Christ in Glory window illuminates hope of our eternal destiny
By Mary Powers
Assistant Director of Communications and Media Relations
As the liturgical calendar nears its end, three feasts coincide in November to remind us of our own final end: All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day and the feast of Christ the King. These interconnected feasts are well illustrated in the stained-glass window of Christ in Glory in St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco.
St. Dominic’s Church is an architectural work of art, hearkening back to the Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Originally built in 1873, St. Dominic’s needed to be rebuilt following the 1906 earthquake. Construction of the current church began in 1923 and was completed in 1928, although work continued on the church until its centennial celebration in 1973.
It was during the time between post-construction and full completion that Dominican Father Lawrence A. McMahon, vicar general of the Dominican Congregation of California (later the Western Dominican province), commissioned many of the windows. While there were a few artists who worked on the windows at St. Dominic’s, Max Ingrand designed the window of Christ in Glory.
Ingrand, a French glassworker, also designed windows in Sainte-Agnès in Maisons-Alfort, Notre-Dame de Paris and later the Saint-Pierre d’Yvetot Church in Normandy. He is known for his use of bold, luminous colors in his designs. Ingrand played a key role in redesigning stained-glass windows in post-World War II Europe and also worked on commissioned projects, of which St. Dominic’s Christ in Glory was one. The window was completed and installed in the late 1960s.
“The Christ in Glory window is one of the signature features of St Dominic’s. Its beauty and attention to detail is astonishing,” said Dominican Father Michael Hurley, pastor of St. Dominic’s. “When scaffolding was erected to support this window during the seismic retrofit, I had the opportunity to view it up close at eye level. Even though he knew that few would be able to fully appreciate it, the artist took great pains to give each of the dozens of figures exquisite rendering. It was a labor of love.”
The center of the window depicts Christ as king, surrounded by symbols of the four Gospels. Directly below him are three of the four Dominican popes (Pope Innocent V, Pope St. Pius V and Pope Benedict IX). Kneeling below the popes is St. Dominic. Surrounding Christ on either side are other Dominican saints, including Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Martin de Porres, Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima, among others. Also included are four banners – for the universal church, the Western Dominican province, the Order of Preachers and St. Dominic’s Parish.
The window consists of 177 panels – 52 lancets plus tracery – covering 646 square feet. During the restoration of the windows in the late 2000s, it took stained-glass artisans working continuously over four months to clean and relead these panels.
As the faithful pass under the stained glass, they are reminded not only of Christ’s kingship, but also of the hope of one day joining the saints depicted in beholding the beatific vision and Christ in his eternal glory.