Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The art of Holy Week in southern Minnesota April 3, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A stained glass window inside Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, depicts Jesus’ crucifixion. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2016)

CHRISTIAN FAITH COMMUNITIES have long integrated art into their houses of worship. Whether in stained glass windows, sculptures, paintings or other art forms, this art is an important way to visually connect worshipers with Scripture, with foundational teachings.

The historic Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Church in Shieldsville Township, rural Rice County, sits isolated along a gravel road, edged by the Trebon Cemetery. The Czech church closed long ago and is locked. But I’ve wandered the cemetery grounds and found unusual art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2022)

This week, Holy Week, I consider the art of churches I’ve visited in my area of southern Minnesota. Aged sanctuaries graced with connective and inspiring art. I never tire of stepping inside a rural church or meandering through a country cemetery to view faith-focused art. It’s beautiful in its own way, often in the visual storytelling of events documented in the Bible.

Folk art in the Trebon Cemetery honors the crucified Christ and the deceased. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2014)

As a woman of faith, the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection on Easter morning make this week particularly meaningful.

This artistic rendition of The Last Supper hangs in the St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault, Fellowship Hall. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2012)

From Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to The Last Supper to his betrayal by Judas and then his crucifixion and resurrection, the events of Christ’s final days unfold in art inside sanctuaries and on cemetery grounds.

Inside Vang Lutheran Church, rural Dennison, a stained glass window shows Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2014)

I feel a certain reverence for the artists who designed and crafted stained glass windows that rise high inside sanctuaries, sunlight streaming through colorful glass. It’s almost as if the beauty therein beams directly from heaven, filling dark souls with light.

In the face of Mary, I see profound grief in losing her son. This statue is inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, New Trier. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Likewise, statues, most often found in Catholic churches, add a down-to-earth human element in their life-sized presence. I have the urge to reach out, to touch a hand or a face, to offer comfort, to extend compassion. Art, especially faith-based art, holds that power.

Centering the altar is this depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, New Trier. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Whether centering an altar or hanging on a church fellowship hall wall, biblically-based artwork is an important part of Christianity. I appreciate the ornate and the simplistic. The oversized and the understated. The all of it, uplifting, inspiring, moving me.

This shows the resurrected Christ in a snippet of the center stained glass window in a trio above the altar at Trinity Lutheran Church, Wanamingo. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2016)

During this Holy Week, I reflect on the art gracing churches throughout my region. Art that truly is a spiritual treasure. Art that carries a heritage of faith.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “The art of Holy Week in southern Minnesota”

  1. beth Says:

    these are absolutely beautiful and so stunning. houses of worship have always been a place of art used as a form of expression of the universe and it’s miracles that go beyond man. I especially am taken with stained glass as it lets the beautiful light in –

    • I’m with you on the stained glass. Randy took classes in stained glass art and has created several pieces and also repaired several windows in our church. Once he retires, I’m hopeful he will take up this craft again.

  2. Valerie Says:

    Thank you for sharing this artwork, focusing on Holy Week.

  3. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I love everything about churches, especially the old churches with stained glass and wood pews. I could visit churches all day long.

  4. Sandra Says:

    Garden of Gethsemene has always been a special favorite of mine and stained glass? there aren’t enough words – big thank you’s to Randy for repairing. I remember when it was brought out that the St. Mary’s Chapel windows needed repairing, a fund was started. A world without stained glass, makes me shiver. When I went to Germany, the Altenberger Dom and the Cologne Cathedral were trip highlights. Thank heavens for digital cameras!

  5. Janene Says:

    Thanks for the tour. Loved it. We have the Stations of the cross in our church ,St Mary’s in Caledonia from Bavaria 1925 they were installed. We are going to celebrate our 150 this year. 1873 – 2023.

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