The Stained Glass of Latin America: The First Fruits of Research in Chile

Andrea Araos, l’Ecole Pratique des Hauts Études, Paris

This article aims to provide a synthesis of the historical, stylistic, iconographic and technical characteristics of stained-glass windows in Chile. It seeks to establish a topography of this imported art, which first arrived in the country at the end of the nineteenth century, originating mainly from Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Some of the main problems and consequent challenges that the protection of this heritage presents today will also be considered.

In 2010, Chile was hit by an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale. This tragedy, which caused considerable damage to historical monuments, was at the same time a great opportunity for cultural heritage professionals to critically review the work that had been done in the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake. This led to a very important leap forwards in the professionalisation of the entire discipline of national cultural heritage preservation. The fragile corpus of stained-glass windows in the country, although severely affected by the 2010 earthquake, was for the first time the focus of preliminary studies as well as conservation and restoration proposals that considered the different dimensions of this decorative art, and has enhanced appreciation of its global significance. Over the past ten years it has been possible to collect the information that will allow us to undertake the new in-depth studies that will be needed in the future.

Fig.1 Capilla San Francisco de Borja in Santiago, following the political unrest and fire of October 2020. Photograph Daniella Toledo, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

The history of stained glass in Chile begins in 1875, when thirty-eight windows were imported for the Capilla San Francisco de Borja in Santiago. This church belonged to the old hospital of the same name, supported at that time by the congregation of the sisters of the Filles de la Charité de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Fig. 1). The windows are signed by the Bordeaux studio of Gustave-Pierre Dagrant (1839–1915).((He was succeeded by his sons Maurice (1870–1951), Charles (1876–1938) and Víctor 1879–1925), who remained active until the 1970s.)) The arrival of these first imports coincided with three important historical circumstances: the campaign to build a republican image of the young Chilean nation; a new stage in the political imagery of the Catholic Church, called by many historians the ‘Romanisation’ of the Church; and the commercial opening up of the newly independent countries of the Americas to Europe. The continent was part of a global phenomenon of intense cultural circulation and transfer, encouraged by a period of great economic boom. International exhibitions played a prominent role in these exchanges. For the Catholic world, the creation of the Pontifical Latin American College in Rome, and the pilgrimages of the South American elites to European and Middle Eastern sacred sites, also produced opportunities for circulation and exchange. This history, which also includes the Protestant corpus of stained glass, unfolded over approximately one hundred years, a period bookended by Vatican Councils I and II.

Overseas stained-glass windows in Chile

Until 1810, as a colony of the Spanish Crown, Chile had inherited its traditional approach to the Catholic religion. Devotional imagery in this period, from the sixteenth until the beginning of the nineteenth century, favoured theatrical and baroque representation, such as statuary endowed with human hair and glass eyes, creating an atmosphere charged with drama and emotion. In the nineteenth century, the arrival of the republican regime meant a complete reorganisation of society, with the consequent transformation of its customs and visual culture. For its part, the Catholic Church remained institutionally linked to the new regime, even after the nations of Spanish America gained their independence; they all identified themselves as Catholic and for a long time the public worship of other confessions was excluded.

The modernity and prosperity of which the entire continent wanted to be a part, meant that countries opened themselves up to commerce, and several waves of immigration from Europe arrived. In Chile, this meant that from 1848 State policies were implemented to receive foreigners. This created a complex society made up of skilled labor, professionals, merchants and industrialists, those who provided capital for the exploitation of large-scale mining, as well as families who settled in sparsely inhabited areas. The newcomers included Lutherans, Anglicans and Presbyterians, among other Protestant denominations. In those years, the Chilean Constitution, in common with those of other countries in the region, did not allow public worship by non-Catholics, but in seeking to modernise the country, in 1868 the State enacted laws that, with some restrictions, allowed the ‘dissidents’, to educate their children according to their beliefs and to practice their rites, although privately. The Chilean Catholic Church, which remained closely linked to Rome, although now no longer mediated through Spain’s restrictive Council of the Indies, considered Protestants, Freemasons and Liberals alike to represent a threat. The Holy See, which had not yet recognised the new republics, was also experiencing a time of change and profound crisis, which culminated in the end of the Papal States. During this period, Pope Pius IX, and in particular Pope Leo XIII, promoted a new international policy that brought about a significant change in iconographic programs and their representation. This renewal of imagery presented the Catholic Church as a perfect, timeless society, that sought to place its power above that of any temporal political regime.

