It was a landmark event when South Pasadena’s Judson Studios was selected to create the largest stained glass window in the world. Now, a local filmmaker — also from South Pasadena — is looking to match or exceed that notoriety with the release of a feature-length documentary film commemorating the groundbreaking process.
‘Holy Frit,’ which Justin Monroe filmed over a period of six years, tells the compelling story of the bidding process, design, construction, transportation and installation of the approximately 100 feet by 40 feet artwork — roughly the same dimensions of a full-sized basketball court — that was set in place on Easter Sunday 2017 in the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
Named in part for its role in the glassmaking process — frit is a ceramic composition often used in the making of enamels and glazes — the two-hour film was culled from 1,100 hours of footage collected by Monroe and his crew. The film has been accepted to compete in the Slamdance Film Festival, which will be held virtually from Feb. 12-25.
“In this three-year race against time, Tim Carey, a talented, yet unknown L.A. artist, bluffs his way into winning the commission to create the largest stained-glass window of its kind. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to make it. After a desperate search, he finds someone who might have the answer … a famous glass maestro named Narcissus Quagliata,” reads a synopsis of the film.
“Holy Frit” stars Tim Carey, who worked on what became known simply as “the Resurrection Window;” David Judson, owner/operator of the Judson Studios; the colorful Narcissus Quagliata, one of the most famous glass artists of the 20th century; and Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which has more than 20,000 members and is one of the fastest-growing Protestant churches in the United States. The Resurrection Window is the centerpiece of the 3,500-seat sanctuary building on the church’s 76-acre campus.
“Holy Frit” is entered in the category of documentary features, and details the relationship of a talented American protégé (Carey) and his famous charismatic Italian mentor (Quagliata) as they struggle to make a masterpiece. It is also an expedition into the hopes and fears of the people from the largest mainline church in America, Judson Studios and a Portland-based fused-glass manufacturing company. Along the way, it illuminates the remarkable art form of glass itself, an artistic expression many believe is waning in popularity.
“This was a fascinating project,” Monroe said in a phone conversation this week. “It brought together so many different components into a single narrative. It involved business, religion, art, the creative spirit and of course, humanity. It was the ‘humanity’ component that especially drew me to this story. Of course, I loved watching the beautiful artwork emerge in real time, but what fascinated me most was the unique clash of people who were mysteriously thrown together to attempt this masterpiece.”
Judson Studios was chosen to complete the project after what the church called “a worldwide selection process.” Judson made 161 individual panels, each measuring 4 feet by 5 feet, and assembled atop the church’s sanctuary. The studio created the window to tell the Biblical story from Genesis through Revelation.
Judson Studios was founded in 1897 by David’s great-great-grandfather and has been in the family for five generations. The Resurrection Window project was so significant, Judson had to build an additional studio in South Pasadena. The project and Judson Studios were featured on a segment of “CBS Sunday Morning” that aired on April 1, 2018.
Additional information on the Slamdance Film Festival can be found at slamdance.com.