St. Nicholas of BariLeaded glass Maker unknown, probably Cologne, Germany 61 x 23 in. (GL-062-30)
This rare 15th-century window depicts St. Nicholas of Bari, the beloved fourth-century Bishop of Myra (now part of the city of Demre in modern-day Turkey) who inspired the Western tradition of Santa Claus. Among the few known facts of his life, St. Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith and he attended the first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Numerous legends grew out of his service. In one, illustrated in this window along with the donor, the good St. Nicholas resurrected three theological students who had been murdered by an evil innkeeper. In another—the most famous story and the one that sealed his image as a giver of gifts—St. Nicholas provided bags of gold for the three daughters of a poor man who feared that without dowries they could not marry and would be forced into prostitution. In 1087 AD, St. Nicholas’ relics were transported from Myra, overtaken at the time by the Turks, to Bari, Italy, where they remain today in the Basilica di San Nicola. St. Nicholas is possibly depicted in Christian art more often than any other saint besides the Virgin Mary. This medieval window features technical innovations developed in the 14th and 15th centuries, including larger and thinner panes of glass and “silver stain,” a range of yellow staining created through the use of silver chloride or oxide. With its gold canopies and idealized architecture, there is a fairy-tale quality to the imagery significant of this period. Also, the figures are taller, more slender, and more naturalistic than those of earlier centuries.