Baltimore, Md. For over the past 100 years here, bright sunlight has freely streamed through the vibrant stained glass windows of historic St. Stanislaus Kostka R.C. Church. Now comes the proprietary Franciscan Friars and their prospective developer who want to remove the colorful windows and replace them with clear glass. A total of 61 windows, of all types, exist in the upper and lower churches that comprise the building. Some are grouped together on the front of the church to appear as two large dome-shaped windows.
As per previous reports in this newspaper: The church was closed in 2000. A committee of concerned former parishioners and Polish groups later negotiated to buy the church and establish a Polish Church Museum and Cultural/Community Center. A long and bitter court battle ensued when the Franciscans abruptly and arbitrarily returned the purchase contract without their co-signature. They were then sued for breech of contract by the St. Stan's Committee, which ultimately lost its case in 2007 at the Maryland Court of Appeals level.
Façade of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church
But in the legal-limbo interim, St. Stan's providentially came under the protection of Baltimore's Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). And recently, on May 6, 2009, the church was given the added protection of being legally declared a City of Baltimore Historic Landmark. But in both cases, only the exterior of the church is protected. The interior is subject to conversion as the owner see fit.
On July 14, 2009 a CHAP meeting was convened to hear a Hybrid Development Group request. They were asking permission to remove the stained glass windows of the church and replace them with clear glass in order to make the building economically viable (in their opinion). Hybrid had no firm plans to present, but mentioned the usual general concept of recycling the church into a residential or commercial property.
The St. Stan's Committee, led by Michael Sarnecki, again rose to the occasion and argued that the threatened windows are a historic and a integral part of the church's protected exterior. The CHAP commissioners declined to make a recommendation, and asked the Franciscan-backed developer to supply more information on the window's precise age and religious significance.
The Franciscan Friars, in any event, are now busy preparing for the future development of St. Stan's. Late on the night of April 20, 2009 large moving vans arrived on the scene in Fell's Point. Beginning then, and continuing for the next two days, the church building was totally stripped of both its main altars - especially the magnificent high altar, the combined four side altars, all statuary, religious images and icons, Stations of The Cross, etc.
The only thing now left behind is the numerous wooden pews bearing mute testimony to the melancholy emptiness. The present whereabouts and ultimate fate of the departed, irreplaceable and priceless religious artifacts remains unknown to Polonia and the general public.
And so the sad nine-years-long saga of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church continues. The Franciscan Friars are already busy writing its next chapter. The St. Stan's Committee remains active, ready and ever-vigilant to the developing situation. Read the earlier article about St. Stanislaus Church "Protected".
I recommend a book about Saints: A Year in Faith., by Rosa Giorgi. This book has wonderful reviews in Amazon
I also recommend Patron Saints: A Feast of Holy Cards, by Barbara Calamari and Sandra di Pasqua