For nearly 60 years, the parish of St. Mary of the Woods, in the heart of Chicagoland, has contained a treasure trove of some of the finest stained glass windows, created by world renowned 20th-century artist Max Ingrand. Now they’re sharing their mesmerizing panels with the world in a video series titled The Marian Stained Glass Windows.
The eight stained glass windows each feature the Blessed Mother under one of her titles, from Our Lady of Guadalupe to Our Lady of Częstochowa. Each depiction tells a story about the history and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, while presenting the Blessed Mother in poses and dresses unique to each tradition. While these traditions come from a variety of cultures, however, all of the windows place Mary in a woodland setting, creating a “forest” of stained glass which represents St. Mary of the Woods parish.
The Marian Stained Glass Windows series explains the tradition of each stained glass depiction in its own episode. The production gathered a variety of experts, from art historians to clerics, who present viewers with a unique look at the artistry of the glass, but also contextual references to historical events surrounding various Marian apparitions.
For example, in the episode that features Our Lady of Knock, presenter Jim Sweany – a parishioner of St. Mary of the Woods – explains that prior to the apparition Catholics were forced into Western Ireland, causing many to land in the county of Mayo. Mayo became grossly overpopulated and impoverished, and the latter only became worse when penal codes were implemented that persecuted Irish Catholics in the 18th century. When the famines of the 19th century began, it seemed like the straw that would break the camel’s back, but that’s when Our Lady of Knock appeared.
On the evening of August 21, 1879, the Blessed Mother appeared in front of 14 witnesses outside of the Church of St. John the Baptist. Our Lady of Knock was joined by St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist, whose presences helped to indicate the message of the silent apparitions. Sweany’s succinct explanation of the various symbols recognized in the figures is simultaneously educational and entertaining.
While the stained glass is beautiful and the presentations are enlightening, we especially appreciated the high quality of the video work. Not only are viewers treated to HD cinematography of the stained glass of St. Mary of the Woods, as well as the pristine church building, but the episodes also present historical artworks related to the events surrounding each story. These include hand drawn illustrations from previous centuries, brilliant frescoes, early photographs, and more.
The entire series is free to watch on the St. Mary of the Woods (@smowcatholic) YouTube page. Their playlist even includes behind the scenes footage of the filming, which gives a quaint look at their recording process. They also provide recordings of the music used in the episodes, so viewers can enjoy the soundtrack even after they finish the series. Start watching today.