The restoration of the Church of the Assumption is inching closer to completion, recently reaching another benchmark with the re-installation of stained-glass windows the week of May 2-6.
The windows were removed after a tornado ripped through the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville in March 2020.
Craftsmen from Conrad Schmitt Studios of the Milwaukee area removed the windows, refurbished them, and stored them until the restoration of the church reached the point they could be installed again.
The work included recreating the window on the north wall, depicting the Holy Family, that sustained the most damage.
The tornado had broken glass from sections of the window that were strewn about the floor, explained Brandon Geppi, the foreman for Conrad Schmitt overseeing the installation.
Once back in Milwaukee, workers spread out all the pieces of glass, and using a photo of the window only 2 inches by 2 inches as a reference, figured out where to place the glass pieces to recreate the depiction of the Holy Family, Geppi said.
“It was a project, but a really cool one when you look back and see what we did,” Geppi said.
The church sustained significant damage from the tornado, including to the roof, the west wall at the back of the church, and the north wall facing the rectory next door.
Everything had to be removed from the inside of the church, including the altars, sanctuary furniture, pews, organ, statues and artwork, so the structural repairs to the roof and walls could be completed, said Father Bede Price, pastor of Assumption.
Since the tornado, parishioners have been gathering in the Buddeke House across the street and in Msgr. Bernard Niedergeses Hall next to the church for Masses.
The structural repairs were phase one of the three-phase project, he said. Phase one is complete; “Now we’re in the second phase.” That phase includes reinstalling the windows, repairing all the plaster in the church, repainting the church and completing other decorative repairs, Father Price said.
Several murals on the walls behind the altar, which had been painted over after a fire in the church in 1942, will be restored, Father Price said.
Most people remember the church as being painted white, Father Price said, but after the restoration, the walls will feature a mystic rose and cross wainscot stencil and the ceiling will be painted a cerulean blue and decorated with paintings of a crescent moon and stars, representing the heavens in which the Blessed Virgin Mother was assumed.
To help raise funds to pay for the parish’s share of the restoration’s cost, people can sponsor one of the 2,100 stars that will decorate the ceiling. There are three sizes of stars:
- The Star of Bethlehem, the smallest size, has five points signifying Jesus’ birth and incarnation while also symbolizing his five wounds. The cost to sponsor one of the 1,350 Stars of Bethlehem is $500.
- The Star of Redemption has eight points and represents Baptism and also honors Mary, whose birthday is commemorated on Sept. 8. The cost to sponsor one of the 500 Stars of Redemption is $1,000.
- The Creator Star, the largest, has six points and symbolizes the six days in which God created the world and is reminiscent of the Star of David that recalls Jesus’ lineage. The cost to sponsor one of the 250 Creator Stars is $1,500.
The single Marian Crescent Moon is available to be sponsored for $15,000. “So, if you ever wanted to own the moon you can,” Father Price joked.
A new baptistry that is being built as part of the restoration will have a ceiling similarly decorated. Sponsorships of those stars can be purchased to commemorate the children who have and will be baptized in the church, Father Price said.
The prices for sponsorships of those stars located in a smaller space are: $250 for a Star of Bethlehem, $325 for a Star of Redemption, and $500 for a Creator Star.
Other sponsorships also are available. For information about all sponsorships, call the church office at 615-256-2729 or visit the office at 1227 7th Ave. N. in Nashville.
The final phase of the restoration will be reinstalling all the statues, artwork, furnishings and pews in the church. The ends of the historic pews and the hat clips will be saved and the seats, backs and kneelers will be replaced.
Phase two of the restoration is expected to be complete in November or December of this year, and phase three should be finished by the end of January 2023, Father Price said.
“We are going to be the most beautiful church in Nashville” when the restoration is complete, he said.
It will also allow an important revenue stream for the parish to start flowing again, like the rental of the church for weddings.
Over the years, Assumption, built in 1859 and one of the oldest churches in Nashville, has been a popular site for weddings, which have been important for the parish finances, Father Price said. He expects that when the church reopens, the number of weddings scheduled at Assumption will “go through the roof.”
The cost of the restoration, which will also include upgrades and repairs to the Buddeke House and Msgr. Bernard Niedergeses Hall, as well as the construction of a gazebo on church grounds that will host outdoor liturgies and other events, is close to $8 million, Father Price said. Insurance is covering most of the cost, and the parish’s share is about $1.2 million, he said.
The project has attracted support from people in the parish and beyond, Father Price said.
“We’ve had remarkable interest from people all over the United States who want to be involved in the restoration,” he said. Among the people sponsoring a star is Bishop J. Mark Spalding, Father Price noted. “Bishop Spalding has been very supportive.”
“It’s really wonderful to see the old Catholic families come by and buy a star,” Father Price added.
The restoration is a fitting legacy to Msgr. Niedergeses, who was pastor of Assumption Church for nearly four decades. Msgr. Niedergeses oversaw the restoration of the church during his tenure, and as an accomplished woodworker, did much of the work himself.
He not only worked to restore the church, but the parish as well. Msgr. Niedergeses, with his parishioners and people from the neighboring Monroe Street Methodist Church, started Oktoberfest to celebrate the Germantown neighborhood.
“Monsignor started Oktoberfest to bring people back to Assumption Church,” Father Price said. “He saw it as a homecoming.”
The work to Assumption Church and the annual festival helped to spark the revitalization of the neighborhood.