Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Safari #26: Trinity Church in Copley Square

Just like the Boston Public Library, you may pass Trinity Church in Copley Square on a daily basis without ever thinking about stepping inside.  There are many reasons for you to visit - too numerous to list here.  I will however share two of them - architecture and stained glass windows.    

Architecture.  Trinity Church was the birthplace of a new architectural style known as Richardsonian Romanesque named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson.  Characteristics of this style include a large central tower, polychromatic rough stone, and heavy arches. This style became so popular that it was used as a basis for a number of public buildings in the United States.  It was also the first American architectural style imitated in Europe and Canada. 

Stained Glass Windows.  John La Farge was commissioned as the muralist to paint the interior of Trinity Church.  As the church was being built, stained glass windows were commissioned replacing the plain glass windows.  La Farge felt that some of these windows clashed with his murals, and he decided to design four windows himself.  With these windows, La Farge not only established himself as a stained glass artist, but he also raised the bar for stained glass as an art form.  He was the first to use opalescent glass along with a technique of layering the glass to allow for more depth and richness in the amount of color present.  The overall effect is amazing.  As the light changes over the course of the day, each of his windows takes on a different hue bringing an element of light and movement not found in any of the other windows.

  • Visit the website to find more information about taking a tour.  My tour was with docent Anulfo Baez, who has volunteered at Trinity Church for the past four years.  His tour was informative with a keen eye to the art and architecture. 
  • Visit the basement.  Not only is the remodeled basement the location of a gift shop, classrooms and other offices, it also highlights the architectural and structural engineering feats the church overcame to be built in Back Bay.  You can get a small glimpse of the stone foundation which supports the four large pillars in the church.
  • Keep your tour booklet and visitor's tag.  These will allow you to gain re-entry.  Be sure to come back as La Farge's largest stained glass piece, Christ in Majesty (pictured above), is soon to be re-installed.  At the time of my visit, it was offsite for a cleaning and light restoration work.
  • Attend a Friday afternoon organ concert.  The acoustics in the church were built for music.  Concerts are free every Friday from 12:30 to 1pm.  Seating is limited so plan ahead.
Image Credits - Image of Christ in Majesty borrowed from