Christ Church Cranbrook Baptistry

To the north of the narthex at Christ Church Cranbrook stands the Baptistry, where infants are christened with the pouring of water over the head.

Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. – The Book of Common Prayer

The whole Baptistry is a work of art, featuring an ornate wooden screen topped by the Lamb of God, a baptismal font with an ornate cloisonné cover that sits upon an exquisitely carved base, and a beautiful mosaic ceiling.

1992-16 Christ Church Baptistry

Christ Church Cranbrook, Baptismal Font, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Oscar H. Murray Photograph Collection.

Today, I want to focus on the ceiling by Mary Chase Perry Stratton and her Pewabic Pottery.

As George G. Booth was constructing Christ Church, he looked for the best craftspeople. In a 1926 letter to Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates, architects of the church, Booth states, “I should be pleased if we are able to have a piece of Pewabic work in the Church and have thought the most suitable location would be the vault of the Baptistry”

After a seven-year rift with his old friend Mary Chase Perry Stratton over not allowing her creative license on projects at Cranbrook House, Booth offered an olive branch by giving Stratton the artistic freedom to create the Baptistry ceiling in 1926. This included the mosaic’s material and size, and how to incorporate the symbols of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit into the work.

Baptistry ceiling

Christ Church Cranbrook, Baptistry Ceiling, 2015. P.D. Rearick, photographer. Copyright Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the initiant receives at baptism, are represented as follows: Wisdom is a Beehive (also a favorite symbol of the Booth family), Understanding is a Lamp, Counsel is the Star, Fortitude is an Oak, Piety is a Cross, Knowledge is a Book, and Godly Fear (Peace) is a Dove.

Baptistry ceiling 3

Christ Church Cranbrook, detail of Baptistry Ceiling, 2015. P.D. Rearick, photographer. Copyright Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

As former Cranbrook Center Collections Fellow Stephanie Kae Dlugosz-Acton wrote in the publication from her exhibition, Simple Forms, Stunning Glazes: “These symbols are centered on treetops resembling fleurs-de-lis. At the base of each of these saplings, a sea of blue tiles of varying shades surround two different animals, usually one mammal and one bird. All of the small tesserae tiles have the signature iridescence of Pewabic and create a glittering effect that shifts as one moves through the intimate and reverent space.”

Baptistry ceiling 2

Christ Church Cranbrook, detail of Baptistry Ceiling, 2015. P.D. Rearick, photographer. Copyright Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

What a wonderful gift to all families who share a Christening in this Baptistry, and to all the visitors to Christ Church Cranbrook.

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

A Treasure Hunt in the Archives

I have had the pleasure of spending much of my time over the last year going through the Cranbrook Archives in search of information about Pewabic Pottery.  This is in preparation for the upcoming exhibition Simple Forms, Stunning Glazes: The Gerald W. McNeely Pewabic Pottery Collection opening December 12. Through the Archives’ amazing resources, including inventories, architectural drawings, correspondence, receipts, historic photographs, and even meeting notes from the founding of Cranbrook School, one of the most awesome discoveries was regarding one of the Pewabic Pottery vases in our collection.

Cranbrook Educational Community Collection, CEC 276 Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Cranbrook Educational Community Collection, CEC 276
Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Through inventories we can trace the placement of this vase from during its life in Cranbrook House. It was located in the Living Room in 1921, and by 1933 had been relocated to the Sunset Room. In 1937, George Booth notes the work by its size and a brief description, “14 inch vase- luster- Pewabic.” Cranbrook has 15 Pewabic works purchased during Booth’s lifetime which now reside between the collections of the Art Museum and the Cranbrook Educational Community. While I am still working to place the pieces of the puzzle together to see if we can do this for other work, it may not be possible as some of the receipts and notations are much more cryptic including only “Pewabic Vase” with no dimensions, or description.

It’s treasure hunts like these that make the Archives such a great place to spend my time as you never know what you might find and where it will take you!

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

First Impressions; or Pride and Appreciation

As the newest staff member at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, I am on a HUGE learning curve.  I knew, taking this position, that Cranbrook had a deep and rich history, and a long association with famous artists, designers, and architects.  However, my first days here were spent touring campus, witnessing just what those associations created.

My first impressions of the cultural properties I will be working with are “Wow! What?! Cool.”  I hope in the coming months to be able to share some of those moments on the Kitchen Sink, but here are my first three:

Wow: Green Lobby, Kingswood School.

Kingswood School Green Lobby, photographer George W. Hance, 1932. Cranbrook Archives.

Kingswood School Green Lobby, photographer George W. Hance, 1932. Cranbrook Archives.

What: The 319-acre campus was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 29, 1989 for its significant architecture and design – 319-acres full of cultural properties!

Cool: Thornlea – and I get to explore all the rooms.

Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

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