Victoria’s Nineteenth Century Stained-Glass: A Fusion of History, Glamour, and Art
Beautiful stained-glass art graces many historical buildings throughout Victoria and Vancouver Island as you walk along Quadra street to see the first churches on the island, step inside and behold the intricate stained-glass windows from the nineteenth century. This art form can be found in Victoria’s castles, government buildings, and homes, resplendent leaded designs through which light passes and shimmers, reminding us of a an era that glamour and art lived in the hearts of many who came to bring originality and grace to an island far from home. In the old days such works of art not only impressed the viewers and worshipers with their rich colours and intricate patterns but told stories of their home country, England, Scotland, and of times both religious and prestigious.
On our Victoria Drive and Walk tour, we had a couple from Holland who expressed a love of stained glass and wished to see it. We started in Victoria’s parliament building where the hallways are lined with more than 100 stunning leaded glass and stained-glass windows. For me, the most engaging of these is the window depicting Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and her 60th year of reign. In 1912 however, when the parliament buildings’ library was being built, this stunning glass art window was put way for safe keeping and subsequently forgotten for 60 years. Rediscovered, it was carefully restored and now hangs in the Reception Hall where we admired it.
We moved on to the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel off of Victoria’s Inner Harbour where a very special stained-glass dome can be found in the Palm Court where receptions are held. Incredibly, this rose stained glass piece was also put away for restoration when it collapsed during a winter storm in 1968, then reconstructed piece by piece in 1988. A 20-year long process using old photographs and original old glass found in Victoria. This dome at the Empress Hotel is an awe-inspiring piece of delicate work and undoubtedly admired by guests who enjoy high tea in the elegant afternoon tea service lobby close by.
One of Canada’s finest collections of Victorian stained and leaded glass windows can be found at Craigdarroch Castle, commissioned by the Dunsmuir family in the 1890’s. Little is known about the artists who painstakingly cut the crystals of vivid colours and pieced them together, only that they came from Chicago. After the death of Joan Dunsmuir, several of the glass windows mysteriously disappeared, and so the Craigdarroch society has plans to recreate the missing windows using illustrations and old photographs for authenticity.
Stories behind collections of stained-glass art, can be found in Victoria’s Government House, at Hatley Castle as well as all along the Victorian houses of James Bay. They are a testament to a prevailing art form of that era preserved and appreciated throughout time. Stained glass art has never lost its appeal to dazzle with bright and subtle color, style and the stories of the past.
On your visit to Victoria whether you take our Victoria Drive and Walk Tour or our Victoria’s History tour, ask us to show you some of this city’s stunning stained-glass art.