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Art in the Church

December 18, 2009 - Emily Dimov-Gottshall

When I first moved to Altoona, about 6 or so years ago, I noticed how there were and are quite a few different churches. They stand as living relics of other worlds...some have been left to time and others have learned to adapt themselves to the changes of culture. I find it interesting, regardless of the religion how each has it's own unique feel, whether the building has a slight modern spin on it's structure or held fast to the traditions.

When I was growing up, my parents took us to the local Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. I remember gazing at the majestic stained glass and wondering at the stories they showed through lines and light.

I've been to a few churches in Altoona and have found the art to grasp my attention and to help me picture what many have felt before me. One of the most beautiful interpretations of the biblical stories are found in the stained glass of many churches.

One church, St. Luke's Episcopal Church has several beautiful examples of the story of Christ. Located near downtown Altoona on 7th Street, it is surrounded by several other churches and cathedrals...many came from the railroad boom in the early 1900's. The different stained glass montages in St. Luke's are both functional and were created for artistic interpretation. One window, by Louis Comfort Tiffany, was donated to the church in 1881. It is called the "Resurrection Angel" and is really beautiful to see the contrasting colors, the blends of color and the sensitivity to light. Several stained glass windows are "lit up" as the building itself is close to the Hall of the church and would never get natural lighting. Besides, it helps on those overcast days to give the art a bit of a hand. 

There are several other stained glass works that I find depicting Jesus with children. I still need to find out the artist for these pieces as I'm sure they were commissioned to do quite a few.

I find it interesting to see how artists interpret Spirituality and make it accessible to believers and non-believers. It's an incredible wealth of culture to be able to view some these works...whether they be stained glass, murals, sculptures, architecture and music. In the following weeks, I hope to explore more of the art in and around Altoona as well as share some of what I have learned from along the way to Pennsylvania.

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