Stained Glass Windows for the Monks of Norcia
I was recently asked to complete one of the most prestigious commissions since IKO Studio was founded.
In the fifth century, San Benedetto and his twin sister Scholastica were born in the town that at the time was known as Nursia, and what is today Norcia. Norcia is home to one of the most important orders of monks, the Benedictine monks of Norcia.
On the morning of October 30th, 2016 at twenty-to-eight in the morning, a strong earthquake shook central Italy, damaging many of the beautiful medieval villages in Umbria and Marche. One of the villages that was particularly hit was that of Norcia.
The earthquake which measured of 5.6 magnitude completely destroyed the Basilica of Saint Benedict which was situated in the historic centre of the town as well as the monastery of San Benedetto in Monte, where the monks have lived since 2000. Their chapel was also badly damaged.
Despite its destructive force, the earthquake did not destroy the order of the Benedictine monks, and within a short time, donors from all over the world began offering funds to rebuild the monastery and equip it with an earthquake-proof wooden chapel.
The monks contacted us to create five new stained glass windows for their chapel, in a traditional geometric Gothic style, to decorate their delightful wooden chapel.
Although the design did not include shading and was mainly ornamental with black lines, due to the sheer number of pieces it was a challenging but rewarding window to create.
Its complexity required IKO Studio to pull together a team of stained-glass artists who set to the task and worked in perfect harmony.
With so many pieces to cut, precision was of utmost importance, a millimetre over or under, and the final window would not have worked. The painting talents of Andrea Marsicola, Francesca Isoldi and Liz Bottomley were essential, as was the generous help offered by Diego Cozza, from studio Mondo Vetro in Vicenza, who helped with the leading and cementing phases.
The installation of the glass was both traditional and innovative. Traditional in that the reinforcing steel frame was attached with copper ties, as per the technique in ancient cathedrals and the internal face of the window can be touched, and admired. But we developed a system that was capable of coupling the stained glass panels with a single piece of safety glass mounted to the external face of the window. This meant that while from inside the church the window maintains its traditional appearance, the window is thermally insulated, protected from damage, and through the use of aluminium channels and desiccating salts, is mould resistant.
It was a real pleasure to collaborate with Father Prior Benedetto di Norcia to realise this piece of art, and it will be a pleasure to collaborate with him in the future. It was also an exciting moment for us to be part of the mass, which was accompanied by traditional hymns sung by the monks.
Below is an excerpt from Father Prior Benedetto homily which drew inspiration from the light that passes through our stained glass windows, filtered by colours and geometric designs and which becomes part of God’s message.