In Europe in this same period there was a renewed interest in the Middle Ages, a trend that led to the revival of various crafts, including stained glass. The role of England in this field of technical research stands out, resulting in artistic phenomena such as the Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts movements . While some of the intellectuals and amateurs who were interested in treatises, architecture, crafts, iconography, archaeology, among other manifestations of the medieval past, were believers, the movement went beyond the defense of a religious art.

Fig.2 Gabriel Loire, photograph reproduced courtesy Fond d’archives Ateliers Loire

Meanwhile, in Chile, the urban transformation of Santiago, important cities such as Valparaíso and the regional capitals began. To carry out this task, the government hired European architects, mostly French, trained at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris. During the twentieth century, both the style and the iconographic programs of religious works in the country evolved, until a significant break came in the 1950s. In Chile two artists stand out in this period for their promotion of an artistic dimension in the decoration of Catholic churches within the context of the liturgical renewal of the time: the Frenchman Gabriel Loire (1904–96, Fig. 2) and the Austrian and naturalised Peruvian, Adolfo Winternitz (1906–93, Fig. 3), to whom we shall return later.

As far as the Protestant corpus is concerned, stained glass windows came from important British workshops (including James Powell & Sons, Morris & Company among others), and at first the imperial character of these windows was reaffirmed in their aesthetics. At the same time, stained glass played an important role as a memorial object, originating in the donations made by British families living in Chile, to commemorate their deceased at home and abroad.

Fig.3 Adolfo Winternitz in his studio. Photograph reproduced courtesy Fondo de archivo Familia Winternitz.

Specific historical, cultural and material contexts undoubtedly allow us to understand the past of this sacred art in Chile, but current circumstance requires not only an understanding of the past, but also a renewal of the values attached to these cultural assets. The problems can range from religious to industrial aspects, in addition to the cultural transfer that this art introduces and to which it bears witness. Nor can the reception of these works of art today be ignored. The political and social crisis experienced by Latin America, particularly affecting Chile after the social upheaval that began in October 2019, has generated situations of violence that have caused enormous damage to the religious and civil heritage of different cities in the country. To this must be added the rejection of religious heritage by some sections of the Chilean population, a repudiation that requires urgent action in order to raise awareness and promote a sincere and open debate on the protection of this heritage that is part of our common history.

The Introduction of stained glass in Chile: Art, Religion and Industry

How was stained glass introduced into the country? How was the import distribution network organized? Did a locally manufactured product emerge in this context? What was the reception of this art form in Chile? These are some of the basic questions that need to be addressed in contextualizing the material and cultural aspects of the Chilean corpus.

As mentioned above, the first imports occurred at the same time as the arrival of European architects, commissioned by the State as part of the great public works that were carried out around the first centenary of the Republic celebrated in 1910. As well as buildings rich in civic symbolism, such as the Teatro Municipal de Santiago or the National Congress, new churches were built. Some of them were commissioned by the newly arrived immigrant congregations, while some were built by the Catholic dioceses or archdioceses. One of most important unanswered questions is exactly how the different European stained-glass studios came to distribute their works in Chile in particular, and on the South American continent in general. The answer, of course, varies from case to case, but the progress of this research has made it possible to pinpoint some of those channels that made up a diverse distribution network.

As Jasmine Allen explains in her work Windows for the World, on a global level, international exhibitions were a great showcase for stained glass, while the proximity of certain workshops to the Holy See (such as Mayer of Munich) constituted another important influence. With regard to local distribution, since the end of the nineteenth century there were some import agents in Chile who imported European products, but there was also direct communication between some European workshops and specific congregations, such as the Discalced Carmelites, or with local communities, such as the British one in Valparaíso.

The Catholic corpus

The variety of European workshops that sent stained glass windows to Chile is quite wide, despite the distance and the small market that the country represented. Based on documentary sources, the French workshop of Gustave-Pierre Dagrant appears to have been the first, although it is prudent not to jump conclusions. The study of stained glass in Chile is in its infancy, with many works still to be examined, while those windows lost in the earthquakes that have affected the country throughout its history must also be identified. Added to this is another common difficulty in the study of nineteenth-century stained-glass, namely the absence of dates and signatures. What is certain, however, is that imports multiplied from the 1880s onwards, arriving from a variety of French cities, as well as from Catalonia in Spain, Munich in Germany, and from the United Kingdom.

