A Brief History of our Parish
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, located at 6700 Lansing Ave. in Cleveland, was established on 3 May 1894 by Rev. Anton F. Kolaszewski, the former pastor of St. Stanislaus Church. Immaculate Heart began as a schismatic parish that served an ever-increasing number of poles in the city's Warszawa district. Fr. Kolaszewski continued as pastor until 1908, when both he and his parishioners formally reconciled with the diocese. A Franciscan priest, Fr. Methodius Kielar, OFM, was named administrator of the church. After 3 pastors between 1909-12, Fr. Marion J. Orzechowski became pastor on 12 Feb. 1912. A gifted administrator, he supervised the construction of a new church building in 1914. The people helped build the Romanesque structure, donating some of the materials.
Immaculate Heart's first church building had also been used as a parochial school. Lay teachers staffed it until 1911, when the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis took charge. In 1915 a temporary school was erected, and by 1925 a new school of 16 rooms was dedicated. Enrollment peaked at 1,350 in 1932 but has since declined. Fr. Orzechowski remained at the parish until 1932, when he was named pastor of St. John Cantius. His successor, Fr. John Mlotkowski, served until his death in 1960. Mlotkowski's successor, Fr. Aloysius Dombrowski, remodeled the sanctuary in accord with the reforms of Vatican II. Monthly events were held from summer 1993 through spring 1994 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Parish. Events culminated in its centennial celebration in May 1994.
Church Windows - by Munich Studios
The windows are so important because they represent an artistic investment of our founding parishioners. They are a vital part of our church's history because they date back to its early years. They are at once religiously and patriotically inspirational. They teach Biblical faith and Polish heritage.
The history of the stained glass windows of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church has its roots in the rapid expansion of the Polish population in Cleveland in the beginning of this century. As our growing congregation outgrew the original wooden combination church and school, a larger and grander, separate, brick and stone building was contemplated. Reverend Marion Orzechowski was pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the church was then known, when our present church building was erected in 1914. This building is a replacement for the original wooden structure, damaged by fire, which dated from the founding of the parish in 1894. With the new building came our beautiful windows, many of them signed, which were installed from 1914 to 1918.
The architect and contractor of the present church building, Anthony F. Wasielewski, had designed and built nearly two dozen churches by the time he had been contracted to build ours. The Church of St. Anthony, completed by Mr. Wasielewski in 1911, in Lismore, Minnesota, bears a remarkable resemblance to ours, both in outward appearance and in the commission of the studio for its stained glass windows. Its art glass windows, which cost $2,200.00, were supplied by The Munich Studio, the same company which fabricated ours. The Munich Studio specialized in Germanic Baroque-style European memorial windows, designed by Max Guler.
Partial catalog listings from 1910 to 1925 note thirty-two major church installations in Chicago; and ninety-six in out-of-state cities, including Holy Rosary Church here in Cleveland, St. Dominic Church in Columbus, Ohio, St. Joseph Church and St. Mary Church in Tiffin, Ohio and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Youngstown, Ohio. The 1915 catalog lists a reference to Reverend M. J. Orzechowski of our parish as well as to Reverend John W. Becha of St. Adalbert in Cleveland, Ohio.
While most of The Munich Studio's windows depicted traditional biblical themes, a few expressed patriotic or ethnic aspiration, making them unique expressions of their culture and their time. It was not uncommon to find national patron saints or heroes portrayed in stained glass. This is evident in several of our windows. The windows of our church abound with Polish saints and ethnic themes. Each of our windows has at its foot a flowing memorial scroll identifying the sponsor of that window.
Guler's art, which was essentially Baroque, reflects that style's dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, infinite attention to realistic detail, asymmetrically planned groupings of figures, an abundance of architectural forms, and intricate decorative elements. He was also influenced by the etchings of Hieronymus Bosch and the paintings of Bellini, Tintoretto, and Titian, reproductions of whose works he kept in a permanent file to which he frequently turned for inspiration.
Looking at the windows of our church reveals many of the characteristics of windows done by The Munich Studio. In the large window to the left of the pulpit we see Christ preaching from a boat. Our eyes are drawn to the central figure of Christ, not immediately, but secondarily through the vibrantly arresting color of the robed figure with the outstretched arm, pointing to Christ, Who with His outstretched arm, completes the transition. The abundance of small figures on the left is balanced by the imposing presence of Christ and the fishers in the boat. The aura of the setting sun surrounds and intensifies the aura of Christ's halo. Our eyes are again drawn to Christ through the subtly decreasing height of the mountains in the background which reach minimum near the brightest portion of the sky. In a realistic aside, a small child playfully reaches for a bright butterfly in a bush; the color contrast of red on green accentuates the diminutive insect. A richly ornamented arched frame - a favorite Guler device - encompasses the entire composition in this and in each of the other windows.
Profuse architectural details, almost as important as the central figures themselves, draw the viewer's attention to focal points, such as the richly ornate gold altar behind the figure of Christ in the Sacred Heart Window; the gold monstrance on this same altar serves to echo Christ in His Eucharistic Presence; the heavy stone arch in the Cyril and Methodius Window substantiates the theme of these "pillars" of the Slavic people; the heavily detailed stone walls of the chapel in the St. Adalbert Window magnify the presence of St. Adalbert; the substantial mass of the structure in the Holy Family Window bespeaks the fundamentality of the family unit.
As in many Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, a small section of landscape appears through an opening somewhere; in the Poland in Chains Window the city of Warsaw lies across the Vistula River, behind the central figures at the foot of the cross; in the St. Adabert Window, high upon the rear chapel wall behind the figure of St. Adalbert, we see clear bright blue sky, the light from which shines through his halo; in the Childrens' Offering Window we can see what could be a Polish village in the left background; and in the left sanctuary clerestory window can be seen a small castle or fortification behind the priestly figure. The roses, lilies, irises, and the leaves of palms and other trees and shrubs are realistic and precise.
Facial expressions and costuming often complement each other. Boredom, curiosity, incredulity and wonder mark the countenances of the group of disciples in the Christ Preaching Window; the faces of the children are not even turned toward Christ, they being more intent on playful wading; look at the amazement in the face of the small child reaching for the butterfly. In the Calming of the Storm Window the viewer can almost feel the fear and mortal terror captured in the strained faces of the apostles in the boat. This is a window of contrasts - light and dark, divine peace and natural violence, calm and fear, royalty and commoner. King Boleslaus' slightly bowed head and seated position in the St. Adalbert Window reveal his willful submission of earthly power to Christ's authority symbolized in the proclaiming figure of St. Adalbert, the central figure of the window. This jewel-like window with its strikingly complementary red and green colors is most beautiful in sunlight and contrasts sharply with the Poland in Chains Window to its left, a brooding scene even in bright light. Each of the maidens in the Assumption Window wears a unique emotion on her face - wonder, awe, acceptance, thanksgiving, reverence, adoration, honor, love. They are adorned with gorgeously colored and embroidered robes, almost tactile in execution. The rays of the gloria surrounding Mary point to a wonder hidden from the viewer's gaze, the place of her heavenly Assumption.
Max Guler used some color combinations reminiscent of the Italian masters, but also created a number of his own. Among them are: bronze-gold against transluscent milk white; dark olive against light mauve or purple (Holy Family Window); ruby against smoky gray (Storm Window and Poland in Chains Window); and brick red against sharp blue (Holy Rcsary Window), accented with gem-like flashes of red, yellow or emerald.