Campus & Community

Through a glass, brightly

4 min read

Harvard’s Memorial Hall is a veritable museum of American stained glass

The constellations of stained-glass windows that grace Memorial Hall create a magical feeling above the building’s halls as they transform the space into a veritable museum of American stained glass, with a variety of designers, manufacturers, and techniques on display.

The late Harvard Professor Mason Hammond researched the hall’s artworks for his book “The Stained Glass Windows in Memorial Hall,” and found that most of the panels were installed between 1879 and 1902. The glass was commissioned and funded by various alumni classes, and the Harvard Corporation drew up stringent guidelines for the works. One ruled that the characters depicted in the glass must be pre-Shakespeare — “it being the intention that the windows, when all complete, shall unite harmoniously into one great theme,” according to Mason.

These masterpieces show an eclectic curatorial style that pays simultaneous tribute to scholars, writers, historical figures, and military greats. From season to season, these works also change with the ephemeral qualities of the natural light that strikes them.

Memorial Hall’s transept and stained-glass windows by Sarah Wyman Whitman were donated in memory of the “sons of Harvard” who gave their lives in the Civil War and whose names are recorded in the transept’s tablets.
This detail of Sarah Wyman Whitman’s glass shows four cherubs holding tablets that celebrate the heroic virtues of love, honor, courage, and patience.
“The Battle Window,” another work by Sarah Wyman Whitman, commemorates those who surrendered their lives in the War of the Rebellion.
Extension School student Kanwar Singh ’16 — a U.S. military veteran — visits Memorial Hall during the Official Harvard Military Tour. Singh’s grandfather also served in the British military.
Frederic Crowninshield’s stained-glass masterpiece, “Parting of Hector and Andromache,” is reflected in this William Sharp portrait of the brothers William Townsend Hodges (pictured) and George Foster Hodges (not pictured).
In 1902, artist Edward Sperry created “Bernard and Godefroy” inside Annenberg Hall. This is Bernard (1090-1153), a member of the Cistercian order of Benedictines, who founded the reformed and ascetic monastery of Clairvaux.
This overview shows people admiring the architectural details of Annenberg Hall, which are said to have inspired the décor for the great hall in the Harry Potter movies.
Artist John La Farge created this window of a classical warrior clad in a light-colored cuirass, striding toward the viewer’s left with his body and head turned back to encourage his followers in 1881.
An exterior view of John La Farge’s work.
Artist Francis Millet and manufacturer Tiffany Studios produced “Gen. Joseph Warren and Rev. John Eliot” in 1889. Gen. Joseph Warren is on the left; the Rev. John Eliot (1604-1690), who founded a Congregational Church in Roxbury, is on the right.
Artist Charles Mills created “La Salle and Marquette” in 1895. This image shows Jacques Marquette (1637-1675), a Jesuit missionary who worked with the Native Americans of Canada, particularly those around the Great Lakes.
In 1874, artist Donald MacDonald created “The West Window,” a gothic panel inside Annenberg Hall.
The left panel of Frederic Crowninshield’s 1888 “Parting of Hector and Andromache” shows Andromache holding the child Astyanax outside the Scaean Gates, with the plain of Troy in the distance. The figures are framed by the Scamander River and the Aegean Sea, with the mountains of Samothrace and Imbros in the distance.
In 1888, artist Charles Eastman created “Charlemagne and Sir Thomas More.”
A detail of Donald MacDonald’s “The West Window” (1874) shows a veritas symbol in the center.
Artist Henry Holiday created “Christopher Columbus and Admiral Robert Blake” inside Annenberg Hall in 1880. Columbus is on the left.
Parents attending the Class of 2015 parent’s weekend swarm around “Athena Decorating Funerary Column,” another work by John La Farge, inside Sanders Theatre.
Artist Frederic Crowninshield created “Pericles and Leonardo” in 1882. On the left stands an unarmed Pericles, who is depicted in Corinthian armor and framed by Greek inscriptions commemorating his military achievements.
“Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi” was designed and manufactured by John La Farge in 1891.
Detail of “The Battle Window” by Sarah Wyman Whitman from 1900.