Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
The City of Charleston is known colloquially as 'The Holy City,' and many of its holy structures display stained glass windows. Long admired for their aesthetic qualities, these stained glass windows are under-examined examples of the city's material culture. A careful reading of these windows has uncovered information about the artifacts themselves and the cultural, religious, and geographic identities of the societies who created and commissioned these windows. This thesis examines how ethnography, religion, and geography influenced the artistic styles and iconography of the stained glass windows of Charleston's ecclesiastical structures and mausoleums. The stained glass windows of Peninsular Charleston create and strengthen cultural group identity in and developing neighborhoods of the city through the first two quarters of the twentieth century. The artistic styles and iconography of Charleston's ecclesiastical stained glass windows create, reflect, and/or strengthen the identities of the historic ethnographic, religious, and geographic groups who occupied these structures. The installation of stained glass windows reveals more about a religious community than if the group was affluent enough to install stained glass. The main conclusion that can be drawn from examining the totals and patterns of artistic style use in Charleston's stained glass windows is that these windows expressed, created, and strengthened the identities of varying ethnographic, religious, and geographic groups. This conclusion is drawn through four major observations, being: the mixing of styles in structures of Episcopal congregations; the possible verbal or visual sharing of artistic ideas or usage of the same stained glass studio by St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church and St. Patrick's Catholic Church; the influence of geographical differences between the city's older neighborhoods south of Spring Street and the younger ones located to the north on the windows' artistic styles; and the use of a particular artistic style to strengthen an identity for Black Charlestonians. Like the artistic styles of Charleston's stained glass windows, the iconography of these windows is another vehicle that varying ethnographic, religious, and geographic groups used to express their identities. This occurred through the following: liturgically conservative denominations relying heavily on iconography and imagery, while more liberal denominations preferred to use design and motif; the verbal sharing of and/or shared stained glass studio and catalog by congregations in Charleston's Wagener Terrace neighborhood; and the strengthening of identity through shared iconographic imagery in traditionally Black churches of Charleston.
McCluskey, Valerie J., "Spectrum of the Spirit: Interpreting the Material Connotations of Ecclesiastical Stained Glass in Charleston, South Carolina" (2014). All Theses. 1962.