The Cathedral of Saint Paul

Home » About » Stained Glass

Stained Glass

Photos of our windows are forthcoming!

The Cathedral’s beauty is enriched by its many stained glass windows, reflecting 19th century Catholic piety and devotional practices. The ten large windows in the nave were completely restored in the 1990s, right around their 100th anniversary.

Closest to the front are images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The image of the Assumption of the Virgin reflects the Catholic dogma that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven; a special honor for the sinless Mother of God.

Two apostles are honored: Saint Paul is shown with the traditional symbol of his martyrdom, his sword, and Saint John the Evangelist faces him across the nave, holding the book and quill of a Gospel writer.

Saints popular at the time or with the founding congregation were also honored. The strong Irish heritage of the parish and its pastors would account for the choice of Saint Patrick. Saint John Berchmans, a Jesuit who died in 1621, was canonized, or officially recognized as a saint, in 1888, just before the Cathedral’s dedication; he is the patron saint of altar servers. The Good Shepherd stresses the protection afforded by Jesus as a loving Savior, and the importance of following his example.

The image of the Holy Family in Nazareth related to the social and economic context of Birmingham in the 1880s. Early parishioners were mostly railroad construction workers and miners. Joseph, the carpenter, is set at the apex of the scene. His presence, with the tools of his trade prominently displayed, creates a protective envelope encompassing both the child Jesus and His Mother, engaged in the domestic labor of spinning wool, illustrating both the dignity of labor and the value of family solidarity.

The value of children is further seen in the image of Christ and Children, donated by a couple in fond memory of their daughter Catherine. The Savior gathers the children in His arms, as they hope He has done with their own child.

Above the nave windows are ten clerestory windows; in the facade of the church is a large modern window depicting St. Paul, and currently obscured by the pipe organ. Four small windows in the sanctuary area portray images of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the Holy Family, Jesus and the Children, and the Annunciation; these windows are in a much different style and likely came from another church or convent.

Looking up at the dome over the sanctuary, you will see a circular window with a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit. Note also the beautiful stained glass transoms over the main doors from the narthex into the nave.