August 10, 2017
Stained-glass windows: symbols and significance
Take a closer look at the windows as they appear in the Fiondella Great Room: Ruane Center stained-glass windows on gigapan.com
Homer - The Greek poet Homer was born sometime between the 12th and 8th centuries B.C., possibly on the coast of Asia Minor. He is famous for the epic poems ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey,’ which have had an enormous effect on Western culture, but very little is known about their alleged author. He is depicted wearing the laurel wreath and holding a bard’s lyre. Odysseus is shown escaping from Polyphemus’ cave, clutched under the belly of a goat. When asked his name, he replies: ‘Nobody.’
Plato - The classical Greek philosopher (428/427 or 424/423-348/347 B.C.) founded the Academy in Athens. With his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, he laid the very foundations of Western philosophy and science. He is depicted sitting outside, holding a scroll symbolizing his writing of ‘The Dialogues,’ in view of the Pantheon atop the Acropolis, which was his favorite view.
Aristotle - The classical Greek philosopher and scientist (384-322 B.C.) was the teacher of Alexander the Great and a peripatetic wanderer who founded science itself. His thought significantly influenced the Dominican doctors of the Church, St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. During his biological research, recounted in ‘The History of Animals,’ he declared that the cuttlefish was the greatest of God’s creation. He made many pertinent observations about dolphins, including that they bear their young alive, suckle them, breathe air, and communicate by underwater sounds.
Virgil - Publius Vergilius Maro was an ancient Roman poet (70 B.C.-19 B.C.) during the reign of Emperor Augustus and the author of ‘The Aeneid.’ He is pictured sitting in the flowery ways of lowly quiet, with quill, pen, and scroll, writing, as he describes himself at the end of ‘The Georgics.’ Aeneas and his companions are shown sailing the Mediterranean from Troy to Latium (Rome).
St. Augustine - He was an early Christian theologian and philosopher (354-430) and bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa whose writings significantly influenced the development of Western philosophy and theology. He is viewed as one of the most important Church fathers in western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are ‘The City of God’ and ‘The Confessions.’ He is depicted wearing a bishop’s miter and holding a bishop’s crozier. Also pictured: the Christ child with a seashell, attempting to pour the sea into a hole in the sand. At Augustine’s declaration, ‘Don’t you know it is impossible,’ the child replied, ‘No less possible than trying to explain the Trinity.’
St. Catherine of Siena - The Dominican tertiary, doctor of the Church, and mystic (1347-1380) is portrayed holding the lily of purity, a traditional symbol of virginity. She successfully labored to bring Pope Gregory XI back to Rome in 1377 from the 68-year ‘Babylonian Captivity’ in Avignon, France. She is pictured with two papal tiaras, symbolizing the Avignon papacy and the Roman papacy.
Leonardo da Vinci - The Italian Renaissance man for all seasons (1452-1519), his areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been called the father of paleontology, the father of ichnology, and the father of architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. He is portrayed designing with quill and tablet, depicting his inventions for the flight of man and the parachute.
Michelangelo - Michelangelo Buonarroti: The other Italian Renaissance man for all seasons (1475–1564), Michelangelo was a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered to be the greatest artist during his lifetime, he has since been described as one of the greatest artists of all time. He is depicted frescoing ‘The Creation of Adam,’ the focal point of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Shakespeare - The Bard of Avon (1564–1616), English poet, playwright, and actor, Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He often is called England’s national poet. He is portrayed writing one of his plays and is pictured with the Globe Theater on the South Bank of the River Thames in Southwark, London, where many of his plays were performed.
Galileo - Galileo Galilei: Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician (1564–1642), Galileo has been called the father of observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of scientific method, and the father of science. Pictured with him are a telescope, astronomical quadrant, and heavenly bodies.
René Descartes - French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist (1596–1650), Descartes is dubbed the “father of modern Western philosophy.” Much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings. Shown with him are his Circle Theorem and a fly on the ceiling, the observation of which gave him insight on how to combine algebra and geometry to specify all points on an infinite plane.
Sir Isaac Newton - Newton, an English mathematician, astronomer, and physicist (1642-1727), is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution. Newton is pictured holding a prism that refracts light into colors, along with his book ‘Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy’ (Principia Mathematica, 1687), and the apple fallen from the tree.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Mozart, the prolific and influential Austrian composer of the classical era (1756–1791), is portrayed playing the violin. He is pictured with the symbol of the Rosicrucians, a secretive 17th- and 18th-century society devoted to the study of metaphysical, mystical, and alchemical lore, whose members inspired him to write ‘The Magic Flute.’
Jane Austen - The English novelist (1775-1817) is known for her six major novels, which interpret, critique, and comment upon the British-landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. She is portrayed holding her book ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ with Pemberley Manor in the background, symbolizing the upper levels of society. The curtain gives the feeling of the comfort in the interior environment. The window contains the initials of Caroline M. Joyce, daughter of the stained-glass windows donors.
Charles Darwin - Darwin, an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist (1809-1882), is best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. He is portrayed with his walking stick in hand, holding his book ‘On the Origin of Species (1859).’ Also depicted are his sketches of four of the 15 species of Galapagos finches, his first iconic sketch of the evolutionary tree, and a walking fish, symbolizing evolution.
Mohandas Gandhi - Gandhi, the Hindu leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule (1869-1948), employed nonviolent civil disobedience to inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanscrit for ‘high-souled’ or ‘venerable’) was first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa and now is used worldwide. He is portrayed with his walking staff in hand. The spinning wheel represents his encouragement of people to spin their own cloth to boycott British goods. His sandals on the railroad tracks recall the story that he lost one sandal, then threw the other onto the train tracks, walking barefoot ever after.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - King, the Southern Baptist minister and activist (1929-1968), became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is portrayed standing on the motel balcony in Memphis, addressing the crowd just before he was assassinated in 1968. Also depicted is the bridge at Selma, Ala., the site of a major civil rights confrontation in 1965. His name is spread across three protest placards on poles.