Window of opportunity to preserve historic stained-glass

By Wendy Shaw

Preserving the beautiful stained-glass windows at Launceston’s historic Church of the Apostles is one of the aims behind a new fundraising campaign.

The Henry Hunter-designed bluestone church marked its 150th anniversary in 2016.

Among its many striking features are stained-glass windows by Melbourne-based William Montgomery (1850 -1927), regarded as the leading stained-glass artist of his day.

Two pairs of Montgomery windows are behind the Sacred Heart altar. They feature the holy family at Bethlehem and the Magi in adoration; and a convent chapel with lighted candles and the vision of the Redeemer by St Margaret Mary Alacoque. An inscription reads: “They found the child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down they adored Him. Heart of Jesus, Refuge of sinners, have mercy on us.”

However, the windows in the heritage-listed building need upgraded protection, as Hans Wanders, the chairman of the Launceston Parish’s Finance, Building and Maintenance Committee, explained.

He said that while a number of the church windows have an outer Perspex covering to protect them from damage, fundraising is under way to pay for improvements to safeguard the windows into the future.

“What is proposed is that the Perspex covering on the windows is removed and proper glass coverings be put in place of those,” Mr Wanders said.  “The reason is that, firstly, the Perspex is not opaque so there’s trouble seeing through the Perspex to the windows.

“But secondly, Perspex creates a mini-hothouse environment between it and the windows and that can melt the lead in the stained glass. It’s visible on some of the windows already, where they are buckling at the bottom because of that hothouse environment.

“Furthermore, they severely detract from the exterior aesthetic of the church.”

Hans Wanders, the chairman of the Launceston Parish’s Finance, Building and Maintenance Committee, explains the importance of protecting the stained glass windows in the Church of the Apostles for future generations. Photo: Wendy Shaw

The new coverings would be “special low iron non-reflective individual glass panels”, Mr Wanders explained. This follows advice from Tasmanian stained-glass expert Gavin Merrington.

The plan is to raise $60,000 to replace 24 coverings and to add protection to a 25th window, known as the ‘Mary window’ and also the work of William Montgomery. The committee has applied for a Heritage Tasmania grant; has reopened the Church of the Apostles restoration fund appeal with the National Trust (donations are tax deductible if full donor details are provided); and is also accepting donations in the collection basket, at the parish office, or online.

Mr Wanders explained that it was important to protect church heritage for future generations.

“It is historical, particularly when you think that some of those windows were designed at the end of the 19th or early 20th centuries,” he said.

“We want to protect that heritage.”

Launceston Parish Priest Fr Leonard Caldera explained that the Church of the Apostles, and its particular features, including its stained glass and altar, were much-admired and gave great pleasure to those visiting the church.

“It is very important that we preserve and take care of the beauty of God’s house for future generations and especially when it comes to stained-glass,” Fr Caldera said.

“It has the ability to lift our minds and spirits to the divine and the transcendent so it is important to preserve these beautiful pieces of art for future generations.

“I hope everyone who has been part of the Apostles family – past and present parishioners – will extend a hand of help to preserve this great heritage, handed down since the beginning of the church, and make it a beautiful and worthy place of worship.

“That is a good way to show our appreciation for the past and to hand it over lovingly for future generations.”

For details on how to support the stained-glass window appeal, or the church maintenance fund more generally – with works also planned or under way at Invermay’s St Finn Barr’s Church and Newstead’s Sacred Heart Church – please see the Catholic Parish of Launceston Facebook page or contact the parish office on (03) 63 314 377.

It is hoped that work on the windows will start later this year.

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