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ARLINGTON — The Rev. Dominic Garramone, O.S.B., is known for his baking that landed him a PBS show. But in addition to making and breaking bread, Garramone, a monk at St. Bede, has a passion for photographing stained glass windows.
And he has found some of the finest stained glass art in small-town and rural churches. Tiny towns like Bradford and Cullom have some of the most interesting stained-glass windows in the Peoria Diocese. Like those two, the St. Patrick’s church in Arlington has stained glass that Garramone considers phenomenal.
When those churches were built, lives centered around the churches in small towns, Garramone notes. Often settlers in country parishes or immigrants made sure the church was beautiful and had “absolutely gorgeous” windows.
“The windows at Saint Pat’s are among the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere and certainly among the very best in the diocese,” Garramone says of the tiny Arlington parish, which has ordered a set of photographs by Garramone for cards to sell for the church’s sesquicentennial.
“They were created by the Tyrolese Art Glass Co. in Austria. The Tyrolese Art Glass Co. (Tiroler Glasmalerei und Mosaik-Anstalt) provided many windows for the American market from the late 1870s until the beginning of World War I,” Garramone wrote in an e-mail reply to the NewsTribune. “It continues at Innsbruck today, under the direction of Konrad Mader, a descendant of one of its founders.
“The same studio did the windows at Saints Peter and Paul Church in St. Charles, Mo.. Some additional windows in the sanctuary were made by the Dublin School.”
When he has a chance to travel through work or has a chance to take a day away, he travels to parishes he hasn’t visited. He enjoys collecting pictures of stained glass, whether it’s in big-city cathedrals or small towns in the diocese. He’s considering making a book out of his window photos collection.
“The Abbey Press has a variety of cards with stained glass images, many of them for Christmas. Some are from local churches (Holy Rosary, Saint Mary’s, Holy Family, St. Benedict’s), some from other churches in the diocese (St. Dominic’s in Wyoming, St. John’s chapel at U of I, Sacred Heart in Moline) and still others from all around the Midwest,” Garramone says. “Since I’m often in the St. Louis area on business, I have a lot of images from churches there. I collect pictures of stained glass the way other people collect shot glasses from truck stops and airports.”
Not all churches have windows that tell a story. Some have round stained-glass windows with geometric or ornate designs. Some scenes that depict Bible stories were mass produced. Sometimes Garramone sees evidence the stained glass artist and/or installer were apprentices, because they’re not exactly square or perpendicular.
He calls the windows at Arlington “amazing” — one window in particular.
“The windows include one image which is utterly unique in my experience: Jesus taking leave of his mother Mary in order to begin his public ministry (pictured),” he said. “There are a few paintings by the Old World Masters and at least one engraving by Durer with this theme, but I’ve never seen it in stained glass anywhere else. I’m impressed with how the artist has managed to capture Mary’s expression so perfectly.
“You can tell that on the inside she’s thinking ‘Darling, do you have to go?’ But she is saying nothing because she knows that he must.”
He found a similar level of artistry on the University of Illinois campus.
“St. John’s chapel at the U of I has a window of John the Apostle taking Mary into his home after the crucifixion,” he said. “She’s weeping, Mary Magdalene is comforting her and he’s looking across the empty valley and seeing the three crosses…”’
Shortly after St. Bede Abbey stopped serving at St. Patrick’s, Garramone called the pastor to ask if he could take some pictures. The pastor assisted Garramone for one photo by pulling the hanging lights out of the way. Later, Ruth Pommier asked if he could provide some photos for the parish for the church’s sesquicentennial.
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