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New book shines a light on massive Calgary stained glass collection

Western Canada’s largest collection of stained glass windows is being commemorated in a new local book.

The illustrated work focuses in on the cultural and historical significance of the artwork – some of it in place for more than 100 years.

It was born out of a conversation between two Calgary congregants.

“We said, ‘we’ve got these beautiful windows, and yes, we’ve got information about these windows, but the information is in different spots,'” co-editor Catherine Evamy said. “We at least need a map.”

That map project quickly grew, and last month, Evamy and Frits Pannekoek published The Stained Glass of Christ Church and St. Stephen’s.

The project details dozens of windows in two churches.

Some are more than a century old, illustrating religious symbols and faith. Others are more contemporary, focusing instead on the donors and modern Calgarians, rather than figures from the Bible.

“They show the march of history and the unfolding of beliefs, whatever shape they might take,” Evamy said.

“These days, it’s more about a feeling that that window will portray to whoever is looking at it,” artist Crosby Haight told CTV News.

“It can be interpreted in so many different ways that affect each member of the congregation – or the public – as they view it.”

Crosby and his father, David Haight, are responsible for some of the newer pieces inside Elbow Park’s Christ Church Anglican.

Their stained glass studio is the last of its kind in Calgary and currently mainly focuses on restoration, as demand for the artwork has waned.

“Now, the churches are sort of the bastions or the safeguard of the art of stained glass,” Crosby said.

“Excuse the pun,” David said, “but thank God for churches. They are the keeper.”

BUILDING TO LAST

Most pieces done by the Haights takes between six and eight months to finish.

“The steps of doing stained glass are completing the design, and then converting it into pieces that can be cut in glass,” David explained. “The pieces will join one to one, just like putting a puzzle together.”

Throughout the years, the technique has changed and evolved. Once done entirely by hand, machines now steer a lot of the process.

“You aren’t really painting on glass,” he said. “You’re actually illuminating light passing through the glass, and those tonal changes is what you end up with.”

Those changes are marked in the new literature.

The book speaks about the significance of stained glass in art and architecture since ancient times.

It’s seen as even more important now, as more and more manufacturing plants shutter and the prices of materials – when available – increase dramatically.

Crosby calls it a dying art, something he hopes is memorialized forever through the building and its new book.

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