Reflections on Oklahoma’s Stained Glass Windows - 405 Magazine

Reflections on Oklahoma’s Stained Glass Windows

Some are centuries old, others less than a decade, and their subjects range from veneration of saints to celebration of history to commemoration of terrible loss. In all their forms, these spiritual works of art are creations of scintillating beauty.

Blue Are The Chieftains’ Robes Surrounding The Missionary Priest, Bible In His Left Hand, Crucifix Extended Heavenward In His Right, In Pawhuska.

Red is the Confederate flag, frozen crossed against the 35-star spangled banner flag, memorialized below renditions of the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights and nestled above the scales of justice, in Shawnee.

Gold are the prairie schooner’s wheels, pulled by a pair of spirited horses heading westward to the purple sea, frozen in time in Norman.

Among the acres of stained-glass church windows across Oklahoma, some commemorate the state’s unique history: nomadic tribes and the Trail of Tears, the Land Run and oil strikes, Indian Territory outposts that created American-born saints and traveling preachers determined to save American-born sinners.

They convey a feeling of the opening of the Oklahoma and Indian Territories as a modern-day promised land, portraying the exodus as epic and inevitable. In discussing the Oklahoma history window in the Raley Chapel at Oklahoma Baptist University in his hometown of Shawnee, then-Gov. Brad Henry noted the force of destiny in “the sweeping upward motion, which weaves itself through the entire window, just like the Oklahoma wind, sweeping down the plains. It can be a very powerful, literal wind, as we all know. But it has figurative significance as well. We are on the cusp of greatness. A new dawning in Oklahoma.”

That spirit of optimism glows in the windows from dawn to dusk, changing mood and color with the shifting clouds of the Oklahoma sky. They were created not to offer a view to the outside world but to filter light through a kaleidoscope of history, harnessing the sun to backlight portraits and panoramas to the faithful within.

Twelve unique installations from around the state – from a 500-year-old Renaissance masterpiece in Nowata to a window that responds to an act of violence with the determination to rebuild – offer an overview of a century of evolving styles and vantage points as Oklahomans view their stories through great panes of the Great Plains.


 Shawnee: Oklahoma Baptist University

The Oklahoma History Window



On The Eve Of Oklahoma’s 99th Anniversary Of Statehood, Gov. Brad Henry Spoke To An Assembly In Raley Chapel At Oklahoma Baptist University, In His Hometown Of Shawnee. The topic for his Nov. 15, 2006 address: the symbolism embedded in the “truly marvelous and vibrant panorama” of OBU’s Oklahoma History pane, largest of the chapel’s set of 12 custom stained-glass windows designed to reflect facets of education, science, business, religion, history and the arts.

“… It’s impossible really to talk about Oklahoma and its history without also discussing faith, as we Oklahomans are deeply rooted in faith. We are a deeply devout people.

“The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which is one year older than Oklahoma itself, just last night celebrated and commemorated the 100th anniversary of its brilliant beginnings. It was Nov. 9, 1906, when the Baptist General Convention of Indian Territory and the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention merged to form the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The two conventions assembled right here in Shawnee and marched together to the Shawnee Opera House, where they formed the new convention. Today, the convention has nearly 1,700 churches and 750,000 members statewide.

“But Baptists were thriving long before today’s General Convention was formed. You might notice in the window behind me the scene depicting the organization of the first Baptist church in Oklahoma. It’s in the center of the window, between the images of Will Rogers above and Sequoyah below. Located near Fort Gibson, the church was formed in 1832 by a Native American man, three black slaves and a white missionary couple. The diversity of its founders is emblematic of Oklahoma. Our state is and always has been the place where roads converge, both literally and figuratively: race, religion, income level, even political affiliation. What separates us pales in comparison to the goals and the dreams we share …

“It’s exciting to be standing on the precipice of history in our state. This is a fitting time to reflect on what it means to be an Oklahoman. It’s about a spirit and determination that has long distinguished our state’s culture. I’d like to quote an excerpt from a poem by a friend of mine, an Oklahoma-born Kiowa Indian and a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, N. Scott Momaday:

… The pilgrimage came to this

The sun dancing came to this

The destiny of the people came to this


Oklahoma is the name of the sun’s house

Oklahoma is the name of an ancient quest 

Oklahoma is the name of a great destiny

Others came

Others came upon the rolling plains

They bore books and learning

They bore the Word of God

They bore the machinery of nationhood

Now we come in our turn

Now we come to a new destiny

Now we come to a new consecration

 of this holy place

Now we come in our turn

To stand on this ground between 

our forebears and our children

To build understanding on what has been

To build greatness on what will be.

