Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Donato's Window

From a hilltop overlooking the village, Bishop Ansano gazed down on Montefiacello. He shaded his eyes from the sun to better see the magnificent old church m the village square. The bishop felt great pride for what the people of this tiny village had sacrificed to build such a church. They had cut beautiful stone from the surrounding hills and carted it to the center of town, where each stone was carved and set perfectly in place.

Every time he visited the village, the same thought entered his mind--the church lacked only a beautiful window. He had avoided discussing the subject with Father Siano, the parish priest. Purchasing such a window would place a burden on the church that it could not afford. This time, however, he would talk to Father.

As the bishop approached, Father Siano greeted him. "Welcome, Bishop Ansano."

"Forget the ceremony, my dear friend Justino. Road dust has parched my throat. Let us relax with a carafe of wine as we enjoy dinner."

While they were relaxing after dinner, with a bowl of fruit, the bishop said, "Justino, the church needs; a window."

"A window? Good bishop, the church has windows."

"No, not just any window," declared the bishop. "A beautiful stained-glass window."

"A stained-glass window is expensive," replied Father Siano. "A beautiful stained-glass window is very expensive. We do not have the money for even a plain glass window."

"Come now, Justino. Donato, who is one of Italy's finest craftsmen, lives in this parish."

"He'll never do it at a price we can afford. I can't even get him to come to church," moaned the priest. "What is more, he commands the highest fees from the wealthy nobles and the large cathedrals."

"Perhaps I should talk to him?" remarked the bishop.

"You can try, but such a proud man is unlikely to be impressed even by a bishop."

"Take me to him tomorrow. Sometimes a man's pride is his undoing."

The next day, Father Siano led the bishop to Donato's home.

Donato greeted them skeptically. "Hello, Father. I see you've brought the bishop. A big fund drive must be underway."

"At last I meet the famous Donato!" exclaimed the bishop. "No, we are here only to collect some information from so talented an artist."

"I am your servant," Donato replied.

"We want information about a window for the church," said the bishop.

"A stained-glass window, no doubt," snapped Donato. "Stained-glass windows take a long time to create and are very expensive, if done right. I could not make one cheaply."

"No! No!" protested the bishop. "We could never afford a Donato window. We just want to know what to ask when we approach Billisimio for an estimate."

"What!" shouted Donato. "You would get that bull, Billisimio, to design a window for my church? He doesn't know red from green; the clumsy ox will break the glass instead of cut it. What will people think, my neighbors, my paisani, when they see a Billisimio window ruining my church. No! You can't do it. I won't let you."

"But it is all we can afford," said the bishop, sighing. "Afford? Afford? Who said anything about money?" bellowed Donato. "Windows are priceless, but I will create a beautiful one and donate it to the church."

"Ah, what a wonderful idea," said the bishop. "An homage to your artistry on your own village church. When can you start?"

"Tomorrow," declared Donato. "No! Today! I will start today, and it will be the finest window anyone in this village has ever seen."

"Splendid," said the bishop. "And now we will bid you good day so you can get started. Oh, and by the way, Jesus blessing the children."

"What?" asked Donato.

"The window scene," replied the bishop. "Jesus blessing the children."

"Human figures no less!" muttered Donato. "The hardest thing to do."

Donato shut himself in his studio from morning until night, determined to show the bishop and the village he could create a window that rivaled any found in the wealthier parishes. He used only the finest glass, painstakingly cutting and filing until each piece fit perfectly. He matched every Color to perfection, rejecting those he perceived as not just right.

Finally, weeks later, Donato summoned his wife into the studio.

"Gabriella, come see. I have completed my greatest window."

Gabriella gasped at its beauty. "Truly, Donato, this is your greatest. I have never seen another so beautiful. And you have finished just in time. The bishop visits tomorrow; he will be thrilled with his new window."

"His new window!" declared Donato. "This is my window, and it will stay mine."

"But you promised it to the church; how can you now say it is yours?" pleaded Gabriella.

The next morning, as he spotted the bishop climbing the path to his house, Donato hurriedly hid the magnificent window in his barn.

When he emerged, Donato heard the bishop call.

"Donato, where are you? You were carrying something. Was it the church window?" "Yes, it was the window," answered Donato. "But it is not for the church. It is my greatest work, and I have decided to keep it."

"Well, what belongs to you is yours," acknowledged the bishop. "May I just see it?"

"Why, uh, yes," stammered Donato.

Then the artist led the bishop to the back reaches of the barn, where he pulled the window from its hiding place and held it up for Bishop Ansano to see.

"The workmanship is superb," agreed the bishop. "But it looks rather drab and without luster. I am happy you chose to keep it."

"Drab? Without luster!" blustered Donato. "That is because it is dark in here. Wait until you see it in the light."

"Very well," consented the bishop. "Bring it outside into the sunlight where we can see it better."

Once outside, with sunlight illuminating it, the window took on a magnificence nothing short of outstanding.

"Yes," confessed the bishop, "truly this is the finest window I have ever seen."

"You see," said Donato, "it does not lack luster. I have created a masterpiece."

"But, Donato, you did not create the sun," remarked the bishop. "Without the sun, your window is just a window." Two weeks later, Bishop Ansano again topped the village hill and gazed down at the church. His heart thrilled to the sight greeting him. Above the church's main doors, a wonderful Donato window depicted Jesus seated on a rock, blessing the small children who gathered around Him.

By Anthony J. Nami