Conserving History: The Great Chancel Windows
By Tanya Baleta, Communications Coordinator at St. Paul’s Bloor Street
On the morning of April 22nd staff arrived at St. Paul’s Bloor Street to a shocking sight. One of the historic stained glass windows in the Chancel was broken – but by who or what was not known. The congregation took to our Facebook page to express shock and concern as we worked to find the best solution to conserve the window.
The great chancel windows are the centre piece of the south wall. They were dedicated by Canon Cody on November 27th, 1921 on the 8th anniversary of the dedication of the church. The three part window contains 136 figures representing biblical characters and occupies a total area of 688 square feet. It is one of the largest window groups in North America.
They were dedicated by the congregation “To the Greater Glory of God and in Everlasting Remembrance of the Men of St. Paul’s who gave their lives in Defence of Justice, Liberty and Trust, A.D. 1914-1919.”
There were 74 men of the congregation who gave their lives in WWI and their names are inscribed on the marble structure beneath the windows.
Eve Guinan of EDG Glass Studio, has been working with stained glass since she was 14. She has worked on conservation projects in the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament and a variety of historic churches in Toronto. She has been working to restore and conserve the stained glass at St. Paul’s since 1992.
“I was shocked when I saw it,” she said. “But what we think happened is that a raccoon got up there and decided to try to get in.”
The outside of the stained glass is covered by a titanium mesh, held in place by tension wire which is bolted to the stonework. It appears as though the raccoon pulled at the corner of the mesh and broke it. The sheer force of the tension snapping could have broken the window.
The original shards of glass will be put back together and given to the St. Paul’s archives, where they can be better protected.
Creating the replica is a long process, and complicated by the fact that Eve has to ensure the colours are a precise match. “It’s not me painting, using my own hand,” she said. “I have to copy what has already been done. The first step is selecting the right handmade glass, and then I paint.”
Once the glass is painted, it will be fired in a 1600 degree kiln for 24 hours. The glass must then be allowed to cool, before another layer of paint is applied. This process is repeated three or four times.
Once Eve is satisfied with the painting, she will lead and solder the panel. It will then be ready to be installed. The project is expected to take at least a month.
“This is about the history and the heritage of the church, the community and Canadians who went to war,” said Eve. “What people don’t realize is that every stained glass window has an amazing story to it because of the family or parishioners who got the funds together to have them made. When you look at the windows you can read the stories in them – the history is all in the glass.”