    “The excerpt comes from a poem titled ‘Oklahoma 2003,’ which Scott Momaday was gracious enough to write for my inauguration as governor in 2003. Momaday’s poem refers to the celebrated Oklahoma spirit. He describes a long history, even longer than is depicted in the window behind me.

 “He boasts of a convergence of peoples, of the glory of things past and the glory of things to come. Momaday’s poem reminds us that our history did not begin where the window begins, with the entrance of the white man. When explorers like Coronado, shown in the lower left corner of the window, and LaSalle, in the lower right, arrived in this area, they found evidence of thriving civilizations of ages past as seen, for example, in the mounds of eastern Oklahoma. They also found an existing culture of native people, including the Plains Apaches, the Wichitas and the Caddos. Oklahoma’s favorite son, who as I mentioned earlier is pictured in the center of the window, once said, ‘My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat.’ Rogers was many things: a cowboy and comedian, an actor and syndicated columnist. But he was, above all else, a proud Cherokee.

“Oklahoma takes its name from the Choctaw term meaning red people. Our state is home to 39 American Indian tribes, more than any other state in the nation. In fact – get this – more languages are spoken within our borders than in all of Europe, a testament to the size and the influence of the American Indian tribes represented in our state.

“Momaday’s poem tells us that others came to this place called Oklahoma. In the window between the two European explorers, there’s a map of Oklahoma as Indian Territory and a depiction of the Treaty of Doak’s Stand in 1820. What began as a cunning negotiation for the exchange of the Indians’ land in the south eventually spiraled into the tragedy that came to be known as the Trail of Tears. Notice the artist’s depiction of the sly posture of the white men against the stoic resoluteness of the chief.

“Oklahoma historian Angie Debow wrote genuine accounts of these events in her book ‘And Still the Waters Run.’ It’s a great read, and I would recommend it. The title refers to the white man’s vow that his promises to the Native Americans would last as long as the waters run, as long as the grass grows, as long as the sun rises.

“From there, the window takes us upward through scenes of French and Indian trading and an image of Sequoyah, the architect of the Cherokee alphabet. This catalogue of symbols allowed his people to read and write in their native tongue for the first time. Sequoyah was moved to Oklahoma and eventually settled outside of present-day Sallisaw. About that same time, the first Indian newspaper was published, using his alphabet. That paper, the Cherokee Phoenix, is still in print today.

“On each side of these central figures are images of covered wagons, prairie schooners, horses, land boomers and, of course, sooners.

“The window shows them being swept up by a wind of momentum that eventually leads to symbols of our modern development. Bursting forth from all of this at the top of the window is the Oklahoma City skyline, resting firmly on this foundational timeline of Oklahoma’s great history.

“One of the most striking aspects of this entire panorama is the artist’s portrayal of the sweeping upward motion which weaves itself through the entire window, just like the Oklahoma wind, sweeping down the plains. It can be a very powerful, literal wind, as we all know. But it has figurative significance as well.

“We are on the cusp of greatness. A new dawning in Oklahoma. A bold, proud, prosperous Oklahoma. Where the potential of every child can be realized.

“Our great state and the successes we have created will indeed lead to many future triumphs. Momaday’s poem exclaims that now it is our turn. It is our turn for greatness. We have been given a strong legacy on which to build.

“With our ancestors behind us, and our children and grandchildren ahead of us, we stand on this holy ground called Oklahoma and we pray that God will bless our next 100 years so that we can continue to bring glory to his name …”


 Pawhuska, Immaculate Conception Church

The Osage Window


The Idea Was Conceived In Pawhuska And Brought To Life In Munich. But It Took A Ruling By The Holy See In Rome To Make The Osage Window A Reality.