Fig.4 Franz Mayer in his studio. Photograph reproduced courtesy of the Mayer Studio Archive.

From Germany, the house of Franz Mayer (Fig. 4) and its partner Xaver Zettler rapidly mastered the Catholic stained glass market throughout the American continent, and dominated it between 1890 and 1930. This alliance of workshops, creating a stained glass dynasty which survives to this day, was honoured by King Ludovico II and Pope Leo XIII. In Chile, their works are distributed from the cities of Antofagasta to Puerto Montt, spanning the period from c.1890–2016.

In the corpus that arrived from France, the work of the Félix Gaudin studio (1851–1930) stands out, carried out for churches of different religious orders that were designed by the French architect Joannon (1860–1938). Joannon arrived in Chile in 1889 and, together with his wife Rebeca Infante, collaborated with the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Félix Gaudin’s work in the churches of Santiago, show important differences in style. For example, the church of Corpus Domini has a gallery of portraits (Fig. 5) of founding saints, doctors of the Church and reformers, in frontal poses, who were part of the repertoire close to Rome. Based on their date it is possible that these stained-glass windows were designed by Victor Tardieu (1870–1937).((Luneau, Félix Gaudin (1851-1930), p. 336.)) In the church of Santa Filomena (Fig. 6), on the other hand, the style of the scenes is reminiscent of civil stained-glass windows (with an emphasis on colorful decoration and the stylization of the characters). The cartoons were drawn by Raphaël Frieda (1877–1942), although Pascal Blanchard is also named.((Ibid., p. 332.)) After the death of Félix Gaudin, his son Jean Gaudin (1879–1954), maintained contact with America, making two trips to Argentina, in 1909 and 1911.((Ibid., p. 222.))

Fig. 5 Church of Corpus Domini, Santiago. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Fig. 6 Church of Santa Filomena, Santiago. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Another significant stained-glass workshop is that of Gustave Pierre Dagrant of Bordeaux, mentioned above, from whom the Daughters of Charity commissioned a work in 1875 for their chapels in Santiago. However, they did not use a single workshop or the same architect; as the twentieth century progressed, for example, they commissioned works from Antoine Bernard, Lucien Bégule and the Mauméjean workshop.

Fig. 7 Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Chillán. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Catalan stained-glass windows were incorporated into a number of churches built for the order of the Discalced Carmelites, who arrived in Chile at the end of the nineteenth century. Their iconography promoted the figure of the Virgen del Carmen, patron saint of the Chilean army, and that of the Carmelite saints. Their stained-glass schemes also integrated local elements in its scenes, such as the national coats of arms. Its style is inspired by Catalan modernism, although the first representative church of this trend in Chile was the work of a little-known local artist, Ernesto Buttner (Fig. 7), made in the city of Quilpué, near Valparaíso, for the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Chillán, around 1912. The church of Niño Jesús de Praga in Santiago, was later glazed with the work of the Catalan Josep Serra (1916–98). In the Carmelite church of Viña del Mar, the stained-glass windows are the work of the Rigalt studio. The orders of Spanish origin had their own architect-priests and favoured the use of local materials in the construction of their churches. This allowed them to get involved in a different way in the ‘fabric’ of their churches. The consecrations of the churches of Santiago and Chillán, for example, were events in which the citizens participated massively. The testimony of the works and their impact is reported in the chronicles of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Chile.((De la Asunción, Orden del Carmen Descalzo en Chile, 1936))

The Protestant corpus

The oldest known stained-glass windows of the Protestant corpus in Chile are the work of Lavers & Westlake and are signed and dated 1883. They are located in the Anglican church of Saint Paul, in Valparaíso where they were commissioned and donated as family memorials. Such memorial commissions were directed mainly to the Lavers & Westlake studio in London, but there are at least three other British workshops present in the collection. A window depicting the Transfiguration (Fig. 8) and Resurrection (Fig. 9), sent in 1913 by the Morris company, to cartoons originally drawn by the Edward Burne-Jones (BJ 555 and BJ 416) stands out.((Sewter, William Morris and his Circle, vol. 2, p. 226. The cartoons of the transfiguration scene in the lower register was originally drawn for Holy Trinity Church, Meole Brace in 1871, and are held at the Huntington Art Collections, in California. The resurrection scene, in the upper register, was made in 1881 for St Margaret’s Church, Hopton-on-Sea. The cartoon is held at the National Gallery in Ottawa, Canada.))

