“The Rev. Thomas Smith’s Address on St. James’ Church Windows”
(Reprinted in the Skaneateles Democrat, February 5, 1874; with notes by Kihm Winship, 2012)
As a matter of interest to our readers, we give that portion of the Address of the Rector [The Rev. Thomas Smith] to the Sunday School, on the afternoon of Sunday, the 11th ult. [January 11, 1874], which explains the meaning of the various colors and emblems, and gives a description of the windows. After congratulating the children on the beauty of their new church, the Rector said: –
I would like to have you look around carefully now, and notice the windows. First, you will see, there are certain colors, and that these colors are in many cases, repeated over and over again. Now these colors have meanings. Then again you will see certain emblems and symbols – the cross, crown, I.H.S., wheat, grape vine, etc., repeated very often. These too, have meanings. These meanings I will give you before describing the windows.
First, then, the colors: Purple – is the royal color – means kingly qualities. White – means purity – innocence, joy, life, and light. Red – passion of our Lord – power – divine love, Royal dignity. Blue – represents Heaven – divine contemplation. Yellow – the goodness of God. Green – hope, youth, prosperity. Violet – suffering, humility. Black – death – mourning – humiliation. There are combinations of these colors, making them lighter or darker, but those are the meanings. I shall use for yellow, the equivalents, gold and orange.
Then for emblems, monograms, etc.: The Triangle – The three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Each angle representing a Person. Grape Vine – means good works in the Lord’s Vineyard – It also speaks of the wine in the Holy Communion, as representing the Blood of Christ. The Sheaf of Wheat – symbolizes the Resurrection of the Body, and refers to the Bread in the Holy Communion, as representing the Body of Christ. The Circle – is an emblem of Eternity, having neither beginning nor ending. The Lamb – means meekness and patience – symbolizes our Savior as the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
The Phoenix – as a symbol, speaks of the Resurrection. The bird was supposed, when it died, to rise again from its ashes. The Pelican – as a symbol, represents the Atonement. The bird is represented as feeding its young with blood from its own breast. The Dove – represents the Holy Ghost. There are three doves in church symbols: First, as the Holy Spirit. Second, with an olive branch in its mouth, as Peace, and third, the white Dove, as Purity. The Cross – in whatever form made, always speaks of the Crucifixion. The Agnus Dei – the Lamb with a banner, symbolizes the Lamb of God. The banner is called the Missionary Banner. The Lantern – represents the betrayal of the Savior, and also the Light of the world. The Crown of Thorns – speaks of the Crucifixion. The Anchor – is the symbol of Hope.
Alpha and Omega – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, applies to our Savior and to God, and means the beginning and the end. X P. These Greek letters (Chi, Rho) you will see frequently, combined. They form one of the earliest monograms of Christ. I. H. S. – which you will often see, are the first three letters of the name of Jesus.* In Latin, they are made to represent “Jesus Savior of men.” **
* Note: The IHS monogram is a shortening of Jesus’ name in Greek to its first three letters. Thus ΙΗΣΨΣ, “Jesus”, shortens to ΙΗΣ (Iota Eta Sigma), and transliterates into English as IHS.
** Note: In Latin, Jesus Hominum Salvator, i.e., Jesus Savior of Mankind
I. H. C. – which you will see in the chancel window, over the figure of St. James, are the first two and last letters of the word Jesus,* and mean “Jesus the Consoler of men.” **
* Note: In Greek, Sigma, Σ, transliterates into either S or C, so IHC and IHS are the same in meaning.
** Note: In Latin, Jesus Humanitatis Consolator, i.e., Jesus, Consoler of Mankind
Vesica Pisces – the oblong form of a fish – is a symbol of the followers of the fisherman of Galilee. It is also an emblem of Baptism – You will notice this repeated in the lower portion of the Chancel window. The Tre-Foil – or three circles joined, like a three-leaved clover, is a symbol of the Trinity. The Triangle in a Circle – is the emblem of the everlasting Trinity. The Fish – This word, in the Greek, is Ikthus, a word of five letters.* These letters are the first or initial letters of the words “Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior.” ** The fish is also an emblem of Baptism.