    Towering at 36 feet, the window in Immaculate Conception Church memorializes the Jesuit priest John Schoenmakers. He lived and worked at the Osage Mission in Kansas for 36 years, from his arrival in 1847 until his death, bringing Catholicism, enthusiasm and supplies. Unlike previous missionaries, he encouraged the tribal members to adopt a blend of Christianity and traditional Osage culture.  They coined the term “shouminka,” an affectionate version of his name, as the new Osage word for priest.

Under President Grant’s Peace Policy of 1869, the federal government began selecting Quakers as missionaries to Indian Territory, citing their  “opposition to all strife, violence and war.” With the new policy, Rev. Schoenmakers was prohibited from accompanying the tribe into Indian Territory. The new agent appointed to the Osage, Isaac Gibson, was described as “bitterly anti-Catholic in feeling, practices and expression” in a published account by Rev. Urbande Hasque, who noted “the next 17 years are a record of constant intercession on the part of the Osage for Catholic missionaries and a constant suppression of the practice of their professed religion by government agents.”

Following years of petitions and protests by the tribe, the shouminka and the Catholic school were re-established in the Osage Nation in 1887. As fate would have it, the deal negotiated by Chief James Bigheart – a Union Army veteran educated at Schoenmakers’ school in Kansas – for the tribe’s new land in Indian Territory guaranteed that all mineral rights remained with the Osage. When oil was discovered and oil royalties started flowing, the newly affluent tribe helped build an opulent church with marble and statues imported from Europe and 22 custom-made stained glass windows. The church became known as the Cathedral of the Osage.

For the landmark window, photographs of current tribal members in traditional Osage dress were mailed to Germany, where artists of the Bavarian Art Glass Company rendered their likenesses in vibrant glass fused with manganese, copper and gold. The glass alone cost $5,000 in 1919, not including the expense of the German craftsmen traveling to Oklahoma to assemble the work. Installed in the north transept, the Osage Window honors Schoenmakers with a perpetually attentive audience modeled after prominent tribal members of the time, including Chief Baconrind, Chief Saucy Calf and Arthur and Angie Bonnecastle.

To guard against the wealthy immortalizing themselves by sponsoring their own portrait in church, a long-standing Roman Catholic policy prohibited the likeness of any living person in church windows and statuary. After being petitioned, however, Pope Benedict XV made an exception to honor not an individual, but an entire Osage community that had welcomed the church and its shouminka to the American frontier.


 Oklahoma City, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral

The Warrior Saint of Oklahoma


Suspended Like A Harvest Moon In The Western Alcove Of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, A Stained Glass Window Glows In Tribute
To Oklahoma’s First Saint: David Pendleton Oakerhater 
Of The Southern Cheyenne.

He was born as Noksowist, or “Bear Going Straight,” in Indian Territory around 1847, and raised in the traditional way. As a warrior, he took the name Oak-uh-hat-uh, in honor of the symbols of the dream shield created for him to carry into battle.

He came of age in a changing world, and watched as the Treaty of Medicine Lodge was ignored by horse thieves and buffalo poachers who ventured brazenly onto tribal land. In June 1874, frustrated by the lack of response from the federal government, hundreds of Kiowas, Comanche and Cheyennes – including Oak-uh-hat-uh – rode with Quanah Parker and Isa-tai to attack buffalo hunters in the Texas Panhandle outpost of Adobe Walls.

The incident was the beginning of the end for the free-ranging tribes, a catalyst for the government to bring its full military force to subdue the last warriors of the Southern Plains. Within a year, the Red River War was over and the bedraggled fighters, including Oak-uh-hat-uh, had surrendered at Fort Sill. The military translated and recorded his name as “Making Medicine” and chained him to 73 other prisoners of war to be shipped to Florida. Soon after his arrival, he was registered as 33 years old, 6 feet 1/4 inch tall and 145 pounds.

During three years of captivity at Fort Marion, the POWs were under the supervision of Capt. Richard Henry Pratt, later famous for his “kill the Indian and save the man” philosophy of assimilating Indians into society. He appointed Making Medicine the prisoners’ leader and arranged for the men to be treated humanely. Vacationing teachers offered lessons in English, carpentry and art. The Indians taught archery and crafts to townspeople and tourists, sold their artwork and were allowed into town to attend Sunday church services of their choice.

Among the visitors who admired the ledger art marked by the glyph of Making Medicine was Jeanie Pendleton, granddaughter of Francis Scott Key and daughter of U.S. Sen. “Gentleman George” Pendleton. She and her family befriended Making Medicine and, when he opted to study for the ministry after his release, paid for his education.

