I live in a small country town in Australia, called Yass. Our parish was the first Catholic Mission outside of Sydney and is currently celebrating its 180th anniversary. The current church was built in the 1950s, but across the road is the original church, now known as the Lovatt Chapel after the first parish priest. The Chapel, after being renovated a few times in the past and quite recently has been restored more or less to its original state, albeit a bit simpler. However, it still has the original and very beautiful stained glass windows of the crucifixion behind the Altar, as well as side windows decorated with many saints I noticed today that the different saints have different colored halos. For example, most saints have gold or white coloured halos, but some have red or blue. On the window depicting Saint Thomas putting his hand into the side of Jesus, Our Lord’s halo is gold with red embellishments. Is this purely a decorative feature or do the colours symbolise different things? I thought perhaps the red halos could indicate matyrdom? Any insights would be appreciated.
Hi Pat! It would be nice if you can share photos if your churches.
It is a way to get to know churches all over the world.
About stained glasses,artists usually have their own explanations in my experience. At least in our church there was an explanation ( maybe in one of the bulletins,I cannot remember)of what the artist meant by each and every detail in the stained glasses we had. Very pretty and interesting.
The meaning and interpretation of liturgical art and architecture varies slightly depending upon the source of origin. There are various different art traditions when it comes to stained glass: German, French, Italian, etc. The exact interpretation is usually dependent upon where the glass was manufactured.
There are a few overarching details which are usually present regardless of the style of origin. Unless Christ is the only figure in the window who has a halo, Christ’s halo is almost always different from Saints. Many times this is depicted as a cross imposed in the halo behind the head. While not as common, when the Father is depicted, there is sometimes a triangle imposed on His halo. In the case of the Holy Spirit, the imposed image is more varied: fire, an olive branch, dove wings, etc. The imposition of a symbol upon the halo in western liturgical art many times infers divinity. Mary, too, is often time depicted with a more ornate halo than the other Saints, sometimes almost nearing the level of decoration of Christ’s own halo. This is not necessarily to depict that she, herself is divine, but rather to denote that she carried the Son within her womb and was the human who had the closest relationship to Christ.
Red halos do sometimes indicate martyrdom and it is possible that blue halos denote a special connection to Mary, although this last one is pure speculation as I have never seen a blue halo. It is also possible that it may connote a special relationship with that Saint to water, like St. Brendan the Navigator, or the Saint’s country of origin, like a green halo for St. Patrick.
These pics are from outside because it’s night time. Ill send nicer ones from inside tomorrow morning.
There doesn’t seem to be a correlation in these stained glass between the color of the halo and the Saint. While St. Stephen, as the first martyr, has a red halo, so does St. Ambrose, who is not a martyr. I think the name below the Saint with a blue halo is ‘St. Jerome’ (I may be wrong, I had to some editing to the photo to make out the name). The closest thing I can think of as a Marian connection would be that he did the translation of the Vulgate in a cave below the Church of the Nativity, where Mary gave birth to the Christ.
In New York City there’s church run by Dominicans called St. Vincent Ferrer. The saints in the windows all have golden halos, but there is one man with a silver one: Aristotle! (it’s hard to see, but he is top left below)
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