February 8, 2021

Eleanor “Ellie” McCrackin

The Windows of St. Louis Cathedral
New Orleans, Louisiana

Here in the United States are two major celebrations of King Louis IX of France. There is a basilica in St. Louis, Missouri, and a cathedral in New Orleans, Louisiana. Both are magnificent structures and splendidly adorned. The object of this essay is the cathedral in New Orleans situated on the west edge of Jackson Square. More specifically we are interested in the story told by ten of the most colorful stained-glass windows in the United States.

Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana

The story of the windows began nearly 100 years ago in a small village in Germany. There is little Internet information about Linnich, Germany and not a single mention of a stain-glass manufacturer with the name the Oidtaan Studio. I have discovered the name Oidtaan is of Finnish origin.

Today Linnich is part of the North Rhine-Westphalia German State. The population of the village exceeds 12,000 residents and many of those are earning their living from a company devoted to laminate packaging for the pharmaceutical industry. Curiously, however, Linnich is the home of the Deutsche Glasmalerei-Museum (a museum and learning center with a mission of teaching and understanding the art and practice of stained glass.) 

The first visit I made to New Orleans was over 25 years ago. I was one of the lucky members of my class, I left school and walked across Manhattan in the early ‘90s and found work within a month. After just another month, I was asked to represent our organization at a convention of like-minded museum employees in New Orleans. I left two days early and found myself in a kind of Disney-setting. It went from pillar to post and then became a visit of wandering, seeing the sights, and enjoying the restaurants. But when you are in New Orleans in the middle of August there is one other thing you are forced to do – seek shelter from the heat of day. Such was the case of how I learned of the ten windows in the cathedral which tell the story of St. Louis, King of France.

Through the years since that visit, I have searched for a set of postcards dedicated to those ten windows but have met failure in every attempt except one. About twelve years ago at a postcard show in Illinois, I found a linen-folder entitled, St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, La. I have tired of the search; therefore, I hope you will forgive the use of the pages in this folder as illustrations.

To present at least a minimum of history, I called the Cathedral the other day and talked to a knowledgeable person who very kindly answered my questions. And, I thank her.

In just a few minutes I learned what I needed. The windows were made in Germany and shipped to Louisiana in the late 1920s. Upon arrival at New Orleans an art glass company that may very well have been owned and operated by a Jacob Julian Lips (and his son, J. J. Lips, Jr.), installed the windows at the church in 1929. (Apparently the Lips concern is still in business. There is a website for Julius Lips Glass in Gretna, Louisiana.)

The Windows of St. Louis

Click each image to enlarge for better viewing.

St. Louis and his mother,
St. Blanche of Castille

Louis, son of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castille was born in April 1214, near Paris. Both of Louis’s grand-fathers were kings. His formal education with tutors selected by his mother began early; his curricula included languages, speaking, writing, art, and military history.

Louis was 12 when his father died in 1226. He was awarded the crown at the cathedral in Reims, but his mother insisted that he complete his education and begin his reign only after he reached adulthood.

The Building of the Holy Chapel

The Marriage of St. Louis

Louis and Margaret of Provence were married in 1234. He was 20; she was 14. The marriage created political connections and she was crowned Queen of France the next day at Sens.

Louis IX worked tirelessly to advance his faith. He avidly collected religious relics, among these was the Crown of Thorns. Early in his reign Louis commissioned the
Sainte-Chapelle in Paris as a home for the crown, one of Christianity’s most cherished treasurers.

St. Louis, Crowned King of France

St. Louis Sails for the Crusade

When Louis IX came to realize that his duty to God rivaled his duty to country, he was dubbed the Crusading King. Louis came to believe he was God’s Lieutenant on Earth.

By 1248 the home of Islam had moved to Egypt from the Holy Land and as the leader of the Seventh Crusade Louis landed in Damiette in 1249. The attack was successful, but short lived. The following year Louis lost his army and was captured. He was forced to pay a ransom and surrender Damiette.

St. Louis Receiving the Key of Damiette

St. Louis Visiting the Lepers

Louis was renowned for his charity. Beggars were fed from his table and he often ate what they did not want. He washed their feet and ministered to the wants of lepers, who were ostracized from all society. He fed over one hundred of the poor almost daily. He visited the Lepers to bless their bodies and pray for their souls.

Louis IX, King of France died August 25, 1270, a victim of an epidemic of dysentery while on his second crusade in Tunisia.
His mortal remains were subjected to a process known as Mos Teutonicus*

The Death of St. Louis

The Burial of St. Louis

The funeral of the King was a rather lengthy affair – it lasted ten months. The entombment occurred in May 1271 at the Basilica of Saint Denis in Saint-Denis, France. His casket was draped with a Christian Flag.

Louis IX was proclaimed a saint of the Catholic church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.

The Canonization of St. Louis

*Mos Teutonicus was a postmortem funerary custom used in Europe in the Middle Ages as a means of transporting, and solemnly disposing of, the bodies of high status individuals. Nobles would often undergo Mos Teutonicus since their burial plots were often located far away from their place of death. The process involved the removal of the flesh from the body, by boiling so that the bones of the deceased could be transported hygienically from distant lands back home. – Wikipedia.

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Thank you very much for your interesting article about the stainglass windows in St. Louis Cathedral
in New Orleans.I have been in the cathedral and found it a haven of peace and quiet in a very noisy city. Like you I also enjoy collecting postcards and have quite a lot of the city and cathedral

This interesting article brought back memories of several visits to St. Louis Cathedral over a 25-year period. I checked my collection and there are, in fact, at least two post cards of the windows. The two I have are chrome and appear to be published by the Cathedral itself: STLC-20 St. Louis Crowned King of France; and STLC-21 St. Louis receiving the keys of Damiette. Who knows–there may be a complete set of the windows? I have other cards, also numbered in this same series, depicting paintings in the Cathedral and one of a statue of St. Louis.

Last edited 5 months ago by Peter Meggison

What a fascinating story! We love visiting NOLA and will most certainly stop in the next time we are there. The Mos Teutonicus procedure did sound rather gruesome however.

Since there are approximately 500 relics which are purported to be the Crown of Thorns, at least 499 of them are obviously fakes.

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