Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beautiful Missouri: Saints and Sinners in Stained Glass

When I started this blog, my purpose was to post about writing, books, publishing, and life’s sweet mysteries – and to avoid politics and divisive or controversial topics.

But the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri – just twenty miles away from my home – are impossible to ignore.

However, rather than commenting on the heartbreaking situation and disturbing images coming out of Ferguson, I’ve decided to post some beautiful images that can be found in my beloved home state of Missouri.

Earlier this summer, my sister Kathleen and I took a day trip through Osage County. Our tour was called “Gospels in Glass,” which included traveling to several churches in Osage County -- and one across the county line in Maries County.

Sacred Heart, Rich Fountain
Our on-the-bus tour guides were Ken Luebbering and Robyn Burnett, whose guide book, “Gospels in Glass: Stained Glass Windows in Missouri Churches,” published by Pebbles Publishing, was included in our tour price. Pebbles Publishing, a small press located in Rocheport, specializes in books about Missouri heritage, travel and adventure.

The 144-page Gospels in Glass depicts stained glass windows in churches and synagogues throughout Missouri—from Cape Girardeau to St. Joseph; St. Louis to Kansas City; and St. Patrick to Carthage.

During our trip, we got a sampling of the many artistic displays in the book, as well others not found in the book. We also learned about the rich history of German settlements in Missouri; Ken and Robyn also wrote German Settlement in Missouri: New Land, Old Ways (University of Missouri Press).

St. Gertrude
We learned about iconography and symbolism, techniques for creating stained glass, snippets of information about the artists, and some history of the Emil Frei Company in St. Louis, which is known nationally and internationally for its stained glass craftsmanship.

Churches included in our tour were:

* Sacred Heart Church in Rich Fountain, founded in 1838. The parish’s German and farming heritage was evident by windows of German saints, such as St. Gertrude, the patron saint invoked against rodents. 

Standing at the front of the high altar, Ken explained the significance of the Sacrifice of Melchizedek and “Abraham’s Sacrifice” on opposite sides of the altar. 
St. Joseph, Westphalia

Draped over the wooden pews were the hand-made quilts that were to be auctioned off at the parish picnic.

* St. Joseph in Westphalia, with stained glass windows of many saints, including: St. Hubert, St. Conrad with the spider on his chalice, and St. Herman holding the Christ Child. 

We learned about the legend of the pelican and significance of sacrifice in church iconography, not just Catholic, but also Protestant.

* Holy Family in Freeburg, called the “The Cathedral of the Ozarks,” which, we were told by the pastor, is the last church in Missouri with Twin Spires. 

Holy Family
The abstract representations of grapes and wheat allowed vibrant light to flow through the windows.

* Visitation Church in Vienna in Maries County, with its less-traditional windows that are technically different from those earlier in the day.Although several of the windows were out for repairs, the ones we saw were lovely.

This is just a small sample of the beautiful images throughout Missouri, although I’m certain if you look, you can find beauty everywhere – not only in churches, stained glass windows, or handmade quilts, but also in nature – and in residents of the Show Me State.
Visitation, Maries County

How about you? Where can you find some beautiful images in Missouri?



  1. What a lovely trip for you! I am just learning of my German side so this was very interesting. Thanks.

  2. Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri is a beautiful, tranquil place. (You should get a carload together sometime and go for the weekend.

    Thinking about something beautiful and peaceful--for a moment--was nice. Thanks, Donna.

  3. Hi Claudia,
    Trips like this inspire me while calming my soul.

    Hi Sioux,
    I've wanted to go to Conception for some time. And I've been thinking about you lately and praying things go well with you and your students.

  4. Beautiful, Donna. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Missouri has some of the most beautiful rivers and streams you can find anywhere. The St. Francis is just one example.

    Critter Alley

  6. It's a shame that the recent violence gives the world such a skewed picture of a state I've loved since I moved here in 1989 (and again in 2001 after a couple of years away). Your beautiful pictures and descriptions celebrate so much that is good. Thank you for that.

  7. Whatever things are lovely and pure, think about them.

  8. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Pat,
    I haven't been on the St. Francis River, but I'd like to check it out.

    Hi Tammy,
    It truly is a shame. I'm glad you love Missouri. It really is a beautiful state.

    Hi Marcia,
    How true!

  9. From the time I was a little girl with my legs not even long enough to dangle off a pew, I can recall staring wondrously at stained glass church windows. Your post is calming.

  10. Beautiful post and pictures. I love the quilts.

  11. What splendid churches you have in MO. I love the photos of the awesome stained-glass windows. They are so beautiful and colorful. Thanks for sharing something that inspires and lifts my spirit.

  12. What a beautiful post. My brother-in-law works at Frei and now my daughter does too! She is a mosaicist - and there are some beautiful works of mosaic in a lot of churches too... well especially the New Cathedral. I think the project she has been hired to work on is for a hospital. Of course, all the beautiful 250th anniversary birthday cakes are beautiful too. I don't know if they are doing it in all areas, but I've recently noticed that the big ole gray electrical (? I'm guessing they are electrical for maybe stop lights) boxes that are on the side of roads, are now being painted with beautiful scenes. I think that is really cool. Sending out positive versus negative is always a good, uplifting thing to do!

  13. Thank you for this beautiful post, Donna. I love stained glass; for some reason, it always manages to comfort my soul. It's not just the idea of church and silence. There is something timeless about all that light and color, as if beauty and history and art are coming together and inviting us into their mystery for just this little while.

  14. Hi Linda,
    Thank you! This area has some beautiful churches.

    Hi Janet,
    The quilts are even more lovely in person.

    Hi Brenda,
    Thank you! I'm happy you found comfort after reading the post.

    Hi Lynn,
    That's great that your brother-in-law and daughter work for the Frei Company. I've gone on several tours where the guides have pointed out the beauty and detail of the Frei Company. One guide told us you can tell Frei work from others by the faces.

    Hi Theresa,
    You are welcome. I agree; it is comforting and there is a timelessness about light and color. Your comment is lovely!


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