LEWISTON — Thirteen stained-glass windows from the former St. Patrick's Catholic Church are on their way to Japan.
The Gothic windows have been sold and will become part of a new church in Japan, Monsignor Marc Caron of Prince of Peace Parish said Friday.
A crew worked for a week to remove the windows in pieces. By Feb. 9, they were gone.
“It's very, very sad,” Caron said. “It's tragic because they really are masterpieces the community has been blessed with for over 80 years. It is a loss. On the other hand, they were not serving any purpose.”
Historic stained-glass windows in an abandoned church run the risk of being destroyed by fire or vandalism, Caron said. “That weighed heavily on my mind." The church closed in 2009 because of dwindling attendance.
Gil LaPointe, parish business coordinator, said parish officials didn't know which church in Japan the windows were sold to. “It's a Christian church; that's all we know,” LaPointe said. The sale was done through a broker.
He declined to say how much the windows sold for, only that they are valuable. The windows are 16 feet high and 6 feet wide and depict scenes from the life of Christ.
“They were the best stained-glass windows in this part of the state, in my opinion,” LaPointe said. “They were done in Germany around the 1920s. They have very detailed hand-painting. It's really artwork you're selling.”
But with so many churches closing, there's a glut of valuable stained-glass windows. “The broker we dealt with was selling 80 sets," Caron said. "There's a tremendous supply. We were lucky. Many of these sets will never be sold.”
Because the windows are so large, they can't be installed in an existing church. The church has to be designed around them, Caron said.
St. Patrick's was built in the 1890s, but the windows weren't added until the 1920s because it took time for parishioners to raise the money, LaPointe said.
“We always prided ourselves on those stained-glass windows,” said Frank O'Connell, 79, of Lewiston, who was baptized in the church. “The windows were gorgeous. I never thought I'd see the day the church was being sold. But what can you do?”
Donald Marsh, 77, of Lewiston, was also baptized at St. Patrick's. He said the church is architecturally beautiful, “but the windows were like the frosting on the cake. At least they've got a new home.”
The broker is King Richard's Liturgical Design and Contracting in Alpharetta, Ga. Valerie Wright of King Richard's said the company sells church windows and possessions to churches only. Most buyers are Catholic, she said.
King Richard's has also found new homes for St. Patrick's tabernacle, which is in a new Catholic church in Texas, and the crucifix, which is in an Arizona church.
Some religious items from St. Patrick's are being used by St. Dominic Academy and other Lewiston churches, Caron said.
Michael Poulin said he, his wife and son heard the windows were going out of state to a new church. They were sad, realizing “our beloved St. Patrick’s is truly gone.” They then thought it would be nice to see the windows in a new church. They talked about a road trip.
When they found out the new church is in Japan, they decided the road trip will be a bit longer. “I guess we'll go,” Poulin said.