Making Medicine was freed from Fort Marion in 1878 and baptized at Grace Church in Syracuse, N.Y., where he chose the Christian name David Pendleton Oakerhater. On June 7, 1881, he was ordained a deacon of the Episcopal Church. Within hours, he began his journey back to Indian Territory and the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation.

His biographer recounts Oakerhater’s first message to his tribe, delivered in his native Cheyenne: “Men, you all know me. You remember me when I led you out to war. I went first and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is my leader. He goes first, and all He tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road … ”

He toiled as an Episcopal deacon for 50 years, credited by the church for being “at times the single ordained presence in all Indian Territory.” An article in the Cheyenne Transporter claimed: “Being himself an Indian his work is more effective than that of any white man could be. He spends much of his time in camp caring for the sick and doing what he can for their comfort. This is practical Christianity, which will result in credit to the church that sent him, and lasting benefit to the Indians.”

David Pendleton Oakerhater died Aug. 31, 1931, in Watonga, having outlived four wives and seven children who died in infancy. In his casket, placed over his heart, was his Bible, engraved in gold letters with his name from the POW camp: Making Medicine.

Fifty-four years after his death, the Episcopal General Convention voted to add David Pendleton Oakerhater to its calendar of saints. The first Oakerhater Feast Day was celebrated Sept. 1, 1986, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

In Oklahoma City, in a section of the sanctuary that had been damaged in the Murrah Building bombing, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral dedicated the Oakerhater Chapel on Jan. 17, 2004.

The chapel’s centerpiece is the orange-red stained glass window with the glyph of the man who was Noksowist/Oak-uh-hat-uh/Making Medicine/Oakerhater, representing the saint dancing in the lodge of the sun.


 Edmond, University of Central Oklahoma

Chapel of Song


Tucked Beside The Music School On The Campus Of University Of Central Oklahoma, The Y-Chapel Of Song Was Designed And Built By The Students, Faculty And Staff Of What Was Then Central State College. 

Conceived in 1941 and interrupted by World War II, the project was supported by the YWCA, a Works Projects Administration grant and private donations. Dedicated in 1949, the theme of each of the 14 stained glass windows was linked to a popular hymn of the era.

Benjamin Beames, a Choctaw athlete who played football for Central in 1942, was the model for the eight-foot-tall Indian Window inspired by John Oxenham’s song “In Christ There Is No East or West.” The work includes images representing the Latino, Native American, Asian and Eskimo cultures. Ray Gilliland, of Delaware Indian descent, created and executed the design.

The “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” window was inspired by the gospel spiritual and dedicated on Lincoln’s birthday 1946 in honor of  Prof. Virginia Howard, who retired that year after 30 years on the faculty.  The model commemorated Howard’s nanny, a woman recorded only as “Katie.”


 A Dissenting Voice 

► Richard Harding Davis


The Sense That The 46th State Was The New Promised Land
Was Not Shared By All.

Among the dissenters was Richard Harding Davis of Harper’s magazine, who noted after the April 22, 1889 Land Run: “These modern pilgrims stand in rows 20 deep, separated from the promised land not by an ocean, but by a line scratched in the earth with the point of a soldier’s bayonet. The long row toeing this line are bending forward, panting with excitement and looking with greedy eyes toward the new Canaan.” He contrasted the frontier pioneers’ quest for land with the passengers of the Mayflower, noting the modern pilgrims do not drop on their knees to pray, but only “to hammer stakes into the ground and pull them up again, and drive them down somewhere else, at a place which they hope will eventually become a corner lot facing the post-office, and drag up the next man’s stake and threaten him with a Winchester because he is on their land, which they have
owned for the last three minutes.


 Oklahoma City, First Church

The Miracle Window



The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Sat Amidst A Row Of Stately Brick Churches That Marched Downtown Through Oklahoma City
On Robinson Avenue.

Dating back to the years just before and after statehood, they were home to mainline denominations that had established a presence in the new state, filling a need for social services, stability and community-building. Among them: First Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church, First Christian Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and the Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral.

