Memorial Window

The Princeton Alumni Weekly, June 6, 1923

A beautiful stained glass window in memory of the six graduate students who gave their lives during the World War has been presented to the University by the Graduate College Union. The memorial is on the southern side of the entry room adjoining Procter Hall. [...] 

The Memorial Window

By Alfred M. Friend, Jr., '15, Instructor in Art and Archaeology

The window presented on Decoration Day by the Graduate College Union to the University in memory of the students of the Graduate College who lost their lives in the World War is intended to symbolize America's part in the great conflict. The four lights of the window are filled with figures of the four military saints of the chief European countries on whose soil American soldiers died. Below the figures are the arms of these nations, while in the cinquefoil above, equally allied to each, is the shield of the United States. The scheme of the glass is due to the late Master, Howard Crosby Butler, to whom the window and its symbolism were of great concern and pleasure.

For England, St. George was naturally chosen. For Italy was taken St. Maurice, the martyred soldier of the Theban Legion who preferred death to the worship of the gods of heathen power. Although his shrine is in the valley of the upper Rhone in Switzerland, he is the patron of the House of Savoy, symbolizing united Italy. France is represented by her new Saint, Joan of Arc, rather than by the soldier saint, Martin of Tours, since the story of St. Joan's heroic career is the common possession of all the American soldiers who served in France, and her birthplace in Lorraine was visited by many during the time of the war. The inspiration of St. Joan of Arc as she stood under the tree at Domremy, and which sent her forth upon her perilous mission, was St. Michael, the glorious archangel, chosen here to symbolize the constancy and heroic defense of Belgium since the patron saint of the capital city, Brussels, is the Leader of the Celestial Hosts.

The brilliant colors of these figures flash out from a background of silvery quarry glass, which illuminates fully the vestibule in Pyne Tower and, if the great doors of Procter Hall are open, contrasts its cool and direct light with the glowing warmth and complication of the western window, - the directness and coolness of the soldier with the richness and fullness of the learning of the scholar.

The style of the glass recalls the 14th century windows in St. Ouen in Rouen, with their backgrounds of richly variegated quarries of grisaille, a feature so typically Norman that to this day the best quarry glass is made there and has been used in this window. In the design and in the asymmetric arrangement of color the artist, Charles J. Connick of Boston, has been singularly happy. The tracery of the window is allowed to control the design, enhancing greatly its architectural character. The two central figures are upright and frontal, to give strength and verticality. The outer figures are faced toward the center and curved inward, to unify and contain the figure design and to suggest the arching of the window above. A narrow edging of brilliant blues, reds, and greens around each of the lights completes the direct and simple scheme. In the upper part of the window nothing detracts from the glowing arms of the Nation, held on the points of the cinquefoil like a gem in its setting. The six golden stars recall the names, graven in the stone reveals, of the men for whom the window is a memorial and for whom the inscription, burnt in the glass at the base of the window, was composed by Dean West: "Hos pro patria grate morientes commemoramus condiscipuli."

St. George and St. Michael, who flank the tense and vertical figures of St. Joan of Arc and St. Maurice, slay their hideous dragons, brilliant in scaly red and purple, the symbols of the forces of evil, the nations of iniquity. St. George, still struggling, seeks to ram home his lance, but Michael, serene with his flaming sword held across his breast, rises without effort, leaving the evil beast collapsed and finished, the work accomplished.

The window should be not only a memorial to those who died in the struggle, but also an inspiration to those who follow, to finish the work begun, so that these men may not have died in vain; to struggle as should St. George against the crafty serpent, until, putting bestiality and self-interest under foot, mankind can become as Michael, Quis ut Deus.

This explication of the program of the Memorial Window, penned by Alfred M. Friend, Jr., '15, appeared in The Princeton Alumni Weekly on June 6, 1923, where it was introduced by a brief account of the occasion and Professor Charles Kennedy's presentation address. The full text of the article, including the introduction and Kennedy's dedication speech, can be found here.