* Note: Iota Chi Theta Upsilon Sigma
** Note: Iesous (Jesus) CHristos (Christ) THeou (God) Uiou (Son) Soter (Savior)
The Palm and Olive Branches – are emblems of Peace and Victory. The Crown – means victory. The Crown and Cross – combined, mean victory through suffering. The Oak Leaf and Acorn – mean strength. The Rose – our Savior, as the Rose of Sharon. *
* Note: The Bible does not specifically refer to Jesus as the Rose of Sharon, however the flower is referenced in Song of Solomon 2:1 and in later years, writers chose to compare Jesus to the flower.
The Lily – This, which you will very often find in the windows, means purity. The Daisy – is an emblem of patience. I now proceed to describe the windows, and from what I have said, you can readily read their meaning. Begin with the plain windows – those, I mean, on each side of the door, in the organ room, vestry room, and in the small Dormer windows in the roof.* These all have borders of blue, yellow, red and green, with centre diamonds of chocolate and gray glass, with the monogram I.H.S. in each.
* Note: The plain windows on either side of the front doors were replaced in 1901 with stained glass, and these are described at the end of this piece. The dormer windows in the roof are original and can be seen today.
The large round or oval window, over the front door, has a border with blue and gold, with angle borders of blue, silver and red. Within is the Trefoil, border of red and blue, and filled with leaves in red, green and silver. In the angles of the Trefoil are the initial letters of those commemorated, being members of the family of E.R. Smith. In the centre, surrounded by a circular border of green and silver, is the old and venerable monogram of the Trinity, the Triangle. This, if you look close, you will find to be peculiar. In the corners you will see the words, “Pater Filius,” “Sanctus Spiritus” – meaning Father, Son and Holy Ghost. On each line running in to the centre is the word “est,” meaning is.
In the centre, in a circle, is the word “Deus,” which means God. Between each angle, on lines, you see the words “non est,” meaning is not. Understanding these words, you will readily read the meaning of the symbol. Reading from each angle to the centre, it is – “The father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God.” Reading around the circle it is: – “The father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the father;” – or the other way, “The Father is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the Son, the Son is not the Father;” – but returning to the centre, each one is God; Three Persons – one God.
Note: Today this window over the entry doors (north wall) is known as the Rose Window. It memorializes the family of Edmond Reuel Smith (1829-1911), a Warden of St. James’, and includes the initials of his father, Reuel Smith, who died in 1873, his mother, Celestia Mills Smith, who died in 1829, three days after the birth of her son Edmond, and his sister, Sarah Celestia Smith, who died two months after her mother’s death, and was not yet two years old.
In 1849, E. Reuel Smith went to Chile as an expedition artist for the U.S. Navy. Afterwards, he wrote and illustrated The Araucanians; or, Notes of a Tour Among the Indian Tribes of Southern Chile, still a valued reference. His paintings, many of them tropical landscapes, continue to be sought by collectors. E. Reuel Smith was married to Elizabeth De Cost Burnett and counted among his children another painter, De Cost Smith (1864-1939), and also Sedgwick Smith (1887-1963), a teacher here and early promoter of Skaneateles hockey. The Smith family’s Gothic Revival home on West Lake Street, designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The first window on the right [west wall], as you come up the aisle, is inserted in memory of Mr. Chas. J. Burnett, and Albert De Cost Burnett. This window is called a geometric window, from being filled with geometrical figures. In the border you will see the grape vine, with leaves and grapes, separated by a background of green. In the lower halves, in circles, are put the initial of Albert, and the Sheaf of Wheat. In the upper portions are the emblems, in circles, of the lily, and the cluster of grapes. In the apex of the window is the monogram of the cross and crown.
