By Paulina Herran
Cistercian Abby has recently installed a new stained glass window that was designed and installed by Emil Frei & Associates, a family company founded in 1898 that currently employs four University of Dallas graduates. The artwork was designed by artist Will Frank (’06), UD graduate and son of two members of the UD faculty, and was facilitated by brothers Aaron Frei (’02) and Nicholas Frei (’06). These two Frei brothers not only graduated from UD but were also monks at Cistercian Abbey for four years, making this particular project a very personal endeavor for them. Emil Frei & Associates also has another UD graduate as an employee, John Wheadon (’02).
Cistercian’s Abbot Peter and Father Paul visited the family business stationed in St. Louis to determine what their desired stained glass window should represent.
“We figured out what they were inspired by,” Nicholas Frei said about the meeting with the Cistercian leaders.
The end result of this inspiration led to a beautifully crafted window that portrays Philippians 2 Christ Hymn, focusing on humility and redemption. After seeing the window myself, I can attest that it is a beautiful rendition of the hymn and that it focuses on the central element of our Catholic faith — the cross.
However, Aaron Frei did not wish to peg any one meaning to the window.
“Our studio, as a hallmark of our identity, we always have layers of meaning,” Aaron Frei said. “The last thing we want is for an individual to look at the art and comprehend it in a single sitting. Successful sacred art should beckon the believer continually back. And for this to occur, there must be real depth to the work — in its content, composition, choice of color, relationship to the sacred space.” This particular art piece works spectacularly in the sacred space. The austere chapel is small, so the window impressively draws focus to itself. The light shining through the window makes it majestic, illuminating its bluish-grey hues and hints of earthy green. It has a very serene and ethereal presence, a mood very fitting for its purpose.
Emil Frei & Associates are devoted to a revival of sacred art, as represented in the timeless beauty of their newest work placed in Cistercian.
“Wanting to return the liturgical arts to the high standard they once had is a great and ambitious goal that we have that we want to see promoted, especially at UD,” Nicholas Frei said. Aaron and Nicholas Frei both have high hopes for a greater emphasis on the liturgical arts at UD.
“UD students are uniquely primed to enter the field of sacred art. As students of the Liberal Arts, I think they understand that any good art (poetry, drama, painting, etc.) is the result of hard work and of good thinking…But, perhaps most of all, they are the beneficiaries of a great tradition, a tradition that requires us to think deeply and artfully, a tradition that is deceptively expansive…they are taught that there is such a thing as “Truth” (with a capital “T”) and that all disciplines of study ultimately lead back to the author of that Truth — and so are all related to one another. It is, in part, this expansive approach to knowledge and life that distinguishes the UD student, and which is so greatly needed right now in the field of sacred art,” Aaron Frei said.
The community at Cistercian has responded very positively to the window. To learn more about Emil Frei & Associates or to view their portfolio, visit http://emilfrei.com/.