Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Connecting the Present with the Past - Page 14

T Bigelow Chapel’s Great Rose Window An E a rl y Sc o t t ish M as t e rw ork Res t o red By Meg L. Winslow Curator of Historical Collections 12 he recent restoration of the Great Rose Window has stabilized and restored an important work of Scottish-made stained glass. The window is among some of the oldest works of stained glass in our country and serves, once again, as an integral part of the Chapel’s design. One hundred seventy-three years ago, Jacob Bigelow commissioned the Great Rose Window for the south wall of the chapel he designed for Mount Auburn. In 1843, as part of a program of Cemetery improvements, embellishments, and enlargement, the board voted to erect a chapel described by Mount Auburn President Joseph Story as a “very desirable object…built in a chaste style and taste and of the most durable materials,” that would allow for “great addition and enlargement at a future period.” The following year, Bigelow submitted a sketch, proposing a romantic interpretation of the Gothic style that suited the Cemetery’s picturesque landscape. The design incorporated large colored and leaded glass windows on the north and south walls of his eponymous chapel. At the time, only a handful of glassmakers in the United States were capable of doing stained-glass work, and they lacked the capacity for a project of this scale. Great Britain, by contrast, was the place for stained glass. According to British author and professor Jim Cheshire, the aesthetics of the Gothic Revival, in conjunction with institutional support from the Church of England, led to a remarkable proliferation of stained glass in the United Kingdom. “The scale of Victorian stained-glass industry,” writes Cheshire, “was unprecedented and has not been equaled since.” To secure windows for his new chapel, therefore, Bigelow turned to Britain. He sought the advice of interior designer David Ramsay Hay, who designed Holyrood House for Queen Victoria. Hay recommended the Edinburgh firm of Ballantine and Allan, noting that “their work in brilliancy and harmony of color equals the best specimens of the antique and far exceeds them in symmetrical proportion.” The firm had recently received a prestigious commission from the Royal Commission of Fine Arts to create windows for the new House of Lords in London. Bigelow sent lithographic outlines of the windows to Ballantine and Allan, who immediately replied that they were “anxious to extend their reputation further and were exceedingly delighted to send a specimen of our ART to your interesting country.” Two magnificent windows by Ballantine and Allan were completed the following year and installed in the chapel at Mount Auburn. These large windows would be the firm’s third known commission and their first in the United States. The Great Rose Window is 12 feet in diameter, ornamental in style, and reminiscent of thirteenth-century prototypes. The overall design is based on medieval rose forms, which