By and large, Saint Clare is pretty straightforward. The majority of the symbols used in the building are in the stained glass windows. The Phillips’ Stained Glass Studio created the windows for the parish beginning in the 1960’s. In this commission Douglas Phillips, a native Clevelander, used traditional Christian symbolism. However, some things are just plain difficult to symbolize and I would have had no idea what some of the windows represented if Mr. Phillips’ widow who is still in the business had not been so kind as allow us to see the original plans that gave the title of each window. But nowhere was there a key explaining what the symbols themselves are.
Some are pretty straightforward and clever.
1. This window in a set of eight representing the Beatitudes is, “Happy Are the Pure of Heart for They Shall See God.” The snowflake comes from Psalm 51:9, “Cleanse me of my sin with hyssop, Oh wash me and shall be whiter than snow.” In the heart of the snowflake is the alpha and omega symbol that represents Jesus. The pure of heart are the sinless who see God. Clever.
Some after you are told what they are you think, “Well, of course that is what it is.” See if you can guess what these are before you read the caption.
2. From the corporal works of mercy here is “Bury the Dead.” The object in the background is a coffin and I believe the object in the foreground is an oil stock for the anointing of the sick. It looks like the inscription reads “O.T.” but I think that it is supposed to be “O.I.” for Oleum Infirmorum (Unless someone can enlighten to what O.T. would be!)
3. The title of this is not so difficult as is identifying the object in the background. This is “Give Drink to the Thirsty.” But why does there seem to be a skinned animal carcass in the background? On one of the tours someone finally identified it. If you are not so clever like me, be prepared to slap the palm of your hand against your forehead. It is a wineskin.
These last three examples I can tell you the titles of the windows but other than that I have no idea what the objects are supposed to represent. If you can figure it out I would appreciate hearing from you. The first two come from a set of windows depicting the four cardinal virtues.
4. This is “Prudence.”
5. This is “Temperance.”
6. This, from the Corporal Works of Mercy, is, “To Bear Wrongs Patiently.” Well, the hourglass is pretty obvious but what is with the rake? An instrument of torture?