New sanctuary window enriches worship space

MAULDIN — The artist who designed the new sanctuary window at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church proved to be as masterful at understatement as she is at her art.

“I like to work with vibrant colors,” said Lou Ellen Beckham-Davis, a stained-glass artist.

The window, once made of clear glass, is a massive circular structure that allowed strong southern light in from behind the altar for the first 11 years of the building’s existence. In winter months, the low sun shone directly in the faces of the church’s worshippers; in the summer, it brought beads of sweat to the brows of those in the first rows. But the window had originally been designed for stained glass, according to Beckham-Davis, with air space in between double panes to permit colored glass to breathe.

Today, it is a rich spectacle of blues and greens with red and yellow accents, flaring out from a white dove centerpiece in the shape of a cross and with a deep crimson Sacred Heart at its core. The heart obviously symbolizes Jesus, the haloed dove the Holy Spirit; God the Father seems to be the center section itself that surrounds the other two persons of the Blessed Trinity. Beckham-Davis took no credit for the imagery.

“The symbolism in the center was provided by Father Cooper,” she said.

Father Patrick Cooper, the pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, said the planning for the huge window took two years and was a collaborative effort among his parishioners, the artist and himself. He called it a unique design that turned out better than he had dared hope.

“It’s almost a hologram,” the priest said. “It even changes colors, depending on the light. I couldn’t be happier.”

The window was fabricated and installed by Beckham-Davis’ Greenville company, LEB Glass Studio, which produces only stained glass. Her clients are mostly churches and private homeowners. She even integrated venting holes in the massive window, but they are not visible to the eye. Some of the glass came from a company in Greer and the rest was imported from Germany.

The artist said that the window was the most difficult installation her company has done — requiring two sets of scaffolding and months of preparation — but it is built to last a lifetime.

For the parishioners at Elizabeth Ann Seton, it has afforded new life to their worship space, flooding the clean, austere lines of the church interior with generous color. And it provides relief from the glare of the sun.