The Nave & Window Pairs


The Nave

Most visitors remark immediately on the face-to-face seating in this basilica-style nave, the part of the chapel where the seating is. This monastic arrangement facilitates the daily sung prayer of the sisters, a dialogic chant from side to side across the aisle as they fulfill the Dominican ideal to praise, to bless, and to preach the Gospel. The flow of the Liturgy of the Hours, as it is called, is a rhythmic call and response, one side listening to the Words of Scripture (primarily to Book of Psalms and other New and Old Testament canticles) the other proclaiming, in an alternating dance of proclamation and contemplation.

The Nave windows

Loire’s windows mimic this call and response of proclamation and contemplation. As you make your way to the back entrance of the chapel, notice the theme of each window in relationship to the one across the aisle from it, what the artist might be saying by choosing the east and west sides of the nave for the placement of the windows, and what scripture or Christian traditions might be inspiring the window.

First window pair: Light and humility

The first windows on either side of the nave are called “Light”—(east) and “Humility” (west).

Light” was inspired by the story of the wise and foolish virgins in the Gospel of Matthew 25. Notice the lighted lamps.

Humility” was inspired by the Gospel of John 12 “… unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Can you find the grain, the root and the shaft of wheat in the window? What is the relationship between wisdom and humility, do you think?

Second window pair: Joy (east) and Apostolic Life (west)

Joy: St. Dominic was known as the “joyful friar” and is often depicted with a star over his head because of the story that when his mother was pregnant with him she had a vision of a dog with a flaming torch in its mouth setting the world aflame with God’s love. (For this reason, Dominic is the patron of astronomers).

Apostolic Life: St. Dominic was among the first to perceive the benefits of abandoning the cloistered walls of the monastic communities of the 13th Century in favor of a life of preaching the Gospel in Europe’s cities, which, for a lack of educated clergy, had begun to stray into dualisms that proclaimed the spiritual body in need of liberation from the evil body. This was not Jesus’ intent, of course, and so Dominic founded the Order of Preachers to proclaim the beautiful truths of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

What kind of light appears in each of the windows? How is the preaching of the Gospel a function of joy?

Third window pair: Convent life (east) and Fraternal life (west)

As you move from the sanctuary to the entrance of the chapel, the window pairs shift from explicitly biblical themes to themes related to living the Gospel in the context of modern religious life.

Convent life: Loire gave this window two names, the second is “work.” In the first panel of this pair, with a bit of imagination (and difficulty!) you might see steam wafting from a cooking pot and a woman bent over a washboard.

Fraternal life: This is Loire’s name for this window, though, without too many “fraters” around, the sisters prefer to call this window “Interdependence.” It represents the way each person in a religious community is called to share gifts that create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

These windows evoke the everyday tasks of caring for the community and the interdependence that is integral to the common life that is at the heart of Dominican life.

Do you recognize the need for a sharing of daily tasks and a commitment to interdependence in your own life?

Fourth window pair: Praise (east) and Study (west)

Praise: this window is an homage to the beauty of Dominican sung prayer. See if you can notice trumpets, harps, and the distinctive diamond-shaped notes used to annotate Gregorian chant.

Study: The founding of the Order of Preachers coincided with the rise of European universities. For Dominicans, study is a necessary foundation for the preaching mission. “First the bow is bent in study. Then the arrow is released in preaching,” said the 13th Century Dominican, Hugh of St. Cher. This window honors that, depicting open books containing the Greek Alpha and Omega and evoking the words of the risen Christ in the Book of Revelation “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Dominicans will often speak of the four pillars, or foundations of our way of life: prayer, study, preaching, and common life. Can you see the way these foundations come alive in the Loire’s faceted glass windows?

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