Beginning Palm Sunday, March 16, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., and continuing each night of the Catholic Holy Week, parishioners, friends of Nativity and the general public are invited to view the spectacular stained glass windows of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, corner of Albany and Herkimer Streets on Buffalo's West Side. It is of interest to preservationists for two reasons. First, the opportunity to see the architecture lighted from within in a kind of reverse image, and then through the stained art glass. Second, to see first hand the quality of one of the many churches the Diocese of Buffalo is discussing closing.
The windows will be lighted from within the Church, allowing them to be viewed during a leisurely stroll around the Church or from one's vehicle. Neighborhood residents can enjoy them simply by walking by on an errand or looking out the livingroom window.
Each window is a gem of stained glass artistry depicting a biblical scene from the Gospels. All are welcome to stop for as long as one would like to meditate on these beautiful works as well as to take in the beauty of Nativity Church, which dominates the open triangle of land where Albany, Hampshire, and Normal streets come together.
Nativity Church, which serves the Buffalo's central West Side, was dedicated in 1903. It was designed by Albert Post in the Neo-Gothic style and rendered in Medina sandstone. Gothic architecture is best known for the architectural innovation of the pointed arch, which made it possible to place many windows in otherwise heavy stone buildings, suffusing the interiors with light. Windows changed from very simple openings to rich designs filled with stained glass.
The windows of the nave were often used to illustrate biblical scenes. The windows were commonly paid for by individual parishioners as a permanent memorial to a loved one. Such is the case at Nativity, with perhaps the most famous one being that donated by William J. "Fingy" Connors in memory of his father, Peter. (illustration, left) Connors rose from being a teen-aged orphan in the Old First Ward to controlling 40,000 dockworkers on the Great Lakes, being the owner of the Buffalo Courier Express and the chairman of the New York State Democratic party around the time Nativity Church was erected. The Connors Memorial Window can be seen on the west elevation, along a walkway between the church and the convent.
The south elevation, or Albany Street side, is dominated by a three-part Gothic window with geometric stained glass designs. These can be seen to great advantage from the open space across the street. Similar stained glass adorns the apse, best seen from Herkimer street near the rectory.
The lighting of the windows is designed to share the beauty of the church with those who have not seen them from the inside, during the most sacred period of the Catholic calendar. Rev. Angelo Chimera sees the lighting as transforming the church into a colorful beacon of hope and the beginning of a tradition.