Windows getting facelifts at Iowa City, Muscatine churches


By Celine Klosterman

Stained-glass windows in St. Wenceslaus Church in Iowa City are pictured this spring amid renovations.

Two parishes hope restoring their churches’ stained-glass windows brings new light to the faithful.
St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City and Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine have undertaken efforts to fix window damage resulting from decades-old, poorly designed protective coverings. St. Wenceslaus expects work to wrap up in mid-June, and restoration at St. Mathias Church is slated to begin June 18.
For St. Wenceslaus, Bovard Studio in Fairfield removed the old window coverings, cleaned the stained glass and added new, vented protective coverings. The studio also disassembled and cleaned an 8-foot-tall window in a tower, then reassembled and recemented it.
“With the new coverings, we’ve noticed so much more light through the stained glass,” said Pat King, pastoral associate at the Iowa City parish.
She said a protective storm glazing added to the windows about 30 years ago had clouded, obscuring the artwork. The unvented plastic covering also had trapped heat and condensation, thus deteriorating the glass.
More than a year ago, the parish’s finance council was discussing how to use money St. Wenceslaus earned for exceeding its fundraising goal for the Davenport Diocese’s 2009-10 capital campaign. Restoration of the stained glass won out.
Estimated cost for renovating 43 windows is $61,420, according to the parish.
Some were constructed when the church was built in 1893; others were put into a 1921 addition to the front of the church. The newest windows were installed in a handicapped-accessible entrance added to the church’s west side in 2007. St. Wenceslaus Church’s windows depict numerous saints including the parish’s namesake, who was a 10th-century duke of Bohemia, and his grandmother, St. Ludmilla.

A stained-glass image at St. Mathias Church in Muscatine shows grime on the Virgin Mary’s neck and chin. The church’s windows are slated to be restored.

In Muscatine, Catholics noticed window damage during renovation work on St. Mathias Church’s exterior more than a year ago, Ray Childs said. He belongs to Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish’s window restoration committee.
In stained glass depicting the Nativity, a crack runs through baby Jesus’ face, and grime has stained Mary’s chin and neck. More than 50 years ago protective coverings in air-tight frames were installed, trapping condensation that gradually tarnished the glass and deteriorated the windows’ structure.
Glass Heritage of Davenport will remove the exterior Plexiglas and supporting frame, clean and repair damage to the windows, and add new, vented protective panes, according to Ss. Mary & Mathias. Work should wrap up in August or September.
Estimated cost of restoring more than 60 windows is about $96,000. The parish invited Catholics to sponsor the renovation of one or more windows, and it has raised about $129,000, Childs said. “We wanted to raise extra money for contingency.”
Copies of a 48-page book, “Love Stories Illuminated,” about the windows are continuing to be distributed to donors, he added.
Made in 1910, several windows illustrate scenes from Jesus’ life and ministry, while others depict martyrs Ss. Agnes and Cecilia and other saints. Over the altar are seven windows showing symbols of each sacrament.
Restoring the stained glass “is going to be like raising a window shade,” Childs said. “Those windows will shine out like a beacon on a hill.”

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