Butte’s Lutheran community dates to 1888. As was the case with all denominations in Butte then, a burgeoning population both demanded and paid for new houses of worship. St. Mark’s, with its German and English cornerstone, reflects a northern European heritage. German immigrants were largely tradesmen, brewers, and business owners, likely able to raise funds readily.
This building was completed in 1908, and the windows are believed to be original to the building. The windows are not signed, but their high quality suggests they may have been manufactured by one of the primary eastern glass firms. By the same token, there are elements (such as bubbles in the glass) that may reflect local design and construction.
Of all the houses of worship in Butte, St. Mark’s best displays the art of opalescent glass, a hallmark of the Art Nouveau movement of 1880-1915. Opalescent glass is distinguished by its opaqueness, meaning that you cannot see through it, and has a milky, iridescent appearance, similar to opals. Opalescent glass can be one solid color, but is generally a mixture of two or more colors with streaks and swirls. Few manufacturers produce traditional opalescent glass today because the complex process is demanding and the required chemicals are toxic.
In the side window on the right, nearest the altar, there is an image of a sheaf of wheat. The opalescent glass of the wheat is either two panes or is painted on both sides, another approach to giving a sense of depth to the glass.
Behind the altar on the right side is the Ascension Window, dedicated to the memory of a parishioner’s son who died of influenza at age 23. About 1,200 people died in Silver Bow County during the 1918 epidemic – more than 1% of the population, with more than 3,500 cases recorded in Butte.
The four largest windows, on either side of the church, represent the Evangelists with symbols reflected in their Gospels. The backgrounds of blue sky are magnificent examples of opalescent glass. St. Mark is represented by a lion symbolizing the royal dignity of Christ. St. Luke is represented by an ox, a symbol of sacrifice. St. John is represented by an eagle, the symbol of highest inspiration. St. Matthew is represented by a man, in reference to his detailed account of the Incarnation of Christ.