A Symposium for the Promotion of the Private University Branding "Tohoku Gakuin University Stained Glass: Nineteenth Century Medievalism and Material Culture"


On March 18, 2017, a symposium entitled “Tohoku Gakuin University Stained Glass: Nineteenth Century Medievalism and Material Culture” was held in Oshikawa Memorial Hall as a part of the project to promote the private university branding.

This project represents a recent effort by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to provide financial support to universities that pursue the research contributing to the development and enrichment of local economies, social life, employment and culture.

With a focus on the historically significant stained glass (registered as a tangible cultural property) set in the Rahauser Memorial Church at Tsuchitoi campus in 1932, our university has got a grant with the project “Establishing a research center of humanities based on theology in Tohoku.”

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The symposium, which was held as a part of this project, began at 1:00 pm and was opened by inaugural speech by the University President, Prof. Matsumoto Norio.  Prof. Matsumoto noted that “the stained glass is precious as it was specially ordered from England in 1931”, and further emphasized his hope that through this project, “research will advance and our stained glass will be known and appreciated more by citizens as a work of art.”

Following this opening message, Professor Michitaka Suzuki, who in late February of this year made research trip of the 19th century stained glass in Britain, especially the ones made by the same atelier of Heaton, Butler & Bayne (HBB), gave a talk upon the purpose of this symposium upon stained glass window as a material culture par excellence, and especially in Tohoku which experienced the unprecedented material destruction by Tsunami in 2011.

Next, Hiroko Takahashi, Professor at Gakushuin University, gave an introductory lecture entitled “Art in the Victorian Era” in which she showed various examples of Victorian paintings and the relation with modern Japan, especially the great Japanese writer Soseki Natsume who was in London when the Queen Victoria passed away.

Following this brief introductory lecture, associate Professor at Lincoln University, Jim Cheshire gave a lecture entitled “Medievalism and Stained Glass in Nineteenth Century Britain.”  He talked about the role of stained glass as a form of popular art in the nineteenth century and showed some examples of the atelier HBB, from where the stained glass set in our university was constructed, and gave a remark that the late works of HBB workshop made the stained glass windows for the virtue of the individual commemoration rendering the individual portraits as Biblical saints, and used the portrait photographs for these stained glasses and he showed the examples in Stamford(1897) and Batcombe(c. 1907).

The third speaker was Professor Suzuki who gave a talk on the topic of “Original and Copy: the Value in the Medieval Period.” He explained that in the medieval period Art was just to replicate the genuine image of God. This, he asserted, makes a contrast with the modern notion of Art as a self-expression of human beings.

Professor Yoshiko Takano from Seisen University introduced the Gothic stained glasses in France and England and showed their beauty. And after that, Professor Emeritus Ryuichiro Tani from Kyusyu University explained that spiritual and symbolic interpretations were typical of the church fathers in Eastern Christianity and the Byzantine and how this tradition was passed on to the Western Latin Church.

Following a brief intermission, in the discussion that followed, Mr. Takeo Hirayama, president of the Hikari Stained Glass Studio, who attended as a member of the audience, explained the research he carried out with Professor Suzuki in England and answered questions from the audience about the working members of the workshop and its transferability. In the end, Dr. Jim Cheshire has commented upon the recent topic in Britain about 19th century stained glass, concerning to the categorization of the stained glass as industry in the World Exposition in London in 1851, however the stained glass had been a sacred art since its beginning in Gothic era.

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  After the symposium we moved to The Rahauser Memorial Church, where audience had the opportunity to view the stained glass in situ.