Skip to main content

Western New York Explorer's Guide

The only comprehensive travel guide to the region

Home
About Us
Contact Us
Site Map
Member Login
About Author
Media Interviews
Testimonials
WNY Resources
WNY Attractions and More
Explore WNY blog
Upcoming events
Articles
Celebrate Black History
Naples, NY
Olean
Mayville Ice Festival
Mid winter getaways
Art and History Museums
Visit Aviation Museums
Hiking Trails
Welland Canal
Athenaeum hotel
Bemus Point
Cobblestone Trail
Niagara Pkwy part 1
Niagara Pkwy part 2
Rock Park
Clifton Springs
WNY Amish
Nature in Winter
Wine & Chocolate
Winter Wonderland
Outdoors in winter
Inside in winter
Old Fort Niagara
Power Vista
WNY Waterfalls
Corning
Dads and Cars
Artpark
Hershey
Native American
Lake Ontario Shore
Lockport Cave
Sonnenberg
Amish traditions
Day Trips Rock
Country Barn Quilt
Halloween in WNY
Fest of Lights
Chautauqua Holiday
NYC by Train
Chautauqua Wine Trail
Mayville Ice Castle
Outdoor winter fun
Chautauqua Institution
Farm Markets
Recharge at Chautauqua
Niagara Wine Trail
Local boat rides
Local beaches
Chautauqua County
Lewiston Jazz Fest
Hammondsport
Buffalo Waterfront
Pumpkin Fun
Chau Wine Trail LEL
Fall Road Trips
Off season getaways
Free attractions
Winter Fun
Spring Break
Taughannock
Winery Train
St Lawrence Seaway
Seaway Trail Journey
Welland Canal LEL
Sandusky
Cleveland
Fall Festivals
Scenic Fall Drives
Holiday Hollow
Shopping in NYC
Holiday Shopping Corning
Buffalo has Wright
Snowshoeing
Toronto
Elmira
Buffalo Religious Art
Ten must see getaways
Chautauqua and Erie
Welland Murals
The Tonawandas
Ten Hidden Places
Wing Festival
Presque Isle
Marble
Lewisburg PA
Victorian Christmas
Chocolate Trail
Fun with Grandkids
George Eastman House
National Historic Landmar
Thing for Wings
Olcott Beach
Little League Museum
Rock City
Glass Blowing
Queenston ON
Lawn Fetes
Chautauqua Co Bicentennia
Shaw Festival
Chautauqua County 2
Olcott Carousel
10 Hidden Gems
Chautauqua
Olcott Beach 2
Roycroft
Hot Dog Spots
Westfield
Canandaigua
Enjoy Presque Isle
One Tank Trips
Belhurst Castle
Shop in Lewiston
Cuba Cheese Museum
Pumpkinville 2
Snowshoe 2
Spooky Treats
Walkable Shopping
Norman Rockwell Museum
Fatima Shrine Lights
Christmas Lights
Albright Knox
Darwin Martin
Maple Weekend
Divine Mercy Shrine
Erie Canal
Rochester
Cape Cod
Cobblestone Trail 2
8 Great Fall Road Trips
Little Known Places
Buy Local
Made in America Store
Vidlers
Great Lakes Seaway Trail
Lovely Gardens
WNY Festivals
Erie PA Waterfront
Grape Discovery Center
Salt Sanctuary
Holiday Hollow 2
Historic Hull House
Buffalo Religious Arts Ce
Mall Madness
One day holiday getaways
New York City by train
Cabin Fever
Niagara on the Lake
Elmira 150th Anniversary
Carousels of WNY
Ontario Beach Park
Lockport Locks
USA Bird Supply Blog Arch
Backroads and Byways of U

Forever Young

November 2013

 

 

 

 

Preserving Buffalo’s Religious Art

 

            Buffalo’s rich ethic heritage is reflected in the many churches located throughout the city. Early settlers, including those from Germany, Poland, Italy, and Ireland, brought their style of churches from the “Old Country.” Most of them were working class people who donated what little extra money they had to help build these magnificent church buildings that have features such as beautiful murals, stained glass windows, and statues.

