By Celine Klosterman
FAIRFIELD — Gazing off into the distance, St. Matthew is depicted lost in thought, holding a quill as an angel wraps an arm around his shoulder and points to a book in his lap. Beneath the Evangelist’s foot is a sack of coins symbolizing his former life as a tax collector before he met Christ.
This image in St. Mary Church graces one of four new stained-glass windows depicting the Gospel writers. Installed this fall, the works of art are designed to remind worshippers of the richness and history of Catholicism, according to a brochure created for the Dec. 1 dedication ceremony.
The windows, which replaced plain glass in the church’s north and south walls, were part of the master plan for St. Mary’s when the building was dedicated in January 2010. This year, a committee chaired by parishioner Susan Mosinski underwent a months-long design process for the new windows.
“The mysteries of the rosary were considered as subject matter early on, but Father Stephen Page (then pastor) steered the committee toward the Gospel writers,” said Mark Shafer, a committee member and artist.
Travis Hunt served as the main designer at Bovard Studio in Fairfield, which produced the windows. “It was especially gratifying to work with Travis, a former pupil of mine when I taught art at Fairfield High School,” Shafer said.
Shafer designed the cover of a book that St. John holds in one of the windows. The cover, whose design Hunt adapted, pictures a serpent and chalice reminiscent of a legend in which the Evangelist blessed a cup of poisoned wine.
Another window shows St. Luke grasping an ancient Egyptian-style paintbrush and cradling an icon of Mary, whose image he is said to have painted. St. Mark’s window shows the Gospel writer standing in front of a winged lion representing majesty and power.
The works of art depicting St. John – whom Jesus entrusted with care of the Virgin Mary — and St. Luke were installed on either side of an icon of the Blessed Mother. St. Matthew’s and St. Mark’s windows flank a Byzantine-style icon of Christ.
“The two icon panels’ soft glow of gold leaf and their semi-abstract format create an exotic contrast with the bright, realistic renderings in their stained glass companions,” Shafer said.
The four stained glass windows were painted in the style of windows in the former St. Mary Church, but allow more light to pass through, he said. On the day of installation, “Upon entering the sanctuary, the windows — because they are low to the ground with life-size figures — seemed to reach out and embrace me.”
Fundraisers, parishioner donations and memorial money paid for the windows.
“There is discussion, as funds become available, of replacing the plain glass clerestory windows (high windows) with a simple diamond pattern inside an arch,” Shafer said. “Every third window would tentatively have a Marian symbol.”