St. Albert the Great Catholic Church

Austin, Texas

International Design Arts Award
Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art & Architecture/American Institute of Architects

Artist Citation Award
American Institute of Architects/Texas Society of Architects

Stained Glass Magazine, Spring 2015
Stained Glass Association of America

Architect: Negrete & Kolar Architects, Austin, TX; Roger Kolar, AIA

Liturgical Design Consultant: Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, Albuquerque, NM; Robert D. Habiger, AIA

24.3' w. by 24.3' h.

Fourteen Stations of the Cross
3.0' w. by 3.0' h. each

This veil-like stained glass reredos separates a soaring, bright sanctuary from a chapel hidden in plain sight behind the altar.

The warm, open, yet contemplative worship space at St. Albert the Great is rendered in native stone, exposed wood beams, slate tile, natural light and antiphonal seating. Resurrection creates a sense of spatial flow between Nave and Blessed Sacrament Chapel while preserving privacy and separation between. Access into the chapel is through doors tucked in the recessed space between the freestanding stained glass and the stone wall behind.

Resurrection’s nearly achromatic palette remains alive whether viewed from Nave or Chapel, day or night. Seen in  transmitted light from inside the chapel, white opal glasses become amber-tinged echoes of surrounding wood and stone. Front-lighting (common in the Nave during the day) reveals the reflectivity of the opals. Textured clears provide sparkling, veil-like glimpses into the chapel. The one exception to an otherwise achromatic palette are dichroic glass accents that stream down from above connoting God’s presence (or is it prayers and supplications flowing upward?). Depending on point of view, the dichroic accents shift from golden mirror to magenta, blue or green.

Resurrection is the thematic culmination of the jewel-like Fourteen Stations of the Cross Windows located along the sides of the Nave (the 14th Station depicts the laying of the body of Christ into the tomb). Resurrection was inspired by the butterfly, an early Christian symbol of resurrection. In its lower sections a “landscape” of clear, textured glass represents the empty tomb as chrysalis or cocoon underscoring our fleeting time on Earth. Emerging upwards is a diaphanous butterfly of wispy opal and other white glasses. This sparkling glass backdrop for the Mass changes dramatically as one moves from bright front-lighting in the Nave into quieter, amber-tinted backlighting in the Chapel.

AN ASIDE: Fr. Albert Palermo, St. Albert’s appropriately named founding pastor retired shortly after the dedication of the new church. He was a joy to work with even if he couldn’t quite understand the color representation of Resurrection. In the rendering clear, colorless glasses were shown as gray in order to differentiate them from the while glasses. This bothered Fr. Al. He called more than a few times (sometimes late in the evening) to reiterate his nagging concerns about the “gray” glass. Then, on the first day of the stained glass installation, I came down off of the scaffolding to stand back and check the alignment of the stained glass. Deep in narcissistic contemplation, I was startled by a tug on my shirt sleeve. Fr. Al was standing behind me with tears in his eyes and a big smile.  He finally understood.  “This is going to be wonderful!” he whispered.   I got teary too. . .

Read Resurrection: A Stained Glass Reredos in “Stained Glass” magazine.

Materials: German, French & Domestic Mouthblown Glass; Machine- and Hand-rolled Glass; Dichroic Glass; Lead; Solder.