Oldest of them all was First United Methodist Church. The congregation embraced its claim as the first to hold services in Oklahoma City on April 21, 1889, the first Sunday after the Land Run. Calling themselves simply “First Church,” the Methodists soon constructed a wooden outpost for services. In 1904, they completed a grand Romanesque building on the same site.

 Almost exactly 106 years later, it was that location on N.W. 4th and Robinson that thrust First Church onto the world stage.

The April 19, 1995 blast that destroyed the Murrah Building also killed 168 people, injured 680 others and damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius. It rocked First Church, located just across the street, to its foundation.

The church, which had reverberated with life during Easter Sunday celebrations three days earlier, became an FBI command post and morgue as rescue teams brought bodies to the lobby and investigators worked amid debris. In the sanctuary, the grand chandelier had plummeted into the pews. Stained glass shards littered the floor. Though there were eight people inside the building at the time of the blast, only one was injured, and only slightly. The church complex sustained $3 million in damage.

At his sermon the Sunday after the bombing, in a service held at Oklahoma City University, Pastor Nick Harris led the congregation and its supporters in songs and prayers. “Our building was weakened to a point of near-collapse. But that is a building. It is not the church.”

When the dust settled, the faithful set about picking up the remnants of their stained glass windows, piece by piece. Amid the jagged layers lay one remarkable piece: the center of the old Good Shepherd window. It had survived intact, without a chip or scratch. The section, more than one-foot square, was the face of Jesus, eyes lowered as he watched the sheep that had surrounded him in the west wall window facing the blast.

The fragment was preserved with additional shards of blues and pinks and purple, and fused into a round window at the center of a new First Church chapel, nestled between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Arching above the salvaged glass is the church’s new motto in the wake of that day: The Lord takes broken pieces and by his love makes us whole.


Tulsa, Boston Avenue Methodist Church

The Oklahoma Flower Windows


The Stained Glass Windows At Tulsa’s Boston Avenue Methodist Church Are Essential To The Design Of What Has Become An Art Deco Landmark,

 listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark.
The thousands who tour the building each year receive a brochure that explains that Quaker artist and teacher Adah Robinson favored an abstract, stylized approach over literal narrative, and conceived of the windows’ downward-flowing lines to symbolize “the outpouring of God’s love.” Stylized versions of two native Oklahoma flowers – the petaled coreopsis and the tritoma, a spike-like lily also known as the red-hot poker, flame plant or torch lily – also are incorporated into the windows “to signify vital, growing Christianity. The coreopsis, which grows in the driest soil, symbolizes the hardiness and joy of the Christian faith. The tritoma, with its unusual downward blossoms, represents the generosity of the faith. Its strong stem system symbolizes the strength of the church.”


 Ponca City, Grace Episcopal Church

Kay County History Window


Marcia Davis, Historian At Ponca City’s Grace Episcopal Church, Offers Insight Into Its Oklahoma-Themed Window: 

“There is a depiction of a Blackfoot teepee, which many associate with the original shelter for people who lived in Oklahoma, although such teepees were not used by many Oklahoma Indian tribes or by the state’s ‘white’ settlers. Research indicates that before the Cherokee removal to Indian Territory from eastern states, a tribal village of Caddo Indians, who lived in thatched huts, occupied the land where Grace Church now stands. In the background, an Indian from one of the Plains tribes, which roamed the Southwest, can be seen. In the lower right, the flag shield of the State of Oklahoma, designed by a former Ponca City resident [Louise Funk Fluke], can be seen. Mistletoe, the state plant, is draped over the arch of the window. The seated man is the Right Reverend Francis Key Brooke, the Episcopal Missionary District of Oklahoma’s first resident bishop. He is a descendant of Francis Scott Key, composer of The Star-Spangled Banner. At the bottom panel, the first Episcopal Church in Ponca City is shown.”


Nowata, First Presbyterian Church

The Oldest Window


The Storm Clouds roiling Above The Crucifixion Scene Might Have Descended From The Oklahoma Sky That Looms On The Outer Side Of The Window In The First Presbyterian Church Of Nowata.

But the luminous stained glass was forged in the fires of the European Renaissance during the 1500s, by an artist who had never seen the Great Plains.

The window traveled an unlikely path to the New World. It was installed in the chapel of the Dukes of Choiseul, whose line included César, minister of state for King Louis XIV; Étienne-François, chief minister of King Louis XV; and Claude Antoine Gabriel, a Dragoons colonel arrested as he fled Paris with King Louis XVI during the Revolution.

