Step into the Basilica and white-marbled relief sculptures and statues surround you – glittering mosaics stretch across the apses and ornament the magnificent domes overhead. But it’s the soaring windows of stained glass that make them all sparkle – that let the light flood in a dazzling array of color throughout the Great Upper Church and the Crypt Church.
Today, we invite you to virtually experience the stained glass of the Basilica and learn about the different biblical truths, figures, and symbols of Marian protection it features in this introductory tour!
The west transept of the Great Upper Church contains a circular window with stone dividers that suggests the shape of a rose. Symbolizing Mary as Mother, the window features the words of the angel Gabriel (“Gloria” and “Pax”) alternating with the Star of Bethlehem around the edge, and a Star of Bethlehem crowns an “M” in the center. In the Basilica, similar windows grace the east transept and south gallery.
Our Lady of Holy Hostýn Entrance Window
In the Crypt Church, the stained-glass entrance to the Chapel of Our Lady of Holy Hostýn by Isabel Piczek is a montage of the life of St. John Neumann. It portrays his missionary work with new settlers, his love for children as a founder of the parochial school system, and his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
Lower Sacristy – Jesus Teaching by the Sea
The Lower Sacristy features a brilliant stained glass depiction of Mark 4:1, where Jesus stands in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, teaching those on shore:
“On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.”
This vivid window was created by artist Arthur DeCarlo in 1996.
Each measuring over 28 ft. tall and 14 ft. wide, the clerestory windows in the nave of the Great Upper Church depict Our Lady of Mercy, Christ as Teacher, Christ as Priest, and Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, along with other saints. The chancel contains another set of clerestory windows, known as The Blessed Sacrament and The Mary Window. The first shows Christ the Priest, along with St. Wenceslaus, while the other shows Our Lady of Hoystn, surrounded by St. Anne, St. Elizabeth, the prophet Anna, and St. Mary Magdalene.
The north, west, and east apses contain four windows with the themes of atonement, adoration, petition, and thanksgiving, each as portrayed in the Old and New Testament. The Atonement window shows the Last Supper and Moses sprinkling the blood of the covenant; the Adoration window depicts the disciples breaking bread and Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac; the Petition window features a bowl of incense and Abel’s sacrifice; and the Thanksgiving window portrays the miracle of the loaves and fishes, as well as the blessing of Melchizedek.
West Apse Lunette Windows
In the Crypt Church, the windows in the 15 apsidal chapels allow color and light to filter into the space and portray figures that each symbolize a major theme of the apses. In the west apse, the theme is prophecy, featuring prophets who relate to the glorification of the Blessed Mother in the birth of Jesus: (L-R) Isaiah and Micah; Jeremiah and Ezekiel; Moses and Aaron; Gideon and Simeon; Elias and John the Baptist.
North Apse Lunette Windows
In the North apse, the theme is the promise, featuring evangelists, apostles, and disciples: (L-R) Matthew and Mark; Luke and John; Peter and Paul; James the Lesser and Stephen; Andrew and Philip.
East Apse Lunette Windows
In the East apse, the theme is the Fulfillment, honoring the growth of the early Church through the labors, trials, and martyrdom of great saints: (L-R) Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria; John Chrysostom and Irenaeus of Lyons; Augustine and Gregory “the Great”; Jerome and Ambrose; Patrick and Columba of Iona.
Basilica Guidebook, Dr. Geraldine Rohling