The vandalism at St. John Nepomuk was discovered early Thursday morning by a maintenance man. “There was glass and lead all over the place, and a brick laying in the middle of the floor,” explains Deacon Mike Buckley.
It was one of several bricks thrown at the church windows. Buckley adds, “On several of them, the Plexiglas was broken, and there were pieces of brick all up and down the side of the building.”
The shattered glass landed right in the middle of the nativity scene.
Since the 1850s, the Soulard-area church has served a tight-knit parish, mainly of Czech descent. The stained glass windows, created in 1929, have educated parishioners on the New Testament ever since.
Buckley explains, “Emil Frei was probably one of the greatest stained glass artisans of all time, and he came from Germany to the United States and he settled in St. Louis, but these were made in his studio in Germany.”
Luckily, Emil Frei’s legacy and studio remain in St. Louis. His great-grandson, Stephen, now runs the family business out of Kirkwood.
They create and repair mosaics and stained glass windows in churches throughout the world, using techniques dating back to the 11th century.
Frei says the vandalism of St. John Nepomuk hurts more because he knows the time and painstaking effort those windows require. He explains, “While we can replace it, we don’t want to. Fires, hail storms are necessary evils, but there is never an excuse to throw anything at a church.”
Repairing the small hole will be a big job. Frei says it involves removing the surrounding glass to match the tints and textures: “It will be something that will take some time, but it will be done in exactly the same steps that were done in 1929 when we first made them.”
There’s no official estimate on the cost of the stained glass repair, but the deacon says these windows would cost about $2,000 per square foot today. The church has filed a police report, but right now, no word on any suspects.