The window, entitled “The Crucified Christ,” was taken from the family chapel during or after the Revolution, and eventually made its way to the collection of the American publisher William Randolph Hearst.

On the eve of World War II, Hearst was in need of cash, and agreed to sell much of his massive art collection through Armand Hammer’s Manhattan-based gallery. And so it happened that in 1941, the entire fifth-floor of Gimbels department store in Herald Square held hundreds of Hearst’s ancient works of art. The 19-page catalog of stained glass panels and windows lists The Crucified Christ as Item 1425-1, a 16th century work measuring 6 feet 4 1/2 inches by 2 feet 8 1/2 inches.

While visiting New York, Mrs. Eva Payne Glass of Nowata saw the window as an ideal centerpiece for a chapel in her church back home. After the death of her husband, oilman and lawyer J. Wood Glass, the chapel was dedicated to his memory. Mrs. Glass died in January 15, 1983, five days shy of her 101st birthday, leaving behind one son and the oldest church window in Oklahoma.


 Norman, First Presbyterian Church



The First Presbyterian Church Of Norman Evolved Out Of Early Missionary Activities That Merged With The Chickasaw Presbyterian In 1891.

The congregation moved into its current building at University and Park near the University of Oklahoma campus in 1951, and replaced the original amber glass with a custom set of stained glass windows in 1973. This panel, near the front of the sanctuary, depicts establishing the Church in the West.


 Tulsa, Church of Christ the King 

American Saints


The Mary Queen Of Peace Chapel, Dedicated In Oklahoma’s
Centennial Year At Tulsa’s Christ the King, Celebrates Women Of The Roman Catholic Church. 

 Memorialized in the chapel’s windows are two of the first American women to be canonized: St. Katharine Drexel – a Philadelphia heiress-turned-nun who dedicated her life and fortune to the welfare of Native Americans and African-Americans, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and underwriting schools and missions in Indian Territory – and Kateri Tekakwitha, daughter of an Algonquin mother and Mohawk father who, in 2012, became the first American Indian to be elevated to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.


 Oklahoma City, First Presbyterian

Evangelists Of The Midwest


Dr. Henry Lee Willet, President Of The Philadelphia-Based Studio That Created The Renowned Windows At First Presbyterian Church, Called The Stained Glass Installation The “Jewels Of The Southwest.” 

Lesser known than the monumental Biblical scenes displayed in the large windows, two panes are tucked away in the tower room in the church’s west transept, accessible through a hidden panel door on the south side, which leads to a spiral staircase. The works commemorate two American evangelists who held several multi-week revivals in Oklahoma: professional athlete-turned-preacher Billy Sunday (1862-1935), celebrated in one of the few church windows in the world to feature a baseball bat and glove, and the Rev. Billy Graham. Celebrating his 96th birthday on Nov. 7, Graham has been listed on Gallup’s poll of most-admired people a record 57 times since 1955.


 Shawnee, St. Gregory’s Abbey

Arrows and Devils and Serpents in Glass


The Interior Of The Church At St. Gregory’s Abbey, Successor To The Sacred Heart Mission To The Potawatomie And Absentee Shawnee Tribes, 

features medieval iconography of the saints, created using traditional techniques by the Milwaukee-based T.C. Esser Company.

 The Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, abbot of St. Gregory’s, tells of the meaning behind the imagery: a red devil chained by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, symbolizing triumph over temptation; a raven and a snake by chalices indicating St. Benedict, founder of the order of monks in residence, thwarting detractors’ attempts to poison him. Above the door, two arrows with an apparent tribal flair pierce the flaming heart that symbolizes St. Augustine and the power of the Gospel.

Stasyszen notes that the monks once sought a bid from Lloyd’s of London for insurance on the abbey windows. The firm declined, declaring the windows “irreplaceable and priceless.”  


A Broader View


► The deeply spiritual, historically fascinating and exquisitely beautiful creations in this article are only the beginning; to take an even more in-depth tour of these and other luminous state landmarks, visit our online gallery at

Editor’s Note: This installment is part of author M.J. Alexander’s “77 Counties” series, chronicling her travels across Oklahoma. The full series is available at