The celestial experience of the Cathedral would be difficult to imagine without the multitude of stained-glass windows which bathe the interior with grace from the outside. The windows have been mounted over time from the original construction of the church, up to the most recent installations for the 100th anniversary of the building in 1989.
As such, the windows have been made by different artists using different methods, but all are strikingly beautiful and must be seen to be appreciated. Many of the windows installed during the initial construction, and following years, were made in the Tyrolean region of Austria with later windows made in California, Massachusetts and Belgium. Most of the windows in the building are of a pictorial style, although there are some more modern, non-figurative windows on the west end. The donors of the funds for the windows are listed in the lower part of the panes of many of the openings and include prominent individuals and organizations in the history of Northern California and Nevada. Some of these donors were friends of Bishop Manogue from his early days in Nevada near the strike of the Big Bonanza company owned by four Irish miners including John MacKay who would become one of the super-rich of the Gold Rush. Mrs. Theresa Fair (ex-wife of Bonanza King mine, James Fair) and her daughters Birdie and Tessie were also big contributors. Others were local businessmen such as retailer Anthony Coolot, shipping merchant Captain Thomas Dwyer, Margaret Crocker, wife of railroad executive Edwin Crocker, and prominent names like McCarthy, Rigney, Bemerly and Kaseberg. Organizations, too, donated funds such as the Knights of Sacramento, St. Mary’s Church of Virginia City (Manogue’s first parish) and the Sisters of Mercy founded in Sacramento in 1857. The windows are full of meaning in and of themselves, as well as carry meaning in the context of their grouping by liturgical subject(s).
The windows on the eastern wall behind the focal point of the Eucharistic celebration were made in Austria in the 1880’s likely by the artisan glass-making company Tyrolese Art Glass (Tiroler Glasmalerei Anstalt) of Innsbruck, Austria which also had offices in New York and Chicago due to high demand for colored-glass windows in the late 1800’s. These windows are made in the “German-style” which are marked by highly artistic depictions in the German-Baroque method with elaborate canopies of white and gold-columned architectural structures or floral features. The scenes were painted on relatively large glass panels (as opposed to the medieval technique of using smaller pieces of colored glass) before being fired, then held in a leaded framework. Their elaborate canopy-framed scenes and colors may make them some of the most treasured in Sacramento. They (along with all the glass in the Cathedral) were cleaned and re-leaded as part of the 2005 Restoration.
Avella, Steven M., Fr. Sacramento and the Catholic Church, Shaping a Capital City. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008.
Murphy, James T., Reverend Monsignor. A Pilgrim’s Guide to Sacramento’s Cathedral. France: Editions du Signe, 2006.