St. John's History: Stained Glass WindowsThe sanctuary windows, depicting scenes from the life of Christ and other Biblical stories, are outstanding examples of both painted and stained glass as art forms. Windows in the original church contained transparent glass to let in as much light as possible, but in the late 1860s that changed when the existing clear glass was stained in patterns of grayish white ivy leaves. During the first half of the 1880s, the Vestry retained the services of Madame Lorin, Curator of Glass at Chartres Cathedral in France, to create 22 "painted" stained glass windows, including the vertical representation of Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper above the altar. Also among these windows is the one in the south transept given by President Chester Arthur as a memorial to his wife Ellen Herndon Arthur, a one-time St. John's choir member whom the future president, as a young man, fell in love with and married. Mrs. Arthur died just before her husband became president.
More contemporary windows include two designed by Irene and Rowan LeCompte, who created many of the windows in Washington National Cathedral. The eight windows in the cupola display Biblical scenes and were given in memory of Peter and Frances Hagner, founding members of St. John's, by their children. Several windows commemorate presidents, while many others are memorials to distinguished Americans, some of whom were parishioners. Collectively, they reflect the long and close association of St. John's congregation with the life of the nation.