Well, I finally got in during day hours last weekend to the Presidio's Main Post Chapel. I was aware that there was some nice Gothic-revival windows there. I wasnt sure who made them, but upon entering, I was very pleasantly surprised by the high quality, expert designs, and beautiful deep norman slab colors.
The pamphlet literature lists a female artist-glazier Willemina E.A.M. Ogterop as designer. Apparently, she was one of the first and few "card-carrying" glass designers in the 1930's in the Bay Area. The windows are signed and executed by Cummings Studios, (a signature is in every corner), and each window was contributed by various Veterans organizations in the early 1930's. The chapel itself is a Southwest style chapel, with one long room. There are evidently the remains of various high ranking officers encased in the walls on either side, evidenced by the carved stone tablets with dates. Other than that, the interior is actually rather plain, except for these lovely windows high up in the clerestory and rounding out the nave.
These aisle clerestory windows embody the military-code themes of Martydom, Mercy, Courage, Loyalty, Truth, Reverence, Honor, Sacrifice, Motherhood, and Daring. The three Gothic Revival chancel windows depict Hope, Love, and Faith. Although these were created long before females were in the Army as soldiers, many of the figures depicted are females. Perhaps the desire was to remind soldiers of mothers and nurses, and to create a healing sanctuary for those who may be battle weary.
The most interesting aspect for me was the couching of American military into the language of mythology and medieval chivalry. The figures of soldiers are medieval knights in armor, but with heraldry of America. This is unusual, seeing as the typical national and governmental art/architecture tends to be Greco-Roman, and Classical Hellenic. To see such lovely Gothic treatments was to view the Army through the lens of a spiritual warfare, not just an external one.
The figures are and become mythic archetypes, symbols of allegories, but not in that exoteric idealized form, in an esoteric and mystical form.
The Nave windows...
The aisle windows are filled with interesting details, such as the insignias of various branches of the military, squadrons, battalions, even presidents,...
Signed "Cummings Studios", which was at that time one of the premier Gothic revival glass studios in the Bay Area...
Chapel is now is an Interfaith Center, ever since the Army gave up the Presidio to the Parks Department. It also houses a large WPA mural executed by an apprentice of Diego Rivera, as well as the Kohola Healing pole outside (see earlier posting). The Chapel also has programs and facilitated the current stained glass exhibit, "Remembered Light" currently on view at the Officers Club. Soon those works will attempt to find a permanent home in a proposed wing, the "Chpl. Macdonald wing" at the Main Post Chapel.
The Main Post Chapel is a small outlet, a jewel of Art, Spirit, and dialogue tucked away in the Park. I reccommend to anyone an hour's visit on a gray Sunday afternoon...