Reclaiming Stained Glass at St. Philip On The Hill

By Tanya Baleta

Reclaimed stained glass window.

A rose window at St. Philip On The Hill.

In 2010 a small church on Caribou Road in Toronto closed its doors forever.

St. Philip the Apostle, consecrated in the 1950s, faced dwindling Sunday attendance.

EGD Glass was called upon to remove and store the historic stained glass windows, including two rose windows. All the windows were designed and fabricated by renowned Canadian glass artist, Yvonne Williams.

“Yvonne Williams is regarded as one of the finest 20th century stained glass artists in Canada,” said Eve Guinan, owner of EGD Glass. “What’s amazing about her work is her painting and use of colour. The quality of the work is incredible.”

Reclaimed stained glass window.

Eve Guinan restored the rose window.

While the Anglican Diocese engaged in discussion to determine the fate of the stained glass, Eve took on a project at a church called St. Philip On The Hill in Unionville. While preparing to design new stained glass windows for the church’s narthex, she caught a glimpse of a rose window without any stained glass in it.

“I knew exactly where to find a rose window that would fit the opening,” said Eve. “I told St. Philip On The Hill about the rose windows and they thought it was a fantastic idea.”

After some discussion with the Anglican Diocese, it was decided one of the rose windows would be reclaimed and installed at St. Philip On The Hill, with the second being reserved for a church in Brampton.

Eve set to work restoring the rose window. Though it had not been repaired since it was installed around 1959, the window remained in good condition with only minor cracks and breaks.

The round window was divided into four pieces. When set in the original concrete opening at St. Philip The Apostle, the pieces combined to create a circle. However, without the concrete to act as a frame the pieces did not fit properly together.

Reclaimed stained glass window

The rose window is divided into four pieces, as seen at St. Philip The Apostle.

“To remedy the problem we had a round steel frame made with a spot for each of the four pieces and the same spacing as the original concrete opening,” explained Eve.

After a weeks worth of repairs, the steel frame and historic glass were installed at St. Philip On The Hill in 2012.

“The final product is beautiful,” said the Rev. Stephen Kern, Incumbent at St. Philip On The Hill. “It’s not just a window, it’s a functional piece of our worship space.”

According to the the Rev. Kern, Eve was sensitive to the congregation’s needs during the installation period. “We’re working with a church and a community of people – not just an individual,” he explained. “The window went up without disrupting any services or moving any pews.”

The window is entirely handmade and features a striking grid pattern. The artist utilized rich colour, heavy painting, small pieces of glass and a simplified drawing technique.

“You simply can’t get handmade glass like that any more,” said Eve. “There are maybe two or three companies out there making a very limited amount, so it’s very expensive.”

Reclaimed stained glass window

The window was dedicated to Florence May 1882-1959, “To the Glory of God” – “Rest in Peace” – “Gentle”.

Historic reclaimed glass is often a higher quality product than modern glass, and yet has a lower price tag.

The rose window, which was dedicated to the memory of Florence May (1882-1959), also has historical significance. “We’ve been able to take the legacy of another person’s love for that individual and carry it forward into our worship space,” said the Rev. Kern. “It connects us in a spiritual way with a broader community of worshipping Christians.”

Reclaiming stained glass is also an opportunity to be more environmentally friendly, as is reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials.

“I’m interested in greening our worship space and in environmental stewardship,” said the Rev. Kern. “We were able to reclaim and renew instead of produce from scratch.”

According to Eve, reclaiming stained glass is an opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. “I believe in recycling,” she said. “Plus, you’ll be getting a beautiful piece of our heritage that will live on – so why not?”

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