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French, Soissons - Soisson Window, about 1205

French, Soissons

Soisson Window with Scenes from the Lives of Saints Nicasius and Eutropia, about 1205

Pot metal glass , 366 x 157.5 cm (144 1/8 x 62 in.)


This window was made for Soissons Cathedral, the earliest of the great High Gothic cathedrals. In addition to its beauty, the window—considered by scholars to be the finest example of 13th century French stained glass in America—has a fascinating history. It survived Huguenot attacks, the French Revolution, and World War I bombardments. When Isabella purchased the window on the advice of her friend, historian and novelist Henry Adams, she thought it was from the Abbey Church of Saint Denis. Perhaps Isabella pictured it as a perfect companion for Paul Helleu’s nearby painting of the same church.  In 1960, scholars determined it was from Soisson.

The window narrates the story of two locally important saints—Nicasius, archbishop of Reims, and his sister Eutropia—who were martyred in 403. Look for the entombment of Nicasius in the center of the window: two figures carrying crosses flank the saint’s body, while shovels used to dig the grave appear at the bottom.

In Gardner’s lifetime she used this space as her personal chapel, and in her will stipulated that a service be held here annually on her birthday, April 14.