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By Olivia Kiers / December 1, 12:00 AM
Boston Accent: Downtown’s Hidden Gem

Fr. Brian Cullinane, O.F.M., of St. Anthony Shrine tells the story behind the church’s stunning stained glass

Photo: Derek Kouyoumjian


“Stained glass should tell a story,” says Fr. Brian Cullinane, O.F.M., as he gestures toward multicolored glass gleaming with light that depicts key moments from the lives of Jesus Christ, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony. Here at St. Anthony Shrine in the heart of Downtown Boston, there are many stories to discover, both in the stained-glass windows and from the community of Franciscan monks who live there. 

Fr. Brian, a resident at the shrine for six years, loves stained glass. He has a small workshop at the shrine where he creates windows filled with birds and flowers, and over the course of 30 years his work has found a home all over the world, from Ireland to Zimbabwe. “I do joyful images, and I hope they bring people peace and joy.” 

While Fr. Brian has a window of his own stained glass visible at the shrine, he explains that the large windows in the shrine’s church are the ones of most interest to visitors—they were created by the esteemed glass artist Robert Pinart, who recently died at age 90 and was known for his work in the dalle de verre—or “glass slab”—style. 

In Pinart’s windows at St. Anthony Shrine, figures are painted on the surface of the multicolored glass alongside silhouettes of stars and other patterns. “Every time you look, you see something different,” Fr. Brian explains. He points out that the windows featuring the life of St. Anthony on the left side of the church link moments in the story with rhythmic yellow crescents, while the tall and narrow windows behind the altar that feature the life of Christ are awash in red, purple and blue. “Blue is the most soothing color,” he adds, the perfect choice for a church.

All are welcome to visit. In addition to more than 30 ministries and programs, St. Anthony  Shrine hosts 39 Catholic masses each week, and often nearly half of the congregation is composed of visitors to Boston. Fr. Brian emphasizes that you do not have to be Catholic to stop by and enjoy Pinart’s stunning art—a perfect respite from Downtown’s hustle and bustle. “Looking at these windows can be like meditation; it is just so peaceful. Anyone can appreciate them.”

St. Anthony Shrine

100 Arch St., 617-542-6440, stanthonyshrine.org

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