Extending more than 65 feet in height, the north and south Te Deum windows are the tallest stained glass windows in the Cathedral, and mark the transition from the Great Choir to the High Altar.
The two windows, designed by Earl Edward Sanborn and installed in 1932, are based on an interpretation of Te Deum Laudamus, a hymn of praise and thanksgiving that dates to the fourth century and is often incorporated in the service of Morning Prayer.
Unlike many of the clerestory windows that use larger pieces of colored glass to create figures and images readable from the floor of the Nave, the Te Deum windows use refined painted glass techniques with copious amounts of detail to depict martyrs, prophets and apostles (north window) and the spread of Christianity (south window).
Due to their size and age, the windows had deteriorated and were no longer waterproof. Much of the putty that sealed the gaps between the glass and lead caming had deteriorated or disappeared, and many of the panels had started to deflect.
After a competitive bidding process, the New Jersey-based Femenella & Associates was selected to restore the north Te Deum window, and Virginia-based Goldkuhle Studios was chosen to restore the south Te Deum window.
The artisans crated the panels and shipped them to their respective studios in October 2014. The most challenging components to remove were the pieces of the four-point quatrefoils due to their unusual and irregular shapes.
At the two studios, the windows were uncrated, documented and fully disassembled. Glass was removed from existing lead caming and fully cleaned. The panels were then reassembled and prepared for their return to the Cathedral in July 2015. Once the windows were fully reinstalled, an exterior water test found that both windows were adequately sealed.
The twin windows now have a new radiance, and the refined imagery that was previously difficult to detect from the ground resonates with new clarity. The Te Deum set in glass is prepared for celebrating praise and thanksgiving for another century.
Isaiah Window Replacement
The earthquake scaffolding also enabled the Cathedral to close a 43-year journey to complete the Isaiah window. Located in the eighth bay of the clerestory level high above the Nave, the four lancets of this 15-by-29 foot window depict the stories of Isaiah and Micah.
The outer two lancets are abstract in design but complement the two inner panels in color.
Cathedral artisan Rowan LeCompte was commissioned by the Cathedral in 1972 to design the Isaiah window, the first of 18 clerestory windows he would design in the nave.
Work on LeCompte’s signature piece, the West Rose window, put the Isaiah window on hold, but by 1981, the window was completed by Greenland Studio, installed and approved by the Cathedral’s Building Committee.
Soon after, concerns arose that the darkness of the window made the imagery unreadable. Those concerns led to conversations with LeCompte about making adjustments. In 2004, LeCompte was contracted to make refinements and provide full-scale cartoons to illustrate recommendations prior to implementing any adjustments.
After the cartoons were approved in 2006, LeCompte began working with Dieter Goldkuhle to fabricate the “refined,” or replacement, windows. In 2009, after fabricating three of the replacement lancets and cutting glass for the fourth, Goldkuhle transferred the fabrication to Mary Clerkin Higgins, who completed the assembly.
Although the window fabrication was completed in 2010, a Cathedral review committee noted that there several unacceptable deviations from the approved cartoon. The 2011 earthquake put an indefinite hold on both the installation and approval process, and LeCompte died in February 2014 before those issues were able to be fully resolved.
In October 2014, with the interior earthquake scaffolding in place, the Cathedral reviewed the Isaiah replacement window in place, or “in situ.” The original two outer lancets were installed by Mary Clerkin Higgins. Climbing 65 feet above the Nave floor, five members of the Cathedral’s Facilities and Fine Arts Committee reviewed the installation, and unanimously agreed that the hybrid mixture of the new interior replacement panels with the original darker outer panels was not acceptable, and requested that Higgins install the two remaining replacement panels.
After all four replacement panels were installed, the Facilities and Fine Arts Committee approved the full installation, and the Cathedral Chapter vote to formally accept the window.