Father Methodius has been designing stained glass for nearly 50 years.
The monastery stained glass department designs and manufactures stained glass
mainly for churches with a limited amount created for residential and/or commercial use.
THE STAINED GLASS:
Possibly as early as 1134 and certainly by 1151 there were Cistercian statutes proscribing the use of stained glass in their churches. In place of the figural, colored windows of that era, the monks developed Cistercian "grisaille," clear or white or gray-tinted glass with strictly geometric or stylized floral designs. These prohibitions were not primarily an economy measure, to ensure poverty, but rather tied in with the attempt to create a physical environment in accord with, and capable of furthering, the Order's spiritual goal - contemplation. Instead of distracting the mind with images, the Cistercian imageless patterns would free the mind from obstacles to contemplation. Today one might say the grisaille functioned as mandalas, providing emblems and abstract forms for the monks' meditation.
As in the case of the church itself, the community was able to find its own way, so that the resultant glass program clearly reflects the community's life. The financial situation required that if there was to be stained glass, the monks would have to make it themselves. One of their number learned the craft and taught the technique to fellow-monks. A basic plan was developed which was simple enough for non-artists to produce, so that several members of the community could become involved. Each window had a set number of pieces of each color, but the specific arrangement of the pieces was decided by the individual monk responsible for it, working a few hours a day over a period of weeks. In this way, individual personalities found expression within a communal effort. And each window does have its own character, a fact that becomes ever clearer the more one gazes on them. The windows thus shared in the unique Conyers' experience of community, that is, the character of this monastic family, is due in great part to the experience of building the whole complex from ground up with its own labor.
The visible results of the project suggest this community's part in the wider complex of Cistercian life through the centuries. For although the design of the windows appears to the casual visitor as "modern," and no doubt does reflect the taste of the nineteenth century grisaille glass is striking. The reliance on geometric patterns, a restricted number of patterns repeated again and again throughout the church, produces the same effect as that intended by the grisaille - the windows are non-distracting, they calm, they predispose to contemplation. Blues predominate in the nave, recalling the European cathedrals of the high Middle Ages and thus Conyers' participation in the continuity of the faith. The sanctuary, by contrast, is flooded with golden light due to the use there exclusively of white, yellow, orange, and red glass, but again with the same forms. The contrast focuses attention on the Eucharist within the tabernacle and on the daily concelebrated Mass as the central act of active worship.
The windows manifest the essence of the monastic community in yet another way. The dominant motif of the clerestory windows is a trapezoidal figure repeated over and over again in various shades of blue and rose. The source of this motif is found in the Salve (or Lady) window over the main altar, a work designed by an outside artist and executed by the monks before the other glass was planned. This window, an image of Our Lady holding the enthroned Christ Child and overshadowed by symbols of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, can therefore be seen as the artistic generator of the major stained glass program of the church. The color scheme of the whole church also relates to this window. As the worshipers' eyes are drawn toward it, so, too, do the colors in the church progress toward it. Starting in the back, the western rose window echoes the Salve window's luminosity by its gems of red; the blues in the nave windows reflect it; in the transepts the high narrow windows join their reds and yellows to it; and the yellows and oranges are then joined to it in full array in the sanctuary.
Such repetition of basic simple motifs stands firmly in the Cistercian artistic tradition. Artistic practice here also proclaims a spiritual truth. Just as the Lady Window motif is related to the whole building, so, too, does the spiritual reality imaged there of the Mother of God, the Contemplator par excellence, permeate the life being led in the community. And the symbol of the Holy Spirit interpreted there in glass is affirmation of His action within this monastery whose members continue to be attentive to His guidance.
When Atlanta's first suburban Catholic church was planned in the nineteen fifties, its pastor - a friend of the community as were so many of the diocesan priests by then - requested the monks who had already furnished their own church with a distinguished display of stained glass, to craft two windows for St. Thomas More Church. That done, the requests started coming in and continue to this day. Monastery glass can be found in numerous religious and secular buildings throughout the region. The monastery stained glass business started out in this fashion.
For information, contact: Father Methodius (770) 922-5933