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Stained Glass Windows
Installed in 1885, the patterned stained glass windows of St. Mark's Church are significant, not only for the beautiful, ethereal light that they shine into the sanctuary but also for their subject matter. The windows on the main floor of the Sanctuary date mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearly all of them depict important Christian or historical figures, such as St. Mark and Governor General Petrus Stuyvesant. The Stuyvesant window was given to the Church by The Society of Daughters of Holland Dames and dedicated in a ceremony on All Saints' Day in 1903. The unveiling was performed by Governor Hamilton Fish, a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant. Its' design was created by David Maitland Armstrong, a painter and stained glass window artist from Newburgh, NY, who was married to Fish's neice, Helen. A delegation from the Netherlands attended the re-dedication of the window in 2009, held during the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in North America.
The windows on the balcony level were also made of stained glass but did not portray any particular images. Sadly, they were destroyed in the fire of 1978 in order to save the windows on the main floor. The fire company had to find a way to vent the smoke that was damaging the Sanctuary's interior. The decision was a difficult one and had to be made quickly. Both the Church's grand organ and new wooden floor had already been burned and the roof was in danger of collapsing. So, since the subject matter of the balcony windows did not include historically or religiously significant figures, their loss was deemed a necessary casualty. Fire fighters blasted water through the windows and were able to extinguish the three-alarm fire.
Because they had been destroyed, the balcony floor windows had to be re-designed. During the subsequent restoration of the Church by Edelman, Sultan, Knox, Wood/Architects, new designs were proposed by one of the firm's partners, Harold Edelman. Edelman's approach was to create thematic pairs of windows, the colors of which would represent the liturgical year. Beginning at the south end of the sanctuary, the colors of the windows extend northward in a pattern of red, black, white, green and violet.
The first pair of windows, the red pair, symbolize the Fire of Creation and Purification. The second set are the Black Windows of Prayer, Incantation and Fidelity. The third pair are the White Windows of Peace. The fourth windows are the Green Fish Windows, symbolizing fertility, birth and resurrection. The final pair are the Violet Windows of the Covenant, in which the Stars of Bethlehem and David face the cross, which is the sign of the New Covenant. Made of glass from France, Italy and Germany, the windows were assembled by Rohlf's Stained Glass Studios in Mt. Vernon, NY. The modern design and themes of the balcony floor windows were intended as a reminder, not only of different periods of the liturgical calendar, but also of the way St. Mark's Church has always been a place for peace, freedom and artistic expression for the surrounding community.
Edelman also designed the Rose and Griffin Windows at the south end of the Sanctuary. As described in the bi-centennial site guide to St. Mark's Church, the Rose Window "shows two spirals, one advancing and one receding in space. This spiral as a logarithmic curve demonstrates the mathematics of growth and is an ancient and universal emblem of endlessly evolving life". The Griffin Window, as its name implies, is a depiction of a griffin, a creature that is half-eagle, half-lion. The image is symbolic on multiple levels, incorporating the mythical nature of the griffin as a prophetic creature with the eagle, a symbol of the United States, and the lion, which is the symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist.
Photo Credit for top two photos: Susan De Vries, 2011; Photo credit for bottom photo: Edelman Sultan Knox Wood/Architects, 2012.