Windows For The Soul
St.-Peter's-Church-in-ruins-San-Francisco

S t. Peter’s Church In Ruins

SAN FRANCISCO'S MISSION DISTRICT was a neighborhood of Irish immigrants. On July 4, 1886, they celebrated our nation's birthday by dedicating the just completed St. Peter's Church. As you enter through the narthex into the nave your attention is pulled upward by the elaborate grisaille style stained glass windows and then beyond to the highest arch of the Trompe L'Oiel painted ceiling where a message from the prophet Isaiah is written: "I have loved, oh Lord, the beauty of thy house and the place where thy glory dwelleth".

Tragedy stuck their city in 1906 with the great San Francisco earthquake and fire. Somehow, St. Peter's, seemingly under divine protection, was one of only five churches left standing. Then on January 17, 1997, a votive candle flickering on the Sacred Heart shrine flared up setting fire to the sanctuary. Father, having a late dinner looked up to see the whole church engulfed in flames. San Francisco's heroic fire fighters arrived and had no choice but to vent the church by smashing St. Peter's stained glass heritage, to extinguish the flames; but St. Peter's lay in ruins. Most of St. Peter's precious historic stained glass windows were broken and blown out. Shards of glass dangled from what was left of the lead matrix. Standing in the nave you could see blue sky where the incredible Trompe L'Oiel painted ceiling had been just a few hours ago


We were able to match both the stained glass and the painting that was on every piece of glass in the windows of St. Peter’s church.
 
 
 

St. Peter’s gloriously ornate interior is unexpected as the relatively plain exterior fits perfectly into San Francisco’s historic Mission District.
 

The Mission District suddenly felt empty and devoid of vitality the morning after the fire. But St. Peter's (now a 97% Latino parish) like San Francisco herself (after the earthquake and fire of 1906), soon rose from the flames more like the sparkling new church of 1886, than like the elderly matron that had been damaged by fire.

Of St. Peter's 46 stained glass windows, we replicated 38 that were too damaged to be restored. These windows were in the Grisaille style, some with beautiful medallions of saints. There were plenty of shards and panes of glass available to match. We were able to accurately match both the stained glass itself and the glass painting that was on every piece of stained glass in the windows of St. Peter's. Our wood shop made and our craftspeople installed new window frames with hand carved elements in the tracery out of long lasting and stable plantation grown Honduras mahogany for all 46 stained glass windows. We set the new window frames and stained glass windows with laminated tempered glass exterior glazing to meet San Francisco's current earthquake codes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

January 17, 1997, a votive candle flickering on the Sacred Heart shrine flares up and within hours St. Peter's church lies in ruins. Shards of painted glass dangle from what is left of the lead matrix. Standing in the nave you can see blue sky where the incredible Trompe L'Oiel painted ceiling once shone.
 

June 30, 2000; San Francisco worshippers gather to celebrate the rededication of the fully restored St. Peter’s church.
   
 

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