Up to the early 1900’s most of the stained glass windows in Ireland were imported from Germany and France. These were very pleasing works in light pastel shades with large pieces of painted glass and a minimal amount of lead. However, after the turn of the last century there was an explosion of talent in Ireland in the design and manufacture of stained glass windows. This led to more intricate designs and innovation.
An explosion of a different sort occurred near St James’s when one of the large brewing vats in Guinness Brewery exploded accidentally early one morning in the 1900’s. Thankfully, no one was injured in the blast. However, the explosion caused a magnificent 50 foot high stained glass window in the church to be sucked outward, away from the building. It came crashing down and was smashed beyond recognition. The window, which was commissioned in 1859 was the work of one of Ireland’s first stained glass artists, Michael O’Connor.
Reconstruction of the window was undertaken by the Abbey Stained Glass Studios, which was established in 1944, the centenary of the laying of the foundations stone of St James’s Church. The shattered fragments of the window were carefully gathered and the window painstakingly reassembled using slides provided by the National Gallery of Ireland which had catalogued the window. About 20% of the original glass had to be replaced.
One year after the explosion in the Guinness Brewery, the craftsmen of the Abbey Stained Glass Studio returned the reconstructed window to St James’s Church. This beautiful piece of work, which consists of panels representing 20 different subjects, is testament to the talent and dedication of craftsmen practicing their skills 150 years apart.