Friday, September 4, 2015

First Presbyterian Church of Topeka - Stained Glass

Across the street from the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka is the First Presbyterian Church of Topeka. From the outside there is nothing that particularly sets it apart, but from the inside looking out, it contains a treasure-trove of stained glass that is some of the most beautiful I've seen anywhere. 
First Presbyterian Church of Topeka. Picture from here
The building was completed in 1884. The Tiffany windows were installed in 1911 for $14,000. I can't imagine what they are worth now. As the church website says, they are "irreplaceable." They are made of Favrile glass, an iridescent art glass designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, patented in 1894 and first produced in 1896. It is "different from other iridescent glasses because its color is not just on the surface, but embedded in the glass." (Wikipedia, Favrile glass)  The colors are produced by adding cobalt, gold, copper, manganese and other metal oxides and enhanced by modifying surface textures, layering glass or wrinkling the surface. No paint, enamels or stains were used. Tiffany went to Topeka to see the church before drawing sketches, later sent watercolor sketches for approval and then was on hand for construction. 
Inside the chapel without any lights on.
The altar with the lights on.
A non-Tiffany window above the altar.
Chi (X) and Rho (P) superimposed on each other are the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ. This was the symbol used by the Emperor Constantine as part of his military standard. 
Behind the altar.
The Kansas Capitol building dome from a church window. 
A large stained glass window - perhaps of Jesus ascending into heaven after his resurrection? But this big picture doesn't really do it justice. You have to break it into photos of its smaller parts. The next four pictures show fragments of this bigger picture: (1) Jesus attended by angels; (2) Jerusalem below his feet; (3) the crowd to his right; and (4) the crowd to his left. 

This is part of a larger presentation of the manger scene. I found that pictures which included too much did not capture the texture and color very well. So I am including smaller pieces to capture the real beauty of the glass. Here Mary holds the infant Jesus while Joseph looks from behind. This picture, and the next few, are not part of the Tiffany collection, but windows from a side chapel.
To the right of the panel above was this panel of the wise men bringing gifts to the Christ-child. 
To the left of the panel of the first manger scene was this panel of the shepherds come to see the Christ-child. 
I'm intrigued by this one. It must be the presentation of Jesus in the temple: Mary on the left, Joseph on the right and the Jewish High Priest holding Jesus in the middle. 
The Annunciation - the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary.
A great depiction of the child Jesus bringing a board to his carpenter father. 
A small piece of a much larger scene of one of the Tiffany windows. Amazing colors and details. 
Detail and shading in the face, neck and hand. This is a smaller detail picture of the larger window below. Note how the larger picture just doesn't capture the color and detail. 
Foot details.
This face looks like it pre-figures hair styles in the 1920s. 
Jesus in a baptismal scene. John the Baptist is to his left out of this picture. The whole window is below and a larger picture of John the Baptist is below it. 

An angel - love the wings.
Another angel. I love that the angels are women. 
Amazing hair.
A close look reveals that the texture of this lamb's wool is enhanced by thick and undulating glass. 
This side view shows the differing thickness and layering of glass.
Another side view shows thick pieces of glass bulging out of the flat pane surface.
More bulging pieces of glass.
I love the colors in the center pane.
A panel of a wooded scene with a deer to the left. Details of a portion of the left panel and right panel follow.

Jesus and Mary after the resurrection?
I've not provided photos of many of the larger panels because the pictures don't do them justice. It is really only the small bits and pieces that reveal the majesty of the work. 


  1. It's hard to choose a favorite, but your photo of Christ's face at his baptism is beautiful. It is such a kind, tender face, and the same face is in all the depictions of Christ in the other Tiffany windows. The detail is really amazing.

  2. Wow! This is some of the most beautiful stained glass I've seen--I can't imagine how stunning it must be in person. The colors and textures are amazing.

  3. Angels don't have gender. Sorry.

    1. I guess it all depends on your religious tradition. In some traditions they do.

    2. The Angel Gabriel is definitely gender-specific....sorry Anonymous!