Fig. 8 Transfiguration, Church of St Paul, Valparaíso. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Fig. 9 Resurrection, Church of St Paul, Valparaíso. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

The decline in economic activity in Valparaíso that had begun at the end of the nineteenth century, was accentuated by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the 1906 earthquake that devastated the city. This earthquake completely destroyed the newly built Anglican chapel of Saint Peter in Viña de Mar before it had even been paid for. Faced with this, the Anglican congregation asked for help to rebuild a chapel ‘of rapid construction and resistant to tremors’.((Valparaíso, Saint Paul’s Church and Saint Peter’s Chapel, Chapter Minutes Vol. I [1862–1920], p. 354–374.)) The new church, prefabricated in wood and located on Calle Lastarria, in Viña del Mar, was completed in just six months and, according to information in the catalogue of James Powell & Sons’ overseas shipments, received the stained glass window over the altar (representing Saint Peter), in 1913.((London, V&A Archive of Art and Design, Archives of James Powell and Sons. Index compiled by Dr Dennis Hadley. P. 2 Hadley Country/Town State Overseas ex USA OVERSEAS ex USA Details Order N° Church Vina del Mare Date Artist 1910 Part – Aikman W 3l; Charge to Peter 2331/182 1913 Aikman W 1l; cartoon also by Aikman 3500/330.))

This unknown jewel of the corpus of Protestant churches also has stained glass windows by Herbert Bryans (1856–1925) and two works as yet unattributed, although based on style, one could be the work of Clayton and Bell. The stained-glass window above the altar, which stands out for its strong symbolic content, was inspired by the painting ‘The Great Sacrifice’ by James Clarke (1858–1943), first popularized in Britain at Christmas 1914, depicting a dead soldier at the foot of the cross (Fig. 10). This commission was decided on in 1925 and cost £873.((Valparaíso, Saint Paul’s Church and Saint Peter’s Chapel, Chapter Minutes Vol. II [1920–1965], p. 1 (brochure sewn to the binding of the volume, folio 1, p. 17).))

A third important glazing scheme worth mentioning is that of the Union Presbyterian Church, in Valparaíso, whose congregation, when selling its original church (built in 1870), relocated its five stained glass windows to the new church in Viña del Mar, built in 1949. Only one of the windows, depicting St Paul, was made by Lavers & Westlake. The others take up biblical scenes, with an obviously didactic function. This collection is mainly the work of Glasgow studios, those of Stephen Adams Jr. (1873–1960) and Gordon Webster (1908–1987). Webster’s work, sent in 1949, was made for the new building and breaks completely with the style of the earlier nineteenth-century works.


Fig. 10 ‘The Great Sacrifice’: The east window, chapel of Saint Peter in Viña de Mar. Photograph Carlos Molina, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral

Fig. 11 ‘Easter Morning’: Church of Saint Andrew, Santiago. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

A similar operation was carried out by the Anglican church of St Andrew, when the congregation sold its old church in the centre of Santiago. The stained-glass windows were adapted for a new building located on Calle Holanda in the Providencia neighbourhood. The one window is the work of Charles Champigneulle (Fig. 11) and stands out as the only example of a French stained-glass window in a Protestant church. The scene is inspired by ‘Easter Morning’, painted in 1887 by the Norwegian artist Axel Ender (1853–1920).((Recognized thanks to the expert eye of Christopher Parkinson.)) The second window is signed by George Cakebread and E. Robey & Co. of Stoke Newington, London. This last supplier announced in its advertising that it was a supplier to organizations such as the English Colonial and Foreign Corporation.

