The Life of St. Bonaventure in Stained Glass

When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth.
~ St. Bonaventure


My wonderful Alma Mater, St. Bonaventure University in New York State has a beautiful chapel full of brilliant and inspiring art.  This chapel is sometimes called the University Chapel, other times called "Doyle Chapel" - for it is housed within Doyle Hall.  In my day (class of '81), it was called the "Friary Chapel," for the building that occupies the chapel was at that time a Franciscan friary.  Below are stained glass windows in the "Friary Chapel" that highlight six events in the life of St. Bonaventure ...

 Window #1 - St. Bonaventure as a Very Sick Boy
This window shares of a story when Giovanni di Fidanza (born in 1221 in Italy and later to be known as Bonaventure) was a baby (a young boy according to some sources) became very ill.  St. Francis was either recently passed, or perhaps in the later years of his life, again resources conflict. According to one version of the story, Giovanni's mother knew of Francis's piety, brought her young Giovanni to the holy friar and begged for prayers.  St. Francis prayed for the youth, recognized something special in Giovanni and proclaimed, "O Buono Ventura!"  (meaning O Good Fortune!) Giovanni survived, thrived, became known as Bonaventure and would one day become known as the second father of the Franciscan Order.

For when I was a boy, as I vividly remember,
I was snatched from the jaws of death by his (St. Francis's)
invocation and merits.  I recognize that God saved my life through him.



 Window # 2 - St. Bonaventure Teaching at the University of Paris
As this boy grew into adulthood, his tremendous intelligence became quite apparent.  At the age of 21, Bonaventure began studies at the University of Paris and wrote commentaries on Scripture while there (find one purchase-able example here).  Later, Bonaventure taught theology at the University of Paris and was a highly esteemed instructor.  It was during his time in Paris when Bonaventure was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order ... when he was only 37 years old!





Window #3 - St. Bonaventure Meets with St. Thomas Aquinas
The Dominican friend of St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas is to the left of the window, holding his masterpiece, Summa Theologica.  St. Bonaventure is to the right in his brown Franciscan robe. On the lectern is Bonaventure's work, Lignum Vitae (Tree of Life), and the saint is pointing to a crucifix. When Thomas Aquinas asked Bonaventure what works he used to help with his writings, the humble Franciscan pointed to the cross and replied:

"It is from this wellspring of light and love 
that I have drawn whatever is to be found 
in my lectures or writings."
Chapter XII
by L. Costelloe, OFM 




Window #4 - St. Bonaventure as Minister General of the Franciscans at Narbonne
St. Bonaventure was elected as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order in 1257 at the age of 37. There were some uncomfortable problems within the order at the time and this peace-making saint strove to bring those with relaxed ideologies into agreement with those who preferred an austere order. In 1260, at the General Chapter at Narbonne in southern France, a revised and complete set of rules was established, helping to Franciscan Order to get back on steady footing.   The book on the bottom left hand corner of the window is called "The Constitution of Narbonne."  Also at the General Chapter at Narbonne, St. Bonaventure was requested to write a biography on St. Francis.




Window # 5 - St. Bonaventure as a Cardinal at the 2nd Council of Lyons
St. Bonaventure is the middle figure of this window.  His red hat signifies how he had been appointed a cardinal-bishop of Albano.  He was invited by Pope Gregory X to attend the 2nd Council of Lyons in 1274.  Bonaventure would have been 53 years old.  One of the main goals at this time was to reconcile the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches which split during the Great Schism of 1054.  St. Bonaventure had great success in reuniting these two Churches; however, he died shortly after and sadly, the schism resumed.




Window #6 - St. Bonaventure in Heaven
After celebrating mass in thanks for the reunion of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, Bonaventure went home during a break in the council and died nine days later.  The cause of his death is not known, but historians are clear that he worked with great fervor ... to the point of exhaustion.  He may have been very susceptible to any sort of epidemic.  He yearned to receive communion, but was unable, so a Consecrated Host was brought into his room so that he could at least see and adore it.  A miracle was reported that the Host lifted into the air and then disappeared into the saint's breast.  Late July 14/early July 15, 1274, Bonaventure passed away.  The window above shows angels welcoming Bonaventure into heaven.  





The Feast of St. Bonaventure is July 15.

St. Bonaventure is the Patron Saint of:
St. Bonaventure University, NY
Bagnoregio, Italy
Intestinal Issues
Mission San Buenaventura, California
Cochiti Pueblo
Bonaventure, Quebec, Canada


A Great Podcast by Fr. Dan Riley, OFM ... of St. Bonaventure University