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by Don Lorenzo Cappelletti

Saint Joseph is the protagonist
in the windows of our Basilica.
He is depicted there as the guardian of the Church in all its members.

Dfter having presented in succession the stained glass windows depicting the "Flight into Egypt", the "Finding of Jesus in the Temple" and the "Holy Family in the workshop of Nazareth", located in the middle of the right side nave of the Basilica of San Giuseppe al Trionfale, we reverse, going back to the second window, starting from the entrance, depicting Jesus and Saint John the Baptist as children together with Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth.

We had left it out (like, moreover, the one that precedes it and to which we will dedicate ourselves on another occasion), because we were waiting for it to be removed from the darkness to which it had been relegated for some time and to be illuminated again, which happened at beginning of this new year 2023 thanks to the active interest of the current parish priest Don Tommaso Gigliola. 

Of the stained glass windows present in the side naves of the Basilica of San Giuseppe al Trionfale, the last two to have been created in chronological order remain to be commented on. This is the window located at the end of the left nave and the one at the end of the right nave. As stated on the respective dedication plaque, they should date back, the first to 1970, the second to 2000. 

The first, created in memory of Gerardo and Doralice Lucarelli, does not indicate at the bottom which workshop it comes from, but, due to proximity in date and style, it can be assumed that it was created, like the one opposite it depicting the Transit of Saint Joseph , from the “Giuliani Art Stained Glass” in Rome. Dedicated to Saint Joseph, protector of the Church, it logically concludes the series of Josephite windows.

In some ways it would seem like a duplication of the one located above the current chapel of San  Joseph at the beginning of the same left nave, which explicitly invokes Sancte Joseph Protector Sanctae Ecclesiae. And, in fact, these two windows have two elements in common, namely the figure of Saint Joseph as protector and Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, over which his protection extends, symbolizing the whole Church. But, while in the smaller window the figure of Saint Joseph extends solitary and gigantic above the Michelangelo's dome, colored in a cold and strident metallic blue, in the final window of the series, Saint Joseph, holding the baby Jesus in his arms who embraces him gently, he extends his left hand more simply and naturally towards the front of the Petrine Basilica seen in the warm light of sunset. What most distinguishes this last window, however, is that in the lower part of it a series of characters are gathered together who constitute its characterizing aspect from an iconographic point of view. In the foreground is a pontiff clad in cope and pallium, who extends his hands and gaze towards Saint Joseph to implore his intercession. In addition to the temporal correspondence - at the time, the pontiff was Paul VI - it would seem to be him also due to some physiognomic features which, although approximately, outline a recognizable portrait of him. Behind Paul VI, the face of a cardinal appears which, following the same temporal and physiognomic criterion, leads us to think of Egidio Vagnozzi, first titular cardinal of San Giuseppe al Trionfale from 1967 to 1973, today buried in the Basilica in front of the Chapel of the Addolorata . Furthermore, a bishop also appears alongside Paul VI, wearing a miter very similar to that of the Pope and holding his crosier. We couldn't say who he wants to represent. The facial features would make one think of Ildefonso Schuster, whom Montini succeeded in 1954 as archbishop of Milan. But what would be the point of inserting the deceased Schuster here as if he were a living person? On the other hand, it is equally strange that this bishop (and not possibly an acolyte) is appointed to hold the crosier. We could therefore hypothesize, unfortunately in the absence of documentary sources that illustrate the genesis of this stained glass window, it could be the then cardinal vicar (1968-1972) Angelo Dell'Acqua.

Kneeling at the feet of Paul VI are two characters who we could define as generic. The first is easily recognizable from the all-blue outfit as a worker and even more precisely, given that he has a saw in his hand, as a carpenter. The second, bearded and with long hair, is more difficult to interpret. It could be a poor person or, perhaps better, a pilgrim. In any case, Saint Joseph in this stained glass window appears as a very special protector of the humble. Let us not forget, in this regard, the great social teaching of Pope Paul VI, who, in addition to the constitutions, decrees and messages of Vatican II, promulgated the Populorum Progressio (March 26, 1967) and the Octogesima adveniens (14 May 1971). 

Moving on to the stained glass window that we find at the beginning of the right nave, we read in the plaque at the bottom: in memory of Don Vincenzo and Mons. Tiziano Scalzotto and then, in an overlapping strip that still allows a glimpse of some underlying writing, Anno Santo 2000. This term is already not so clear, but knowing a bit of Guanellian history, it is clear that they wanted to remember with it the Guanellian Vincenzo Scalzotto (1919-1968), who died before the age of fifty in 1968 (see L. Brazzoli, The Servants of Charity. Biographical profiles 1880–1990, Rome 1993, 271-272), and his older brother, Monsignor Tiziano Scalzotto (1915-1997), undersecretary of Propaganda Fide for forty years. This dedication, given that Monsignor Scalzotto died at the beginning of the first of the three years of preparation close to the Great Jubilee, just when he was about to publish a volume on the Holy Years, could lead one to think at first of a legacy of his in memory of the brother and himself. In reality, a news story appeared in the Holy Crusade of the time informs us that it was the sisters of the two deceased priests who commissioned the work, which was inaugurated on Christmas night 1999, the same as the opening of the Holy Door and which was broadcast live, before Midnight Mass, in the Basilica of San Giuseppe al Trionfale (see The Holy Crusade in honor of Saint Joseph 2/2000, 6-7). This also explains why the stained glass window was created not as a historical account of the opening of the Great Jubilee by Pope John Paul II, but rather as an iconographic synthesis of the meaning of the Holy Year. Let's observe it.

Above the Holy Door (the rightmost access door of the Vatican Basilica is precisely reproduced, built in 1619 during the pontificate of Paulus V Pont[ifex] Max[imus] Anno XIIII, as we read), walled up and flanked by two Swiss guards, the stained glass window shows the dove of the Holy Spirit to indicate the spiritual grace offered in the Holy Year. In the foreground, kneeling in front of the door, there is a pilgrim - recognizable as such by the two iconographic symbols that certify his generic identity, i.e. the shell on the right shoulder and a stick in the left, the so-called "bordon" - telling who they are first and foremost the beneficiaries of that spiritual grace. Next to him is an energetic and slender John Paul II, who seems to invite him to enter, while with the hammer in his right hand he strikes a blow on the bricks. 

On Christmas night 1999, however, things didn't go that way. In fact, the Holy Door was not walled up, there were no pilgrims next to John Paul II and the Pope, already very tired at the time, limited himself to opening the doors with his hands. In short, the stained glass window is not the historical memory of the event. To be unveiled on Christmas night 1999, it was designed and built well before, probably already after the death of Monsignor Scalzotto in 1997. So the date Holy Year 2000, which was superimposed on the dedication plaque, as well as the artificial wording underneath the Petrine keys, xxviii Holy Year, intend to indicate that we are referring, albeit in advance, to the Great Jubilee of 2000 and not to the Holy Year of the Redemption, celebrated by John Paul II in 1983-84. Anyone who believes, based on simple observation, that the stained glass window is the visual testimony of the opening of the Great Jubilee would be deceived. Ah, documentary sources: the cross and delight of historical research! 

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