St. Francis De Sales
Soaring 300 feet above its surrounding neighborhood, the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales has long served as a landmark in South St. Louis. Built in 1908 by German immigrants, time and shifting soil have taken a great toll on this structure. Structural movements in the building’s foundation and water damage to the terracotta frames threaten the future of nearly 7,000 square feet of stained glass, designed and created by Emil Frei Sr.
Fortunately, the stewards of the building, Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, are taking great efforts to counteract these problems. After addressing a series of significant lapses in building maintenance including stabilizing the sinking foundation and repointing brick and stone, Emil Frei Inc. was put to work restoring the stained glass and surrounding terracotta frames. For most of these windows, this is the first time they have been touched in 110 years, a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of true experts.
Over time, water has penetrated mortar joints between terracotta sections and caused large portions of the terracotta to buckle, crack, and spall. In many places the frames have started to crush the stained-glass panels. The same water penetration has caused steel dividers between stained glass panels to rust.
Emil Frei & Associates worked with preservationists to repair damaged sections of terracotta and restored the steel divisions by removing rust, cleaning, and sealing the steel. After addressing the structural problems, we repaired and cleaned the stained glass. We flattened bulged panels of stained glass and added steel reinforcing bars. To protect the stained glass and terra cotta from future damage from water and weather, we applied a tempered glass covering.
This is an ongoing project, and Emil Frei & Associates continues to coordinate all work with the client’s fundraising efforts. We began by repairing one window at a time, beginning with windows in the worst condition. We have successfully completely restored and preserved 11 of 35 windows.
Rev. Canon Benjamin Coggeshall, Rector
Institute of Christ the King