the line, either in the manufacture, or more probably in the moving of the windows in 1928, the identifications of Condit and the Kinney windows have been switched. The inscription in the glass of the Condit window reads, “In memory of Mary B. Kinney, Died January 28th, 1841”, and the metal plate beneath the Mary Kinney window reads, “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Joel W. Condit and his wife Margaret Harrison, this window is erected by their children.”
However, the contemporary newspaper account which describes the consecration of the new chancel in 1872 definitely ascribes the “Mary window” as a gift in memory of Mary B. Kinney, and the “Christian family” window showing St. Margaret and Joel the Prophet as in memory of Joel and Margaret Condit.
Even without this contemporary account, reason should tell us that the windows, which echo and re-echo the names of Mary on the one hand and Joel & Margaret on the other, are an effort to memorialize the persons bearing those same names.