Built in 1967, The Christ Church sanctuary provides a beautiful setting for our common worship. The most arresting feature of our building is the stained glass window walls done by the French artist Gabriel Loire from Chartres. The pictures on this web site have been reduced in size to make them accessible over dial-up connections. Please come and visit us in order to appreciate the full impact of our windows.
In 1986, an eighteen-year old dream became a reality for the members of Christ Church, Los Altos, when almost 2,000 square feet of stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary of their church on Border Road. The stained glass, which comprises most of the four walls of the church, and includes two smaller lancet windows above the altar, was designed by the dean of stained glass artists, Gabriel Loire of Chartres, France.
These stained glass windows represented a major undertaking for the 330-family congregation at Christ Church. Not only did parishioners dedicate a great deal of time and effort to planning the project, but memorial gifts and thank offerings were made over a period of three years by members of the parish to finance the project as part of a Thanksgiving Fund, which also provided money for outreach work in the community,
Beginning in 1982, parishioners, appointed by the church’s Fine Arts Committee, spent two years investigating the work of stained glass artists, worldwide. Eight artists from the United States were invited to present designs, but during the interview process, one name, that of Frenchmen Gabriel Loire, kept coming to the attention of the committee.
Kay Millar, one of the committee members noted,
Loire visited the site in 1983, meeting with the committee and other members of the parish. Former Rector Harold Brumbaum recalls,
Loire returned to France, and in 1984 the final sketch, or maquette, was sent to the committee for approval. The project then began in earnest in his studio near Chartres.
The four main windows, installed in 1986, are associated with the points on the compass, the seasons of the year, the seasons of human life, the unfolding of the biblical narrative from the Creation to the Resurrection of Christ, and Christ's life from the Annunciation to His Death and Burial. The Resurrection (and the return of Spring) is represented in the two lancet windows on either side of the cross.
As you look at the windows, you'll find many trees. When Loire visited California to prepare to work on the windows, he was awed by the varieties of trees found here. There seven species of trees shown in the windows: palms, olives, sequoia, sycamore, camphor, apple, and grape vines. In addition, the East window depicts the tree of Jesse.
Numbers also play a role in the windows. You'll find the numbers seven and twelve represented in a number of ways. Both of these numbers were highly significant to the authors of the scriptures.
The beautiful stained glass windows of
Christ Church are dedicated to the glory of God as an act of
thanksgiving. These dalle
de verre panels ("slab glass") differ from
traditional leaded glass in that the epoxy and sand matrix can be
equally as expressive as
the glass itself.
In traditional stained glass, the lead is a constant width and rarely contributes to the design. In contrast, the matrix in dalle de verre can be made as wide as the artist needs and frequently play a part in the overall design.
Gabriel Loire, very taken with the greenery in California and inspired by the foliage of the local area, used biblical trees in the four seasons of the year as a unifying theme for the stained glass window at Christ Church, Los Altos. He called the finished work, “The Windows of the Four Seasons.” Loire used the symbol of the tree within the context of Scripture, yet also captured the feeling of the surrounding countryside. He wove tree branches and leaves into the work by using the epoxy that bonds the glass together as part of the overall design.
In medieval stained glass, biblical symbols were used as a teaching medium to educate those who could not read. While the religious message of the Christ Church windows is, in that sense, traditional, the windows themselves are an example of contemporary ecclesiastical art.
In his own words, Gabriel Loire said of the windows,
Four major windows of stained glass, each 12 by 34 feet, actually comprise the walls of the church. Each window is devoted to one of the seasons of the year, and is also representative of one of the seasons of human life. In addition, two lancet windows, each 24 by 6 feet, represent the Resurrection and celebration of New Life.
The type of stained glass chosen for the project is faceted dalle de verre, or “paving stones of glass,” as opposed to traditional leaded glass, and was selected to match the contemporary architectural style of the church. The glass is stronger, and the thickness of the glass, which is faceted when cut, gives what Loire called “amplitude.” The glass is set in epoxy, giving it a more powerful presence than traditional leaded glass because each line becomes important, separating different colors and becoming part of the design.
It took one year to finish the design of the windows, and another year for their fabrication and installation. Gabriel Loire’s son Jacques selected the glass for the windows, which is a vital process requiring an experienced eye so that every degree of density and tone in the colors is matched exactly to the artist’s original sketch.
After the panels of glass were finished in Loire’s studio in France, they were packed into wooden crates—they weighed ten tons—and shipped to the United States, where they arrived in June of 1986.
Because the existing church window frames were not strong enough to support the heavy glass, and because of earthquake requirements, new frames of clear, dry, heart redwood, were designed by Christopher Arnold, A.I.A.
Three generations of the Loire family participated in the making of the windows. The grandson of the artist and son of Jacques Loire, Hervé, came from France to supervise the installation of the windows. He worked with local contractors, Skywood Builders of Los Altos, who installed the new window frames, and Hogan Glass of San Jose, who installed the glass.
The windows were completed and dedicated in October, 1986.
Gabriel Loire was born in 1904 into a family of tanners in the small French town of Pouance, in the northwest of France. He was educated at Combrée College and the Catholic University of Angers. At the university he met the stained glass masters of the cathedral and, at age 20, published his thesis on the art of stained glass.
In 1946, Loire founded his own studio, "La Clarté" (Clarity), in Lèves. He has composed and executed stained glass all over the world. Among his United States creations are the Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Connecticut; churches in Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Tacoma Washington, and Massillon, Ohio. Considered by many to be the preeminent artist of his day in this medium, Loire is best known in the Bay Area for his famous Rose Window in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.
While residing in Florida in 1966, Loire created a monumental mural for St. John Vianney's Seminary in Miami.
The beautiful windows he created for Christ Episcopal Church in Los Altos were Gabriel Loire’s final major undertaking in stained glass, and are his largest project in this part of the world. In the years before his death on December 27, 1996, Loire designed a stained glass tower in Hakone, Japan, made windows for the Thanksgiving Chapel in Dallas, created windows for the Prisoners of Conscience Chapel in Salisbury Cathedral, England, the The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr in Cape Town South Africa, the Catholic Cathedral in Casablanca, Morocco, and worked in Windsor, England on windows in St. George's Chapel dedicated to Lord Mountbatten.
Jacques Loire followed in his father's footsteps in his quest for translating stained glass into inspiring beauty. Working with new materials and techniques, he has become a master in the art through his experience working at La Clarté. Father and son have worked together, Gabriel designing, and Jacques executing the actual glass work, bringing the design into reality. Jacques shows a sensitivity to environment and consciously evokes in his work a sense of vitality that releases one from the outside world, providing an atmosphere that is conducive to prayer and meditation.Gabriel Loire: Les vitraux : "La lumiere semble venir de l'interieur" = Gabriel Loire : stained glass : "The light seems to come from within" Vitraux: Gabriel Loire, Chartres, France