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Theology Stained Glass Window Restoration

Theology Stained Glass Window Restoration

The University of Winnipeg is pleased to announce the successful restoration of its historic stained glass window Theology, Queen of Sciences Surrounded by Faith, Love, Hope, Wisdom, Moral Conduct, Humility, and Love of Learning. A reception to mark the restoration launched the University’s Artsfest, a campus-wide celebration of art and culture. It took place on September 21, 2015 in the Chapel located on the main floor of Bryce Hall, followed by a performance featuring faculty from the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts.

Theology was designed in 1892-93 by esteemed British artist Henry George Holiday (1839-1927) upon commission by John M. King, the first Principal of the University’s founding Manitoba College. Originally located in the Convocation Hall of Manitoba College, the window was installed above the main entrance to Bryce Hall when it opened in 1951, where it has resided until the present day. This significant artwork has been lovingly restored by Prairie Stained Glass and Yarrow Sash and Door thanks, in part, to generous funding provided by the Government of Manitoba’s Heritage Grants Program, thereby ensuring its preservation for current and future generations of Manitobans.

Holiday used traditional stained glass techniques of pot-metal and slab glass to create a design that features allegorical figures embodying four key virtues and five areas of study. The central figure represents Theology (Theologia), said by the artist to be the “focus of all knowledge.” Above her are the three cardinal virtues of Faith (Fides), Charity (Caritas), Hope (Spes), and below her sits Humility (Humilitas). She is flanked on the left by Philosophy (Philosophia) and History (Historia), and on the right by Science (Scientia) and Art (Ars). The design represents a popular conception of the time that these disciplines existed primarily to advance theology by studying the relationship between God and nature.  Bordering the main image is a series of 24 roundels, each depicting either a stylized blue design of waves/drapery, or cherubs, which are believed to represent God’s heavenly sphere.

Known for his close association with a number of Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Dante Gabriel Rosetti and William Morris, Holiday was a prominent English painter and designer of stained glass. Working at the large stained-glass firm James Powell & Sons as the head designer from 1862 until 1891, Holiday helped improve the firm’s quality and reputation of its stained-glass before establishing his own workshop in Hampstead, England in 1891. Influenced by the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Holiday strove to employ traditional stained-glass techniques, which can be seen in the Theology window. Holiday’s workshop developed a reputation for extremely high quality work - his windows are considered to be among the best stained-glass produced during the Victorian era. His workshop created windows for dozens of churches and educational institutions across the United Kingdom and North America. First travelling to the United States and Canada in 1890, it is believed that this is when he picked up the commission for Manitoba College.

The window’s donor, Dr. John Mark King, was a leading educator in 19th century Winnipeg and a noted philanthropist. Born in Scotland, King immigrated to Upper Canada in 1856. He taught at Toronto’s Knox College for many years, was the first recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the College, and was chosen as moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1882. The following year, King was appointed as the first Principal of Manitoba College, an institution which aided in establishing both The University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. King was successful in expanding the College in 1892 which is when the plan for the window was conceived. He donated Theology in memory of his wife, Janet Skinner King, who had died in 1886.   

The restoration of Theology took place between September, 2014 and April, 2015 and involved the expertise of several artists and contractors. The window was removed from its location by Prairie Stained Glass and taken to their studio. The lead caming that held the glass pieces together had reached the end of its life span, so it was removed and replaced with new caming. Several pieces of glass had cracked and were repaired. Other glass pieces had paint on them that had begun to flake off – the result of an improperly executed restoration that likely took place when the window was moved into Bryce Hall in 1951. These pieces were re-created using appropriate techniques and remaining true to the colour palette of the original work of art. The wood frame that surrounded the window was rotten as a result of decades of direct exposure to the elements on the building’s exterior. Yarrow Sash and Door’s woodworkers created a new mahogany frame for the window. The company also provided a protective, sealed glazing unit that covers the window and its frame to prevent the reoccurrence of exposure to the elements and to any moisture damage to the work. After careful reinstallation and repairs to the building’s vestibule roof above which the window sits, this beautiful work of cultural heritage will be appreciated by the University community and its visitors for many years to come.

The University of Winnipeg is grateful to The Province of Manitoba’s Heritage Grants Program for providing financial assistance for the restoration of Theology. We also wish to acknowledge Mike Thul (Director of Physical Plant, The University of Winnipeg, Project Manager); Harald Weigeldt (Physical Plant, The University of Winnipeg); Matthew McMillan and his staff (Prairie Stained Glass); Mick Neufeld and his staff (Yarrow Sash and Door); Mark Taylor and Tony Pukalo and their staff (Insight and Norwin Roofing); and Eric Napier Strong and Sarah Brereton (Gallery 1C03 interns).

A public event marking the restoration of the Theology stained glass window took place on September 21, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. in the Chapel located on the main floor of Bryce Hall. Speakers included Hon. Ron Lemieux, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport, and Consumer Protection; The University of Winnipeg President Dr. Annette Trimbee; and Assistant Professor in the History of Art Dr. Claire Labrecque.  A brief performance featuring featuring faculty from the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts followed.