Note: For Charles J. Burnett, Sr. (1774-1856), and his grandson, Albert DeCost Burnett (1846-1862) who died at the age of 16 in the Civil War. The Burnetts were one of the church’s first families. Charles J. Burnett, Sr., hosted formal Episcopal services in Skaneateles in his home as early as 1803. Mr. Burnett was born in England but came to America through his friendship with Colonel William J. Vredenburgh, and married Col. Vredenburgh’s eldest daughter, Maria. Mr. Burnett was one of the first wardens of St. James’ church, appointed in 1816 with Jonathan Booth, and he served as warden from 1824 to 1856. His son, Charles J. Burnett Jr., married Eliza De Cost, daughter of Nash De Cost. The wheat and grapes symbolize the bread and wine of communion, the body and blood of Christ, and the lily is a symbol of both purity and the Easter promise. The letter A in this window does not stand for the traditional Alpha, but rather for Albert who lost his life serving his country.
The second window on the same [west] side is in memory of Wm. Gibbs and his wife. This is a Figure window, and has in it the form of St. James, with his pilgrim staff and scallop shell on shoulder, indicating his character as a missionary and pilgrim, and his traveling in many lands. The other figure is that of Charity, represented by the widow depositing her mite in the Treasury of the Lord. The panels on which these figures stand, have a background of purple. The robes of the figures are scarlet, green, yellow, and white. In the apex is the crown and anchor, combined, indicating Hope and Victory.
Note: For William Gibbs (1786-1842) and his wife, Grizell Gibbs (1787-1868). William Gibbs was one of the original vestrymen of St. James’ and one of the Village’s first trustees. The house Gibbs built still stands, directly behind the Skaneateles Library on State Street. “Grizell,” not a common name today, signified the virtue of patience; the name became proverbial through stories of “patient Griselda” in Boccacio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Gibbs window includes the image of St. James’ (the Greater) and the figure of Charity, represented by the widow placing her mite in the treasury of the temple (Mark 12:42-44).
The next window, on the west side, is in memory of Mrs. Lydia Schuyler, wife of the Rev. Dr. Schuyler, of St. Louis, Mo., and daughter of Mrs. Roosevelt. This is a geometrical window, with border of green, with lily leaf and blossom. You see two panels, with background of crimson, with blue scroll and lettering worked in from top to bottom is the beautiful lily. Above these on the left, is the emblem of the Phoenix, and on the right, the Pelican. Above these again, are two Triangles in circles. Still above, in the apex, is the chalice or cup, on a crimson background, with a border of blue and gold – the chalice being illuminated by pearls and precious stones.
Note: Lydia E. Schuyler (1819-1852) was the daughter of Nicolas J. and Lydia Roosevelt. In 1843, she married the Rev. Dr. Montgomery Schuyler, an Episcopalian priest. He served as Rector of St. John’s Church, in Buffalo, N.Y., and Christ Church, in St. Louis, Missouri. While in Buffalo in 1852, Lydia Schuyler gave birth to a son, Louis Sandford Schuyler, but she died just seven months after her child was born. She is buried in Skaneateles at Lake View Cemetery.
Like his father, Louis became an Episcopalian priest, serving parishes in Missouri and New Jersey. He remained close to his relations in Skaneateles, and included them in his prayers wherever he served. In 1878, just four years after this sermon was delivered, Louis volunteered to travel from New Jersey to Tennessee to serve during a yellow fever epidemic; he was struck with the fever days after his arrival in Memphis and died on September 17th. He was 26 years old.
The next window is in memory of Mr. Nicholas Roosevelt. The border you will see is green, crimson and blue, with the letters I. H. S., on the blue in a circle. In the centre is a large panel in green – in the left of which stands St. Peter with the keys, and on the right, St. Paul with the sword. The robes are scarlet, blue and purple. Below these figures, in blue, are the anchor and the lily; above them, in circles, are the Alpha and Omega, and the Greek letters X. and P. [Chi and Rho], the monogram of Christ. In the apex, in red, silver, blue and gold, is the Greek Cross in a circle.
