Fr. Michael Prieur's insight into the stained glass windows at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont. is the subject of a documentary by Salt+Light TV.

Salt+Light doc on St. Peter’s Seminary windows takes home Gabriel glory

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  • May 18, 2012

Fr. Michael Prieur has lived at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont., for more than 50 years. For 40 of those years, he never paid attention to the stained glass windows in the chapel.

“And then one day I wondered why St. Jerome was dressed up like a cardinal when there was no such outfit in the days that he lived,” Prieur told The Catholic Register.

After some investigation, he discovered that artists sometimes dressed their subjects in outfits that showed their function even if the outfit came from a later date in history. It’s called “artistic anachronism,” he said.

In 2005, Prieur published a book on his research into the history and symbolism found in the stained glass windows at the seminary. Last May, Salt + Light TV brought his work to life through a four-part mini-series called Panes of Glory: The Windows of St. Peter’s Seminary. For its work, Salt + Light will be presented with a Gabriel Award for Best Television Documentary during the International Convention of the Catholic Press Association in Indianapolis on June 21.

“The windows are a great big beacon attracting people to the seminary, to the chapel, to these great teachers and to what’s going on here,” said Prieur. “And what a gift for our centenary.”

Founded in 1912, the seminary is celebrating 100 years this May.

“The gift of the seminary is being discovered in a new way in the 21st century,” he said, comparing the situation to finding treasure in your backyard.

Documentary host Mary Rose Bacani said it was a wonderful surprise and an honour to be recognized. Panes of Glory was the last project she worked on before going on maternity leave, so she wasn’t even aware it had been submitted for the Gabriel Awards.

“Faithwise, I learned so much about the saints, their stories and the importance of details in the artwork,” she said.

This was the first time Bacani worked with a director outside of Salt + Light. “And we had a team that lived together for 10 days at the seminary. It was also like a retreat for all of us… It became a community.”

Prieur said the filming was an interfaith experience as the director, Marc Stone, is Jewish. 

“We had some wonderful conversations about Jesus, about Scripture and about the connection between our faith and the Jewish faith.”

The stained glass windows showcase doctors of the Church, including St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Basil and St. Gregory the Great. There are 34 doctors or “teachers of the Church” today, but in 1930, there were only 26, he said.

“Interestingly enough, in 1926, there were no women doctors but two of the windows… are St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux who were declared doctors later on,” he said. “And I’m sure when they put the windows in, they never dreamt that those people would someday be doctors of the Church.”

Every episode features the voices of the internationally renowned Amabile Choirs from London, Ont., which helped to make the series into a contemplative prayer about beauty: the beauty in the windows and in our faith, said Prieur.

“Stained glass windows are supposed to inspire us to something bigger, greater. They’re supposed to lead us to God,” said Prieur.

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