Stained Glass as Cinema, a study of St. Prokop's Cathedral in Kouřim: ABSTRACT

“In the small town of Kouřim, located approximately 15 miles east of Prague, sits an unavoidable cathedral that dominates the skyline of an otherwise sleepy, unassuming chunk of Bohemia. St. Prokop’s Cathedral was designed by Wenceslaus Parler (1527-1591), born to the famous family of Czech architects descending from Peter Parler, designer of the Charles Bridge and Cathedral of St. Vitus.
Due to its traditional Gothic flourishes and indiscernibility from other famous churches in the region (Wenceslaus, when commissioned, was reportedly told to ‘build a classic Parler’), the massive stained glass window positioned against the West to catch the sunset may not seem all that remarkable, aside from the accomplishment of the craftspeople who brought it to fruition. However, look inside and churchgoers would see a blank white wall opposite the stained glass window. The more patient (and perhaps, more pious) attendees who would spend enough time inside St. Prokop’s Cathedral would see an illuminated Bible story: Christ, rising from the world of man, ascending to the heavenly realm as the Apostles (sans Judas) watch in awe.
In this essay, I aim to carve out an alternate cinema history that includes the stained glass of St. Prokop’s Cathedral, where I hope to resolve the ‘serious dearth of ‘toy analysis’ in the modern cinema theory’ as highlighted by Martha Burns (29), wherein the material, architectural plans, and form of the cathedral are taken as legitimate elements of a ‘cinematic experience’ not defined by what a contemporary viewer may understand as the ‘moving image.’ Within the auspices of this theoretical orientation, I will be heavily reliant on Wenceslaus Parler’s personal journals kept throughout the planning and early construction of St. Prokop’s Cathedral, and invoking the controversy around the church’s architecture from traditionalists like Simon Hajek who claimed the experience was ‘a spectacle that only seeks to restrain the Holy Spirit, make its perfect ineffability knowable to the universal flawed man, instead of flooding the divine place with Godly light’ (Goransson 153) to further the notion of this stained glass vision as early cinema.”

Muriel Abdullah-Lee sat in the dry sauna of the University’s Natatorium. She enjoyed the smell of chlorine and the unearthly humidity, reminding her of community pools in Hungary. The water that soaked into her skin burst out of her pores now, carrying with it the salt and algaecide that danced around her as she performed butterfly strokes. Two middle-aged men sat behind her.
“Ural is best though. Powerful engines. In my country, we use Ural because of all the mountains.”
“Yes, yes. Moldova?”
“Russia. Moldova is… it has the rivers.”
“I hear the Volvos are good too.”
“Oh yes, I forgot but yes. Volvo is excellent.”
“Where in Russia?”
“Perm! That's real Russia!”
“Yes. My mother was full Russian. My father, he was like, g-psy.”
“Ah. What about Manchuria?”
“What about Manchuria?”
“I met a guy here from Manchuria.”
“Russia occupied Manchuria, but then it was invaded by the Japanese.”
“Ah. I wonder what trucks they use there.”
Muriel draped a towel over her shoulders and opened the door. The chill of vacuum air displacement breezed into her as she walked out. She took her shower, feeling something unpleasantly slick on the tile floor. I have to remember my flip-flops next time, she thought. She pulled a UoC sweatshirt over her undershirt, and put on her yellowed socks. Do I really have to buy socks? Are you fucking serious. I’m just going to kill myself. As she left the gym, she noticed a small hole in the side of her left shoe. She chose not to think about it. She walked through the quad, watching her breath fog and waft through the air, settling into the trees. A young woman wearing a thick flannel and chinos held up a sign with the picture of a bloody aborted fetus. She was silent, and stared at Muriel as she cut through the grass. Muriel was momentarily taken by the softness of her face.

