LYNN — As the sun rises and sets, it sends rays of light through the stained glass windows at St. Stephen’s Memorial Episcopal Church from different angles, the rooms glow with a variety of colors.
“It’s one of my favorite things,” church music director, Bruce Beecroft said. “Sometimes the church will be amber and a lot of times there is a red streak coming down the center aisle.”
The church opened its doors to the public for tours on Saturday as part of LynnArts week, with information about the church’s history and its many stained glass windows.
Rick Cloran, who is a member of the Greater Lynn Photographic Association and has a collection of photographs of the windows, can speak to their history and significance.
“These are the oldest ecclesiastical windows in the country that we know of,” he said.
St. Stephen’s was built in 1881 by businessman Enoch Redington Mudge in memory of his daughter, Fannie Olive Mudge, and his son, Lt. Col. Charles Redington Mudge, who died in the Battle of Gettysburg.
“He wanted the best he could find when it came to the stained glass windows,” said Irene Axelrod, an assistant to the church historian.
Mudge found Tiffany Studios in New York, founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany, to create the windows, according to Axelrod and Cloran.
Tiffany created 41 pieces for the church, including 19 double-glazed windows, which contain both an interior and exterior window.
“The double window creates depth to the piece,” Cloran said.
Two of the double-paned pieces include “The Annunciation” and “The Ascension,” both designed by famous sculpture Augustus Saint Gaudens.
“Through our research we have found that these are the only windows he ever designed,” Axelrod said.
These pieces would have cost $4,000 to create at the time.
Another unique technique Tiffany first used in these windows is the process of eliminating the use of paint, Cloran said. In the earlier works, the artist used paint on the glass. But at St. Stephen’s, each piece of glass was made to be specifically in the color needed.
Members from the studio would create formulas containing minerals to put into the melted glass in order to create their color.
“Tiffany would create hundreds of different colors and choose from what he thought was best,” Cloran said. “He truly painted through and with glass.”