Capitols & churches: Tiffany, Mater Dei, in a good place to dig potatoes

capitols and churchesBy Gary Flanagan

There was digging and construction in Topeka, Kansas when I arrived at the 19th Capitol of my church and state tour. Topeka originates from a Kansa-Osage sentence meaning, “Place where we dug potatoes.” Sure enough, when I arrived in March 2013, the state Capitol was under reconstruction. Cranes, bulldozers and scaffolding were scattered all around the north side of the building.

The Kansas State Capitol appears to be the project that never ends. 37 years of construction produced the current Kansas State Capitol that was finished in 1903. 85 years later, a bronze sculpture named “Ad Astra” was approved in 1988. It took an additional 14 years before this sculpture of a Kansa Native American with his bow and arrow pointed at the north star was  installed in 2002. “Ad Astra” is the short version of the Latin state motto, “Ad Astra Per Aspera” or “to the stars through difficulty.”

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First Presbyterian Church/photo by Gary Flanagan

On the NE corner was Mater Dei church. Mater Dei is Latin for Mother of God. Swing over to the west side street and you will find First Presbyterian Church. The First Presbyterian church community has been standing here since 1859. Patiently observing this good place to dig and speak Latin for over 150 years. If you’re peering from inside this church to the Capitol across the street, you would be looking through Tiffany windows, an example of which can be found here: fpctopeka.org/tiffany-windows.

The views of these windows from either inside or outside are always changing hues and accents depending on the time of daylight and even one’s own mood. The building is one of only three in the world to be outfitted completely in Tiffany window panes.

Separation between this Capitol in Topeka, Kansas and the two churches a crosswalk away is very short. During my visit, no potatoes were found. It could have been because my Latin was sorely lacking, or my shovel was not long enough. More likely, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Tiffany windows.

Next week, we will reacquaint ourselves with Thomas Jefferson on the banks of the Missouri river.

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