Local Production

At the same time that stained glass was arriving from Europe, production of simple windows painted panels of national manufacture emerged. This industry was led by immigrant Germans and Italians, who were dedicated to the field of ordinary glass, mirrors and decorations on glass (bevelled and engraved glass). The companies of Antonio Maldini and Adolfo Schlack, Cristales Dell’Orto, and the Swiss Scheggia & Belgeri stand out among them. The Santiago International Exhibition of 1875 can be identified as the starting point for this activity. It is interesting to mention that the German firm of Mayer and the French Lorin studio would also seem to have exhibited in this exhibition (both studios mention obtaining medals on the occasion), but for the time being, only records of stained glass windows exhibited by Belgian manufacturers have been identified. In relation to the latter, industrial censuses refer to the Belgian craftsman Emile de Troyer, but no other record of this glassmaker has been found. This is probably a reference to the Belgian glazier Léopold-Alphonse de Troeyer (1861–1930), who, according to research by Jean-Luc Collignon and Denis Clementz,((This research is disseminated through the online blog: would have arrived in Chile in 1892, staying until 1923.((From this period the workshop was installed in Reims and remained active until 1960 under the name of ” Mme Vve et Mesdemoiselles De Troeyer”.))

In this context, the genealogy of local production is currently headed by Antonio Maldini and his partner Adolfo Schlack. Despite their efforts, mentioned above, one could not yet speak of a true transfer of knowledge: stained glass did not form a school in the country nor a tradition or expression of its own. Nevertheless, to this day there are still workshops of varying size that cultivate this art, but they do not form part of a single tradition.

Catholic stained-glass windows were commissioned by the families of the traditional elite, the diocese, the government, and in some cases were subsidized by the religious orders and alms of believers who came from all social strata. The Protestants, for their part, commissioned the works as a community, but also through individual family donations.

From the archaeological stained-glass window to the monumental work of art: Gabriel Loire and Adolfo Winternitz

From 1870 to at least 1930, Catholic stained-glass windows in Chile conformed to an image program dictated by the international policy of Rome. In that vein, they represented holy reformers, the Sacred Heart, dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception or images that illustrated the charisma of the religious congregations that settled in the country in those decades. In general, the style of the works and the narrative they developed marked a break with the Spanish colonial past. In the iconographic programs of the Protestant churches, in which imagery lacked a devotional significance, figures served an ornamental purpose or were used as a catechistical aid, with a commemorative and pedagogical role. In the case of the Anglicans, such a tendency evidenced an imperial imprint, common to other overseas territories.

Starting in the 1950s, religious architecture in Chile broke with historicism and the European model (although not completely, because there is anyway an external influence on the modernist movement), producing monumental works such as the Basilica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes in Santiago and the Templo Votivo de Maipú. Both churches have artists’ stained-glass windows, works of art, and no longer mass-produced, catalogue-commissioned stained-glass windows. The works of Gabriel Loire and Adolfo Winternitz, are stylistically but also technically innovative, since they were made in dalle de verre, a technique developed in France in the 1920–50s.

The preparation of the Second Vatican Council, which took place between 1962 and 1965, had great force in Latin America, giving rise to a renewal and a greater involvement of the bishops of the new continent, although the Latin American prelates had already been present at the First Vatican Council (1868). This change is reflected in the creation of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America (CELAM) in 1955, whose first meeting took place in 1968 in Medellin in Colombia. One of the important issues addressed at this meeting was that of ‘popular devotion’. The strong devotion to the Virgin professed by Latin American Catholics generated tensions with the Holy See, because of the perceived ‘pagan’ nature of its popular manifestations, and these were expressed in the conciliar discussions. Basically, the festivities of the Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico, Virgen de Lujan in Argentina, and Virgen de La Tirana (or La China) in Chile, are events in which the Church does not play a mediating role, where dancers and pilgrims go into trances and enter into a direct dialogue with the venerated Virgin.

Without going too deeply into this interesting topic, I refer to it because two important Chilean churches already mentioned, the Basilica of Lourdes and the Votive Temple of Maipú, were dedicated to the massively popular devotions of the Virgin of Lourdes and the Virgin of Mount Carmel. Both monumental buildings, made of reinforced concrete, were decorated with stained glass windows that developed a careful iconographic program, the result of an intense dialogue between the artist, the architect and members of the clergy.

The Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, in Santiago de Chile (Fig. 12), is the work of the architects Eduardo Costabal (1902–1989) and Andrés Garafulic (1905–1956). These young architects won a competition in 1928 to replace the old church, the construction of which lasted until 1958. Father Zenobe Goffart (1880–1963), superior of the congregation of the Assumptionist Fathers, was one of the driving forces behind this work. It was he who personally initiated the conversations with the French artist Gabriel Loire to take charge of designing the stained-glass windows. Loire, in addition to being a designer artist, had a stained-glass studio in Chartres, and together with his team made the stained-glass windows in dalle de verre for the Basilica of Santiago. The complete and well-organized archive of the Loire family, in Chartres, has allowed us to learn details about the constant dialogue between Loire, Father Goffart and the Chilean architect Andrés Garafulic. The stained-glass windows in this church (Fig. 13), the first monumental work by Loire outside of France (nearly 400 square meters in dalle de verre), were completed in ten years and show the different decisions the artist made regarding style and color palette. The iconographic program, on the other hand, was the result of collaboration with with Goffart and Garafulic. Although one could speak of a cycle dedicated to the Virgin, the altar window establishes a transition with respect to the type of program that Loire developed during the ten years in which the commission was under way: traditional saints are represented together with figures such as Catalina Labouré, only recently beatified, in 1933. The sixteen devotions of the Virgin represented in the north and south transepts reflect the sentiment of popular devotion of a local nature mentioned above. At the same time, the apparitions of the Virgin, on the south façade, are associated with dedications and are presented as a triptych. The central nave is the space where the cycle dedicated to the life of the Virgin takes place, which is crowned with the large stained-glass window of the Tree of Jesse (Fig. 14), a scene that refers to the royal lineage of Mary. From an artistic point of view, the apse of the north transept, which recounts the mysteries of the Rosary, stands out in particular.((For more information on the complete program, see Espacio Transparente, Gabriel Loire (2018).))

Fig. 12 The Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, in Santiago. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Fig. 13 Dalle de verre by Gabriel Loire, in the Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, in Santiago. Photograph, Daniella Toledo, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Fig. 14 The Tree of Jesse, Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, in Santiago. Photograph Daniella Toledo, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

The Templo Vótivo de Maipú is another case of monumental stained-glass windows in an already modern architecture. This church was dedicated to the Virgen del Carmen by the Chilean hero of Independence, Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins (1778–1842), who, before a decisive battle in 1818, promised to erect a church in honor of the Virgin if he achieved victory. Conceived by the prestigious Spanish-Chilean architect Juan Martínez (1901–1971), this ‘national vow’ was only finally consecrated in 1974 (Fig. 15). The design of the stained-glass windows was commissioned around 1962 from Adolfo Winternitz (1906–1993), and the pieces were manufactured in the Chiara workshop, in Lausanne, Switzerland (owned by the widow of Pierre Chiara, now deceased).

In 1965, Sergio Larraín García Moreno (1905–1999), a close friend of Adolfo Winternitz, invited him to Santiago to talk about the project and meet Marta Ossa de Errázuriz, a promoter, along with others, of the construction of the Maipú Votive Temple, and the priest Joaquín Alliende Luco. Martínez’s design contemplated a set of 975 square meters of dalle de verre and traditional leaded stained glass. This surface, and the monumentality of the work, were unprecedented for the continent at that time. The main stained-glass window of the Virgen del Carmen (Fig. 16) had an area of 200 square meters, one of the largest in the world at this time. The iconographic program arose from a passionate dialogue between the artist and the priest Alliende, who, in addition to being religious, was —and is— an outstanding Chilean intellectual and poet. In those conversations, two main axes of the work were determined: religiosity and patriotism. Along with the Virgin already mentioned, scenes from the parables were used for the back of the altar (the sower, the heavenly banquet, the wise virgins, the talents, the mustard seed) and scenes from the sacraments (eucharist, extreme unction, priesthood, baptism, confirmation, confession, marriage). The cycle was surrounded by abstract leaded stained glass windows that evoked the Chilean geography from north to south. This rich subject undoubtedly deserves a monograph on its stupendous architecture and ornament.

