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John La Farge Stained Glass

Church of the Ascension

Church of the Ascension
12 West 11th Street
New York, NY 1001


The Church of the Ascension in New York City was designed by the English-born architect Richard Upjohn, the leading champion of the Gothic Revival in America in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Upjohn was instrumental in establishing the American Institute of Architects and was its first president.

The church was completed in 1841. The interior was remodeled by Stanford White between 1885-89, and at this time a monumental mural of the Ascension by John La Farge was installed. This enormous mural was painted in place on canvas, and is based on Italian Renaissance precedents. Palma Vecchio’s Ascension of the Virgin (1518) in the Accademia, Venice, was one source, as was Raphael’s The Transfiguration (1520) in the Vatican Museums. The mural was finished after La Farge’s trip to Japan in 1886, and the mountain in the back of the scene of the Ascension is based on Mt. Fuji, combining East and West for a multi-cultural perspective on the central theme of Christian faith. 

In later life, John La Farge was highly renowned for his mural paintings. His achievements at Trinity Church in Boston and the Church of the Ascension in New York in 1887 solidified his reputation, and he was president of the National Society of Mural painters from 1899-1904.

In addition to this monumental mural, La Farge also created four memorial windows for the Church of the Ascension:

  • The John Cotton Smith Memorial, Nicodemus Coming to Jesus by Night. This window was given in 1886 in memory of the Rev. John Cotton Smith, D.D., third rector of the parish. It is found on the south side of the nave.
  • The Southworth Memorial, Mary Magdelene, Joanna, and Mary the Mother of James at the Sepulchre. This window was given in 1890 in memory of Emily Martin Southworth (d. 1888). It is found on the south side of the nave.
  • The Davies Coxe Memorial, The Good Shepherd, was given in 1910 in memory of Davies Coxe (1862-1908). It is located on the north side of the nave.
  • The Leland Memorial, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, was given in memory of Francis Leland (1807-1885) and Euphrasia Aguilar, his wife (1816-1879). It is found on the south side of the nave.