            However, in 2007, a number of these mainly Roman Catholic churches were slated to close during a massive reorganization of parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo. Mary Holland read about these closings in the newspaper and felt compelled to visit each one of these churches before they closed. “As I sat in these churches, I thought how sad it was for the people,” said Holland. “Then I thought, what’s going to happen to the artwork, statues, and stained glass windows.”  She realized that if no one in Buffalo stepped forward to save these items, they probably would be sold to buyers out of the area.

            Inspired by a visit to the renowned E.B. Smith Stained Glass Art Museum in Chicago, Holland founded the Buffalo Religious Arts Center in 2008, with the mission to preserve the artistic and historic legacy of Buffalo’s immigrant culture and religious heritage. The center, which collects religious art from all denominations, is located in the circa 1912 former St. Francis Xavier Church in Buffalo’s historic Black Rock section. It is in the perfect location according to Holland. “It’s just off the expressway, easy to find and close to downtown.” The center is one of the first galleries in the United States dedicated to the preservation of religious arts that is housed in a former church.

            The first thing you notice when you enter the center is the mural work behind the altar. The upper level depicts the Holy Trinity, while the central portion portrays St. Francis Xavier. The lower level of the mural features other saints and the 12 apostles. There are also murals behind the side altar areas. Holland relayed an interesting story about one of those murals.

            One day I received a phone from a professor in Austin, TX asking if he could use a picture of our mural that is located in the left front of the church,” said Holland, who was curious as to how he knew about the mural. “He said that a replica of that mural was used in the printing of thousands of copies of a pamphlet that were handed out in Washington, DC in 1920 when the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was celebrating the setting of the cornerstone for the building. Somehow the founders of the shrine saw a rendering of the mural, which was painted by a Bavarian born monk named Raphael Pfisterer, O.S.B.  and decided to use it.”

            “To verify all of this information, I drove to DC to visit the National Shrine and spoke to the curator,” said Holland. “She told me that they have two copies of the pamphlet and they also have the passport of Raphael Pfisterer. His passport shows that he took trips back to Europe, we assume to visit family and also to study art.”

Holland added that the building and artwork is a blending of many cultures. “The ceiling of the church was painted by a Hungarian, some of the statues are by Italians, some Polish and there is art work by Danish born immigrants. This former church is a testament to the immigrant population who came to the United States seeking a better life and, despite their poverty, was able to leave us with an amazing building.”

One of the unique features of the center are the stained glass windows. Only a handful of churches in the world have windows like these, which depict the Stations of the Cross. The windows were crafted in Munich, Germany by F.X. Zettler and have pieces of wood affixed to the upper crosses in the windows, as according to church law, there must be some wood in the Stations of the Cross.

Since the center opened, Holland and her staff of mostly volunteers have acquired items from more than 45 churches. The Buffalo Religious Arts Center is one of the first museums that specializes in artifacts from closed churches. When a church closes, the items from that church first go to other churches in the area that remain open. Items that those churches do not choose to keep are sold to other churches or priests, and then the remaining items are made available to the arts center. Sometimes the items are donated, and other times they must purchase the items.

So far the center has over 50 stained-glass windows, including several from the now-closed Queen of Peace Church. Six of these windows are mounted in frames that are backlit; several are displayed in the confessionals. “All these windows are stunning; stained glass as an art form is unique,” said Holland. “We also have over 100 items in storage awaiting restoration, including statues, crosses, artwork and windows.”

While the majority of items in the center are from Catholic churches that have closed, they accept items from any faith. “We will preserve anything sacred from any church,” said Holland. “When Temple Beth El closed, we acquired a monument with the Ten Commandments in wood and brass and a Star of David.”

 

Buffalo Religious Arts Center, 157 East Street, Buffalo, 716-481-2350, www.buffaloreligiousarts.org. Tours are available by appointment. During the summer the center is open on Saturdays, see website for times. The center can also be rented for weddings.