Menu Contact/Location

Windows to the spirit

By Kellie B. Gormly
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

When the Rev. Ron Fleming strolls through his sanctuary at Mifflin Avenue Methodist Church, his 1924 stained-glass display of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane sparkles like a brilliant kaleidoscope in the afternoon sun.
“When the afternoon sun comes through, it is just spectacular. It lights the whole sanctuary,” says Fleming, 52, pastor of the congregation of about 400 members in Wilkinsburg. He says he is reminded of the center of his Christian faith as he views the pre-crucifixion garden display and the towering stained-glass resurrection scene, which looms to the right of the pulpit as he preaches.

This church’s opalescent works by J. Horace Rudy, a stained-glass wizard from 1890s Pittsburgh, are among four displays featured on Sunday’s Stained Glass Masterpieces 1890-1930 bus tour. The three-hour tour — sponsored jointly by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Solutions program as part of their regular city architectural tours — will escort participants to the four landmark buildings that contain some of the city’s ornamental and stained-glass crowning glories.

Al Tannler, historical collections director for the foundation, will conduct the tour and explain the history behind the sparkle of the stained-glass windows — but all people have to do, he says, is come and look to appreciate the creations.

“Anything I can say to these people is nothing compared to what they’re going to see,” he says. “These are real buildings and real places.

“(Stained glass) is a living art because of the way the light affects the colors and the shapes and what you see.”

Tannler’s tour has another stop in Wilkinsburg: St. James Roman Catholic Church, which has glass works from Boston artist Harry Wright Goodhue and The D’Ascenzo Studios in Philadelphia. The other two churches are in Shadyside: Calvary Episcopal Church, which has glass from several artists including Charles J. Connick of Boston, and First United Methodist Church, whose glass artists are Ford and Brooks of Boston and Edward P. Sperry of Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co. in New York.

Connick, who grew up in Pittsburgh and created the Heinz Chapel glass, recalled “the radiant splendors that struck me dumb” when he first entered Rudy’s stained glass studio in 1894, Tannler says.

Rudy and Connick are examples of brilliant opalescent glass artists from Pittsburgh, where some of the best glass from the time was made, Tannler says.

“People tend to not realize that what they have in their back yard is good and is of value,” he says. “(Stained glass) is really important stuff.”

Fleming has a similar feeling of awe about Rudy’s work, almost 80 years later.

“The hours and meticulous nature of this just amazes me,” he says, running his hand over the aging but still shining glass.

Sparkling, historical glass displays not only have a significant role in the city’s past, but they provide delightful eye candy, Tannler says.

“This is a very vibrant medium. It’s not static,” he says. “You’re not looking at something that is just on the wall; you’re looking at something that interacts with the light and changes. It really is showing how two generations used this ancient product of sand and ash colored by minerals and created this extraordinary artwork.”

Kellie B. Gormly can be reached at or (412) 320-7824.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633