The Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown is undergoing renovation of its more-than-100-year-old stained-glass windows.
As funds allow, 13 of the 14, 24-foot-high windows will be sent to Conrad Schmitt Studios in New Berlin, Wisconsin, to be refurbished and then put back into place, according to the Rev. Michael L. Farmer, cathedral rector and vicar general of the Archdiocese of Mobile.
The archdiocese has set up a fund to help pay for the restoration of the windows, which were originally designed by the Franz Mayer glass company in Munich, Germany, and placed in the cathedral in 1910. Farmer said the archdiocese is also seeking sponsorships.
The work, which will cost close to $1 million, requires the windows to be disassembled, cleaned, smoothed out and re-leaded, Farmer said.
“After about 100 years, the lead in the glass bubbles up because of the weight,” he said. “They will smooth out where the lead may have bubbled up.”
Each window is estimated to be worth $125,000 to $130,000 and is insured for even more.
“They don’t do stained-glass windows like that anymore,” Farmer said. “To replace them would cost more.”
In addition to the refurbished stained glass, new protective windows will go along the outside, which Farmer said will be “more crisp” and protect from moisture buildup and storms.
Currently three of the windows are at the Conrad Schmitt Studios being restored, and Farmer said the archdiocese plans to send others as funds become available.
Of the cathedral’s 14 stained-glass windows, 12 depict scenes in the lives of Mary and Jesus. The story begins at the window on the southeast corner, where the first window illustrates the Immaculate Conception, which in Catholic teaching refers to Mary being exempt from original sin at the time she was conceived.
The second window along that same side depicts the presentation of Mary in the temple. The next depicts the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her she would conceive the Son of God.
The fourth window depicts the Visitation, where Mary visits Elizabeth, the soon-to-be mother of John the Baptist. That’s followed by a window depicting a classic nativity scene. The last window on the cathedral’s south wall depicts the holy family, with a child Jesus and his parents.
The story continues on the cathedral’s Dauphin Street side, where the seventh window depicts the finding of Jesus in the temple. The next is a scene from the marriage feast at Cana, where Jesus transformed water into wine. Following that is a window depicting the crucifixion and another showing the Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and other followers of Christ.
The 11th window in the series depicts the Assumption of Mary into heaven and the final is the “coronation window,” which shows Jesus crowning Mary. There is also a window in the front of the cathedral, near the choir loft, showing an image of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. Another in the confessional depicts the baptism of Jesus.
Farmer said he expects the window restoration to take a couple of years, depending on the level of funding available. Each costs about $75,000 to repair and rehang today, compared to the original cost of $50,000 for all 14 windows, Farmer said.
In addition to Mobile’s cathedral, Franz Mayer created the windows for a church in Montgomery and St. Joseph’s in Maysville. Franz Mayer is still in business.
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