Note: Nicholas J. Roosevelt (1767-1854) was famed for his part in the invention of the steamboat, and as the first man to travel down the Mississippi River on a steamboat, the “New Orleans,” which went from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 14 days in 1811. In the course of the journey, Mrs. (Lydia) Roosevelt gave birth to a son, Henry Latrobe Roosevelt. The family moved to Skaneateles in 1831, and lived across the street from St. James’, in the house on the west corner of Leitch and E. Genesee Street. The window was donated by Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, and shows St. Peter and the keys (Matthew 16:19), and St. Paul with a sword (a symbol of his eloquence in preaching the Word of God, and also of the manner of his death).
Beginning at the door on the east side, the first window is in memory of Maria Earll, which, with a background of blue, represents the scene between Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, whose barrel of meal and cruise of oil wasted not until the day the Lord sent rain upon the earth. The emblems are the Palm-leaf, the Lantern, the panel and door, representing the cross, and the entrance to the temple. The robes on the figures are purple, orange, green and white.
Note: Maria Earll (1792-1863) was a member of one of Skaneateles’ first families. Gen. Robert Earll came to Skaneateles in 1794, and held lay services in his home, the famed “Red House” on Jordan Road, as early as 1799. His fourth son, Hezekiah, was a prosperous farmer. Maria was the wife of Hezekiah, and the mother of Julius Earll, who became an influential business man, distillery owner and manufacturer here. Maria was remembered by her family with this window showing the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:8-24).
The second window is for Capt. De Cost. The scene represented by this window, is our Savior and the Samaritan woman, at the well; the drapery being scarlet, green, white, orange and blue. Above these, on the left, is a paten with bread, representing the bread of life. On the right, a triangle formed of three fish, and in the apex, on a field of blue, a dove with outstretched wings.
Note: Captain Nash De Cost (1783-1858) was a ship-master in the New York to Liverpool trade who retired in 1830 at the age of 47 and came to Skaneateles to begin farming. He served on the Vestry and was said to be “as much a part of the village scene as the steeple itself.” The window portrays Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:7).
The third window is in memory of Stephen Horton. This is a geometrical window, with the emblems of the Greek Cross and circle on the left, and the crown on the right in the centre, and in the apex, the lily. The border is gold and blue, with combinations of figures and emblems in colors, throughout the body.
Note: Stephen Horton (1793-1832) was one of the original vestrymen of St. James, a prominent dry-goods merchant in the early years of the Village, and the husband of Laura (Beach) Horton. His daughter, Mary Jane Horton (1823-1901), just eight years old at the time of her father’s death, was later married to Samuel Roosevelt on November 25, 1845 at St. James’ Church.
Horton’s story is worth telling. In 1832, he had business in New York City, but the city was beset by cholera. Cholera was the most feared malady of its day — having awakened in excellent health, one could die horribly before noon. Cholera led to death in 50% of its cases; among children, the ill and the elderly, the death rate was 100%. People were often buried in the very clothes they were wearing when stricken. Cholera struck its first victim in New York City on June 26, 1832, and within two months had taken 3,500 more — 100 in just one day in July.
Stephen Horton did not have to go to New York. He could have sent another in his place. But he lived his faith; he would not ask another to take such a risk for his gain, to do something he himself feared to do. And so in the autumn of 1832, he went to New York City on his own; he was stricken with cholera there, and died at the age of 39, leaving behind his wife and five children.
His window is on the east side of the sanctuary, and brightens with the morning light during Sunday services. As the church bell tolls the hour, I often think of John Donne’s lines, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” And the church bell, where did it come from? When the first church was built in 1827, its bell was contributed by Stephen Horton. (It is today the smaller of two bells in the tower, the second, larger bell having been cast in 1893 by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York, and donated by Joel Thayer.)
The fourth and last window is in memory of Lucia, Samuel, Frederick, Henry, Stanley and Benjamin Porter. The scene here is that of the Sepulchre, when the women came with spices and ointment to anoint the body, and found the Savior had gone, and an angel sitting by the side of the tomb. Above this is the dove, with the olive branch, on the left, and on the right, the sheaf of wheat. Above, in the apex, is the anchor and sword, over the Holy Bible. The colors in this window are blue, scarlet, green, black and orange.
