“Windows to Heaven”
TORONTO – A thirty-year project has just been
documented in a new book: “Windows to Heaven – Stained Glass Windows at the St. Demetrius the Great Martyr Ukrainian Catholic Church
by artist Yaroslava Surmach-Mills,” and published by the church. The launch of
the book took place on April 29, 2008 with a presentation by Dr. Christine
Turkewych about the artist, Yaroslava Surmach-Mills. Rev. John Tataryn, the
pastor of St. Demetrius, introduced the compiler of the book, Rev. Peter
Shumelda and presented gift copies of the book to the people who had been
involved in its publication. Daria Diakowsky led the program.
Yaroslava Surmach was born in Queens,
New York, in 1925 and received her art degree
from Cooper Union Art College. At first, she worked at
illustrating children’s magazines but in time became famous for glass painting.
It was an exhibit of her glass paintings in Toronto that brought Mills and Fr. John
Tataryn together. Impressed by her art work, Tataryn asked Mills if she would
be interested in designing stained glass windows for his recently built church.
St. Demetrius, built in 1970, is a modern church, built in a circular plan with
three large Romanesque windows and a dome with a skylight. Tataryn took Mills to see the church and, although
fascinated by the architecture, she realized she would have to do a lot of
research to create the windows. She agreed to do the work but only if she had
plenty of time in which to do it.
The three main stained glass windows – in the
front, east and west sides - as well as the skylights in the dome, were
installed in 1983. St. Demetrius the Great
Martyr, the patron saint of the church, adorns the window at the front while
Christmas and Epiphany Feast Days are featured in the East Window, and Easter
Feast days - in the West Window. The Pantocrator and Seraphim are
installed in the dome skylight.
The second phase of installations, which
continued until 1998, involved the side windows, which depicted New and Old
Testament saints and martyrs. In the third phase, which ended in 2006, Mills
and the church clergy chose the saints to be represented, which she diligently
researched to ensure authenticity. In addition to the three main windows, 48
smaller stained glass windows were installed. For this, 500 lbs. of hand-blown
German full-antique glass were purchased, of which 250 lbs. were actually used.
The installations were complex, involving pulleys, scaffolding and hydraulic
In the 112-page book, each stained glass window
is featured as a full-page colour illustration and provided with its
historical, liturgical and symbolic significance. Donors of each window are
named. The book also contains an essay by Yaroslava Surmach Mills “Painting
with Light and Colours” in which she writes about the challenges she faced and
describes the creative and production processes in making the windows.
Front page banner: “Windows to Heaven” book
For information on ordering the book, visit the
website www.stdemetrius.org or contact
the St. Demetrius Parish Office at 416-244-5333