It should be noted that Adolfo Winternitz made stained glass windows for numerous churches in places as diverse as Chile, Peru, Ecuador, the United States and Europe (in Germany, Austria and Spain). For the artist, whose work is inexplicably unknown in Europe, the Templo de Maipú was the ‘commission of his life’. For the Chilean corpus it represents an epic work, full of originality and meaning, the result, in part, of a human and spiritual encounter between two men of art and faith.

Fig. 15 The Templo Vótivo de Maipú. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Fig.16 The Virgen del Carmen by Adolfo Winternitz for the Templo Vótivo de Maipú. Photograph Diego Rodríguez, fototeca Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral.

Reflections on the stained glass corpus of Latin America

In summary, and in general terms, it can be stated that the arrival of stained glass in Chile is no different from the phenomenon that occurred in other countries on the Latin American continent (Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Brazil). It was introduced in the context of the formation of these young republics that needed symbolic expression for their new institutions (in civil stained glass) and that wanted to emulate their European counterparts. For their part, the Catholic and Protestant churches were equipped with stained glass windows that reflected changes in the 20th century, transforming their iconographic programs in tune with social changes, with a focus on popular devotion and, in some cases, historical circumstances. The analysis of these stained-glass windows cannot be separated from what was happening with the architecture, the history and the general social context in which these works were produced.

The distribution or circulation of stained-glass works took place through different channels, the main ones being the commission from European studios, either directly or through agents based in the country or on the continent (e.g., Argentina, Mexico). The impact produced by this type of art, unknown during the colonial period, and the cultural transfer that the whole phenomenon of opening up to Europe brought to the continent in general, and to Chile in particular, engendered a new preference for everything European. Not only inside the churches were ornaments and devotion transformed, but also in the new mansions of the capital were decoration was renewed in accordance with this new visual culture. The commercial phenomenon, which maintained its boom until the time of the Great Depression of 1929, generated business opportunities that the locals took advantage of. Until well into the twentieth century, the homes of the wealthy middle class had domestically produced stained glass windows. Simple and rarely painted, they gave rise to a discreet tradition of craftspeople who have cultivated the trade to this day.

The study of this corpus is a monumental task, which requires collaboration between the countries of the continent. In this sense, since 2020, the Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral Foundation has brought together researchers from different areas of heritage preservation in the region to form the Grupo Internacional para el Estudio y Conservación del Vitral en América Latina (GIVAL), initially made up of professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico interested in the subject (supported by British, French, German and Italian colleagues). In a first stage, the group has proposed analysis of general aspects of the works: history, style, iconography and technique. The challenges presented by the preservation and appreciation of this heritage encompass various disciplines; and given the political and cultural reality of society today, the involvement and participation of various communities close to the works must be taken into account. Recently in the region, and in Chile in particular, religious architecture has been seriously affected by attacks of all kinds, so the resignification and reappropriation of this art, and of other specialties of sacred art, requires a joint effort between the State, the private sector and the wider public. The ‘repatrimonialization’ of these works must be the fruit of a shared effort and responsibility, and this is not possible without an in-depth knowledge of the history and circumstances of the work in question.



Allen, Jasmine, Windows for the World, Manchester, 2018.

De la Asunción, P. Lázaro, Historia de la Orden del Carmen Descalzo en Chile, 1899-1935. 2 vols. Imprenta Chile.

Laboratorio de Conservación de vitrales Espacio Transparente, CLAV Ediciones,

Gothic Revival y Arts & Crafts en Chile: Iglesia Anglicana Saint Paul de Valparaíso. Valparaíso, 2017.

Modernismo Catalán en Chile: Vidrieras decorativas Palacio Astoreca de Iquique. Valparaíso, 2018

Gabriel Loire, vitrales en dalle de verre Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. Valparaíso, 2018.

Casa Franz Mayer, vitrales y vidrieras Iglesia San Francisco de Valdivia. Valparaíso, 2021

Gustave-Pierre Dagrant, vitrals y vidrieras en la Iglesia San Francisco de Borja.

Valparaíso, 2022

Luneau, Jean-François, Félix Gaudin (1851-1930), peintre-verrier et mosaïste. Unpublished PhD thesis, Université Clermont-Ferrand 2, 2002.

Sewter, Charles. The stained glass of William Morris and his circle, 2 vols., New Haven and London, 1974, 1975.

Winternitz, Adolfo, Fondo Editorial de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2013.

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