Note: The Porter window was removed from its place in 1959 to make way for a doorway to the newly built parish hall. It has since been in storage, in the church, and unseen for more than 50 years. Thus far, I have not been able to find a photo of the window.
I now come to the chancel window – your own window, children, and one of the noblest ornaments of the church. You ought to be very proud of it – proud in a Christian way I mean – for it is really a very beautiful window. First, if you will look, you will see a strip of crimson around the side windows, and inside the same is a border of blue, with golden crowns.
Taking the right-hand window, you will see a background of green, the figure of St. James, the Apostle, with blue and crimson robe, with book and pen, indicating his work. Beneath him are several geometrical figures in blue, gold and crimson, and in the centre of the largest one, a crown of thorns in gold. Above the figure is the cross and circle; and farther up, in a circle of gold, blue and crimson, is the monogram I. H. C.
Taking the left-hand window, it is the same as the right, with the exception of the figure and its drapery and the emblem in the lower part; this is three nails in a triangle, representing the three nails with which the Savior was fastened to the cross. The figure is that of St. John, with book and pen. The robes are purple, orange and blue. Above the circle corresponding to the I. H. C. in the other window, is the monogram X. P.
The central window with a background of green and a border of daisies, has a figure of the Savior, in robes of scarlet, green and white, with the shepherd’s crook and a lamb in His arms, the whole indicating the Good Shepherd, the lover of little children. The figure stands, as do the others, on a mosaic pavement, underneath which, in a field of green light, is the monogram I. H. C. Above the figure, you will notice the same monogram, above which, on a field of blue, is a cluster of grapes and again the monogram I. H. C.
Between the two side windows, above and underneath the apex of the whole windows, in a field of golden rays, are the dove descending, and the chalice. In the apex, in green and blue, is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, bearing a banner, an emblem of missionary zeal.
The newspaper account of the Rev. Smith’s sermon ends here.
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Further Notes on the Windows
The final window described above was given in 1874 by the children of the parish. Above and below, he can see this window as it originally was on the south (center) wall of the chancel. You can also see that the tops and bottoms of the windows differ between the original and present-day settings.
The Children’s Window as seen from the lake, in its original placement.
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In 1901, the chancel was enlarged and a new window was placed in the west wall. Known as the Tiffany window, it features the Madonna and Child in the center. On the right, the Chi Rho monogram. On the left, an Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, symbolize that Christ is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. This unsigned window is from the school of Lewis Comfort Tiffany: designed and crafted by artists who worked with and for Tiffany during his lifetime.
The new chancel and window was donated in memory of Robert Minturn Grinnell (1829-1898), by his wife, Sophia Grinnell. Grinnell was the son of Henry William Grinnell, a “merchant prince” of New York City, a founder of the Grinnell & Minturn shipping line. Robert married Sophia Van Alen in 1873 and they summered in Skaneateles.
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The Millicent Anna Leslie Window
The Hannah De Cost Window
Also in 1901, two new windows were added at the north end of the sanctuary. The windows flanking the church’s front doors are in memory of Millicent Anna (Coe) Leslie (1827-1890) and her mother, Hannah H. Coe De Cost (1801-1884). (Hannah H. Coe and Captain Nash De Cost, both widowed, were married in 1839.) The two windows were donated by Millicent’s husband, Edmund Nelson Leslie (1817-1908), who served as a vestryman and treasurer of St. James’ from 1856 to 1895. The windows are unique in that the faces are actual likenesses of the women memorialized, rather than classical representations.
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Donated in 1886, the baptistry and baptistry window are in memory of Sarah Sabina (Hill) Earll (1832-1885), wife of Julius Earll. The wood mullions frame a rose window of blue glass with a dove in the center. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and a reference to the baptism of Jesus, as in Matthew 3:16 — “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightaway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” In 1991, the baptistry was renovated in memory of Fred C. Herrmann (1910-1990).
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My thanks to Laurie Winship, Director of the Museum of the Skaneateles Historical Society, for finding the Rev. Thomas Smith’s sermon. And to Lauren Mills Photography & Design for the new (2012) photography of the windows.