Heart of Louisiana: "Holy Works of Art"

Updated: May. 7, 2013 at 9:45 PM CDT
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From the splendor of centuries-old churches to the simple beauty of a country house of worship, stained glass transforms sunlight into a gentle blend of colors.

Cynthia Courage says, "We're rich with it. It's everywhere. For some reason this area is pocketed with jewels of stained glass. In almost any congregation of any faith, you can walk in and find embellished windows."

Courage owns Attenhofers Stained Glass Studio in Metairie, and specializes in the restoration of historic stained glass. She says, "We have a little tiny crack here. We'll get the two to marry back up and we'll glue them back together. When we're finished with a piece, it's not supposed to show, in my opinion, that we've worked on it. I like to be seamless."

Stained glass has been a fixture in churches for nearly a thousand years. It's part of the great cathedrals of Europe such as Notre Dame and St. Chapelle, the church built by St. Louis in France. The colored glass panels tell religious stories.

Courage says, "They would educate the masses through these windows so that they really didn't have to know how to read. They could come to church and look at these windows and then through viewing the windows get a story."

While the stories are usually easy to spot, the amazing detail of these sacred images is only noticeable up close.

Courage says. "It's got the nice little lines like the little hairs that come right up, and then they shadowed it. This little bitty face has been backblushed and had a little bit of paintwork done to the hair."

Courage and her team of artists are restoring some of Louisiana's stained glass treasures. They've removed and are now restoring the colorful windows from the closed St. Maurice's Catholic Church in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.

Courage says, "We would pull the windows out and save them and then preserve them and put them on hold until maybe they came up with a plan for a future site."

There is a fire-damaged window depicting St. Vincent DePaul, a vandalized stained glass portrait of Joan of Arc, and broken-stained glass windows donated from a church in Philadelphia that will become a part of a new Catholic church in Kenner.

Courage says, "When we're preserving something, it's about trying to hold on to our treasures. And these are gifts. I have a deep respect for what we work on."

These colorful windows deserve a much closer look to appreciate the skill and detail that goes into these holy works of art.

In addition to their work on religious stained glass windows, Attenhofers Stained Glass Studio in Metairie also creates and restores embellished glass for homes and businesses. For more information, go online to http://www.attenhofers.com.