Today is Monday, August 21st, 2017

Restoring testaments of faith

By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic

WACO — Along the country roads near the northern rim of Waco, dairy farms and horse ranches abound on the way to the clustered artists’ workshops that anchor Stanton Studios’ 25-acre property.

Distinctive buildings house the creative and technical energy of owner Bryant Stanton and his 13 staff members, who work in wood, glass and metal.

The glass studio features compelling stained-glass windows that gleam in the woodsy setting.

This is where the 115-year-old stained glass windows from the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas have come for the careful restoration that will enhance their visual celebration of the Diocese of Dallas and its heart.

Atop seven work tables in the central studio, bits and pieces of colored glass resemble jigsaw puzzles awaiting completion and a return to their expressive wholeness.

On a July morning, Stanton tenderly lifted a glass segment and held it aloft to point out an intricate background pattern that the restoration process had made visible again.

“Hail and high winds battered the windows before they had protective glass,” said Stanton, who founded the family-run company in 1979. “They took a beating. We imported glass from Germany to make replacement pieces for the pieces that are missing.

“To transform the cathedral from years of disrepair back to ‘like new’ condition speaks volumes of the love and care the congregation has for the cathedral, like a rebirth.”

Restoring 82 stained glass windows is part of a $7 million exterior renovation project that began last fall with funds from the $12 million designated by the recent diocesan-wide Our Faith…Our Future capital campaign for the Nicholas J. Clayton-designed cathedral.

Father Stephen Bierschenk, the rector of the cathedral, said that the windows’ artistic merits underscore their faith significance.

“I think that what’s most remarkable about what’s happening here is that those windows are a testament of faith,” he said. “Over a hundred years ago, people wanted something beautiful to signify their giving of glory to God.

“One of the interesting things about the windows is that they were donated by groups around the diocese and people who were wanting to be part of the cathedral.”

The Diocese of Dallas’ parishes, clergy, religious orders and individuals donated the windows, which date to the cathedral’s 1902 dedication.

Several Chicago and Dallas ornamental glass companies made the windows, according to Diocese of Dallas archives.

Stanton — who has restored stained glass for Ursuline Academy of Dallas among his projects with religious organizations and worship spaces — said that working on the cathedral’s altar windows revealed that they had been retrofitted into the openings, as the window frames were configured for an arch shape that differed from the glass design.

The windows, which are being transported to and from Waco in wooden crates in Stanton’s covered trailer, should all be reinstalled at the cathedral by the spring of 2018.

“One of the things that really is striking is that when people enter the cathedral, they will find it much brighter,” said Sandra Cortinas, director of business administration for the cathedral. “Some windows were recently reinstalled. The colors are just incredible. The colors and the warmth are so inviting and spiritual. The exterior coverings that used to protect the stained glass were opaque. During the restoration, those were replaced with clear, up-to-date materials.”

Stanton Studios partnered with Mominee Studios and Landmark Construction for the restoration process.

When the windows arrive at Stanton Studios, the artists make rubbings to serve as blueprints that show where the lead was placed in the window.

The windows are taken apart and cleaned. Broken pieces are mended or replaced. A glass painter creates replicas of pieces shattered beyond repair.

New lead is used to reassemble the windows, which then are soldered and grouted.

On a recent morning, artist Aaron Haas concentrated on the waterproofing process in the studio’s “mud room.”

“It probably takes roughly a week to take apart a window, clean it and restore it,” he said. “Fine cleaning and buffing is the last stage.”

He stood back to admire a quatrefoil, or clover-shaped, window that he had just finished restoring.

“A lot of work goes into it,” Haas said. “It feels good to see the finished product.”

 

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