Bombay archdiocese hosts seminar on beauty of stained glass

Bombay, India, Sep 27, 2013 / 12:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- To promote a revival of beautiful Christian art in India, the Archdiocese of Bombay has held a seminar on stained glass windows in local parishes, called “Windows of Faith.”

“Stained glass brings in an ambiance of prayerful atmosphere, fostering sacred meditative reflections, and recalling a memory of the spiritual history of the Church,” said Father Warner D'Souza, director of the Bombay Archdiocesan Heritage Museum.

Fr. D’Souza spoke with CNA ahead of the seminar, which was held Sept. 22 at St. Peter's parish in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai.

“We thought of training priests and our community of lay people,” he explained, “leading them to an awareness and a cognitive revival of Christian art in India.”

The seminar, which featured a talk by Swati Chandgadkar, an Indian expert on the restoration of stained glass, highlighted the Catholic Church's role in being a patron of art and the historical and cultural patrimony of mankind.

Stained glass was brought to India by Portuguese missionaries, and Chandgadkar is involved in restoring the windows of one missionary parish, Our Lady of Glory, in Mumbai's Byculla neighborhood.

Fr. D'Souza said that it is currently of paramount pastoral importance to protect the historical Catholic parishes, monumental churches which today are “bafflingly exchanged” for churches with cheap, shiny fiber or glass-colored art, which are chosen for their brightness and economical value.

This exchange, he said, is a “threat to sacred art” and is “destroying our cultural patrimony and heritage.”

The seminar, he said, was to make “our priests and laity aware of the importance of stained glass art,” because although “there are many Indo-Portuguese churches, we lack experts in this field in India.”

It is hoped that the seminar will help to reverse a trend of renovating parishes without regard for the heritage, historical value, and beauty of the original structure and art.

In 2011, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, opened a Museum of Christian Art, containing artifacts from the Christian history of the area, dating back to the first century. Fr. D'Souza related that Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Culture, had visited the museum and was impressed by the history of the Church in India.

Cardinal Gracias' decision to open the museum was inspired in part by a 1997 message of Blessed John Paul II, who said that “from archeological sites to the most modern expressions of Christian art, contemporary man must be able to re-read the Church's history, and thus be helped to recognize the mysterious fascination of God's saving plan.”

The late Roman Pontiff had himself established a group in 1989 to help make both clergy and laity more aware of the importance and the necessity of preserving the Church’s vast historic resources, entitled the Commission for the Preservation of the Artistic and Historical Patrimony of the Church.

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