GEORGETOWN—Rays of yellow, orange and blue light spill into St. Mary, Our Lady of Ransom Church when the sun hits the stained glass windows just right.
Some of the windows have cast their kaleidoscope of colors on parishioners for more than 100 years, but they are showing signs of wear. Some have cracked and buckled, while others rest in rotting frames. To ensure their beauty for generations to come, the parish plans to begin a $150,000 restoration project to repair and protect the iconic windows from future damage.
Though extra metal rods were installed to help support some windows, repairs are long overdue, said Father Ronald J. Farrell, church administrator.
“They had to be addressed before it really got out of hand,” said Bill Crimmins, a member of the restoration committee.
The restoration will involve removing 36 windows and taking them apart for cleaning and replacing broken bits. The original materials will remain intact, only damaged parts will be replaced, and they’ll be covered with a protective coating, Father Farrell said.
“The craftsmanship and the attention to detail [on the windows] really is priceless,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing everything we can to keep them.”
St. Mary has 38 stained glass windows and four memorial transept windows, some of which are originals from when it opened in 1902, according to a parish history book published for the church’s centennial. The large transept windows were imported from Munich, Germany, and cost $200 apiece when the church purchased them at the turn of the 20th century. The other, domestically made windows cost $14.47 each, the book states. They portray Biblical events such as the annunciation and the flight into Egypt, or elaborate images of saints. Others offer inspirational words from scripture.
Church history states that many of the original fixtures were sold or lost to renovations over the years, including the original oak pews, alabaster Stations of the Cross, and baptismal font, but the windows have been a mainstay.
“You get that feeling of reverence in here,” said Mary Lee, a finance committee member.
The last time work was done on the windows was in 1968, Crimmins said. The window restoration committee was formed to help organize the effort, and took bids from four contractors. After a lengthy interview process, they chose Shenandoah Restorations of Irmo for the project.
The church has already raised most of the $150,000 it needs to complete the work, including a $10,000 donation from the Knights of Columbus. Father Farrell said he expects to have the full amount once parishioner turn in all their pledges.
The contract was finalized and approved by the Diocese of Charleston this month, Father Farrell said, and the goal is to start the restorations in January and finish by Easter. Mass will be held as usual during that time.
“People have been very, very generous,” he said. “Even Father Ed Fitzgerald, who was here before me, he gave a donation. He gave so much that he bought one of the windows himself.”
The project is part of a long-term renovation plan. A new copper roof, and a heating and air conditioning system were also installed, Father Farrell said.
Helena Blackowicz, who has been a parishioner for 29 years, said the windows are part of the church’s identity. “They’re St. Mary’s. That’s part of the beauty,’’ she said. “It feels like home. This church has a very welcoming, very serene feeling and I think it’s largely due to the windows.”