Muriel walked through the cafeteria line with still-wet hair. At least it tames the curls, she thought, as she picked up a plate and scooped a small mass of macaroni salad onto her plate. University of Carbondale’s cafeteria was voted number one in the Midwest, according to US News, topping even the University of Chicago’s luxurious options. Muriel could see why. The custom ramen station often called her name but she was watching her sodium intake. But where else could she get baked fingerling potatoes, orange chicken, garlic naan, and gelato in one place? She sat down and started her work on the potatoes. Guang Shen, scrawny but with a voice that boomed through the commons, sat down and burst out: “good swim?”
Muriel nodded. “Where the hell were you yesterday?”
Guang dumped hot sauce into his ramen. “Meeting with Phil. Dickhead.”
Reina Turner, radiant smile, sat at the same table. “Hello hello.” She only got dessert: tiramisu and jello.
Guang rubbed his chopsticks together. “Anyway, I read your draft. I really enjoyed it.” His slurp of the noodles echoed through the walls of the food chamber.
“Could you be louder? I think Engineering didn’t quite get that.”
“That’s racist, Reina.”
“Yeah, as if you can say that to me.” Reina leaned in to Muriel. “I loved it, too.”
Muriel smiled. She knew they would enjoy it, but she could tell if they sensed a lack of promise. At least she was on the right track. “Any critiques?”
Guang finished his bite of ramen. “I thought the Young Adventures of Indiana Jones bit was maybe a little… cute?”
“Yeah, I was worried about that. The stained glass collage knight is such a seductive image…”
“I enjoyed that bit, but I see what Guang was saying. You’re so good at the subtle touch, and for that segment it seemed like you were maybe playing a bit too much into the sentimental mythmaking.”
“If you could, I think veering away from the insistence on historical continuities would do you well.”
“But I’m drafting a history!”
“Sure, but these particular moments are fascinating without their relevance to post-industrial cinema. I really languished in your episodes with Wenc-Wenc-Wenceslaus? His struggles to make this damn thing work.” Guang took another bite of ramen. This time a little quieter.
“I see. I’ll take that into account.”
“But that brings me to my question: if this stained glass window is a movie, what else could that extend to? Like, is a sundial a movie?”
Muriel liked Guang. She really did. But the way he leaned in when he spoke, along with his booming voice, made benign conversations feel like interrogations. When she first met him, she was convinced the guy was out to get her in some vain, abstract way. That impression faded, but the moments of personality excess still bothered her.
Muriel noticed a curly lock on her orange chicken.
“I would say yes. A sundial is a movie.”
She did not want to finish her plate.


Moving forwards, using all my breath
Making love to you was never second best
I saw the world thrashing all around your face
Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace

Michael was amazed by the bluetooth speaker. So small it could fit into his cup holder. He won it at the Air Force holiday party last year but didn’t bother using it before. In fact, he was a little sour that he wasn’t able to score the limited-edition Call of Duty Black Ops II backpack. The padding inside would have been perfect for his laptop. But no bother, the bruise wore off and he even started using the speaker during operations. His most consistent partner, drone pilot Grady, enjoyed the songs he put on.

I'll stop the world and melt with you
You've seen the difference and it's getting better all the time
There's nothing you and I won't do
I'll stop the world and melt with you

“What is this?” Grady asked, as they remotely monitored the Yemen Highlands.
“It’s… ‘I Melt With You.’”
“Who’s it by?”
“Modern English.”
“When was this?”
“80’s, I think.”
“Oh wow. I thought this was a new song.”
Michael couldn’t tell if Grady was joking.

Dream of better lives the kind which never hate
Trapped in the state of imaginary grace
I made a pilgrimage to save this humans race
Never comprehending the race had long gone by

A truck, or something that looked like a truck, wheeled across Michael’s green-speckled screen. Michael gripped his joysticks.
“Hey. This could be trouble.” Michael zoomed in, attempting to identify the vehicle. “Looks like some kind of Jeep?”
Grady nodded, radioed their flight supervisor. “Awaiting orders.”
Michael stared at the screen. The Jeep crept along the quiet plains, a ship on still waters. Then, it braked, kicking up a cloud of dust. “Hey. Hey. It’s stopped.”
Michael watched as two red heat signatures, blobs with limbs, opened the trunk. They took out an item, and placed it on the side of the road. One had a long instrument. A shovel?
They got comms: “IED. Good to strike.”
Michael pushed a button. A white flash engulfed his screen. Then, slowly, the cloud dissipated. The two men, still red, lay on the floor of the desert.
“Boom.” Michael wore a toothy grin and high-fived Grady.
“Good work.”
Then came the boring part. Michael watched for his after-action report, as the men’s bodies went from glowing red heat signatures to green… to blue… to black.
Michael cracked open a Mountain Dew Baja Blast. Not only were they available in stores now (he didn’t have to go to Taco Bell just for this anymore), they were also 25% off at Save Mart. Unbelievable luck.

The future's open wide
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