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The Gothic Revival and St. Martin's


Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the growth of “free-thinking” atheistic ideologies and the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution.  The former challenged man’s belief that he was the crowning creation of a loving God, while the latter seemed to confirm this by challenging man’s sense of his place in the world,  reducing him to a mere “factor” of production – just one of many factors all coming together to produce goods in sterile buildings that became known as “factories.”  Reaction to these social developments brought about a strong nostalgia and desire to recapture the ideals and morals of the times of the great cathedral builders – that past era which those who considered themselves “enlightened” and freed from “superstition” called the Dark Ages, but what believers called the Age of Faith.  This Gothic Revival, which began in England in the early 1800s, brought a return of Gothic elements to churches and public buildings, and also caused the traditions and techniques of crafting stained glass to be rediscovered and revived.  Those within this movement sought to return a sense of faith, and to glorify the craftsman and his work versus mass-produced and cheap machine-made goods.

    It was at this same point in history that many Catholic Europeans immigrated to the United States, bringing their taste for the Gothic architecture of their native homelands with them.  St. Martin of Tours Church is one of several Louisville churches built in the Gothic Revival style by immigrants (German, in St. Martin’s case).  It was only natural, given the association of stained glass with the Gothic style, that these churches would include this type of window.

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