The 125th Anniversary of the Vilas Window

When precisely Grace Church’s oldest stained glass window, the “Resurrection” Window, was dedicated, is unclear. Various historical accounts claim it was on Holy Innocents’ Day, December 27, 1887. Then as now, however, Holy Innocents was observed on December 28. My guess is given that it was in memory of Esther Vilas’s husband and five of her children, the connection with Holy Innocents is correct and an error down the line turned the 28th into the 27th.

The Vilas family was among the most important families in Madison in the second half of the nineteenth century. Mrs. Vilas’ husband, Levi, served as Madison’s mayor and their son William was a US Senator, Postmaster General, and Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland. William’s daughter Cornelia is memorialized in Grace’s Vilas Guild Hall and his son Henry by the Henry Vilas Zoo.

The window was made by Cox and Sons of London, England. The window’s colors are rich and deep and it is especially beautiful when it refracts the afternoon and early evening sun. Commonly called the “Resurrection” window, the window depicts three stories from the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. The large central image shows the women at the tomb hearing the angel say, “He is not here, he is risen.” The two images to the left and right are of Jesus on the road to Emmaus and Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ in the garden. The window was restored in 2005 as a memorial to Mrs. Betty Kurtenacker with funds raised by the Episcopal Church Women.

Some photos of the window are here:

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