Stained Glass Windows

The stained glass windows of our church are a cherished treasure, the result of decades of devotion by the members who commissioned them and the artisans who designed them.  Today we will consider the church’s first stained glass window, commissioned for the chapel in 1913.

The Sunrise Window was designed by the Tiffany Studios of New York and was donated to the church by T. Edward Ross in memory of his parents. As mentioned in recent weeks, Mr. Ross was one of the original Elders of the church and served as Superintendent of Sunday School for over 40 years.

The Sunrise window consists of three medallions depicting all the glory and beauty of a sunrise scene.  The surroundings portray a landscape with a gently flowing stream winding its way through the peaceful countryside.  Below this portrait is the inscription from the book of Daniel: ‘They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.’

The window was installed at the height in popularity of the Tiffany style.  Louis C. Tiffany was an innovator in stained glass design. He rejected the 19th century technique of painting on glass, and returned to the medieval method of coloring molten glass with metals. Tiffany developed a new method of manufacturing semi-translucent glass that simulated painted effects. One of Tiffany’s innovations creates the distinctive quality of our Sunrise Window:  the layering multiple pieces of glass to add depth to images of streams and to create a misty, ethereal quality to skies. We see the result in the deep, almost three-dimensional appearance of the window.

As the years past, Tiffany’s work fell out of favor. The rise of Gothic Revival architecture, such as used in our sanctuary, demanded a more historically-accurate medieval style of window.  By 1931, Tiffany was out of business.  In 1962 a revival in interest in Tiffany windows coincided with our church’s renovation of the Chapel. The area, which had been used as Sunday school space for 35 years, was rebuilt as the Memorial Chapel with gifts dedicated by members in memory of their families. At that time the present pulpit, pews, parquet floor, and pipe organ were installed.  Additional stained glass windows were also installed on the east wall, depicting the nine beatitudes by use of a distinctive gold overlay.  

The story is told that when the Sunrise Window was about to be dedicated in 1913, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ran an article ‘Ardmore Church Dedicates Sunset Window.’  In response, our first pastor, Reverend Rawson, spent many hours of research in astronomy until he was able to prove that the configuration of the moon and the stars was, indeed, a sunrise scene.  The results of his research became the focus of a sermon, in which he assured his congregation that the sunrise depicted was symbolic of the hopeful beginnings of the new church.