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Arts & Culture

Let There Be Light

Rowan LeCompte painting on glass. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.
Courtesy of Peter Swanson
Rowan LeCompte painting on glass. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.

Airs Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV + Saturday, Dec. 21 at 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. on KPBS 2

Narrated by John Lisanti, “Let There Be Light,” follows the grand masters of stained glass art, artist Rowan LeCompte and craftsman Dieter Goldkuhle, as they create their last great series of windows for Washington National Cathedral.

Let There Be Light: Trailer

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Rowan began making stained glass windows at the age of 14 and designed his first window for Washington National Cathedral (the sixth largest cathedral in the world, with more than 200 stained glass windows), at the age of 16.

Washington National Cathedral. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.
Courtesy of Peter Swanson
Washington National Cathedral. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.

He spent almost 70 years studying, drawing and creating architectural stained glass and mosaics for a multitude of locations, including: Episcopal Cathedrals in Maryland and Wyoming, the chapels of Trinity College and Princeton University, and the New York State Capitol in Albany.

Stained glass artist Rowan LeCompte. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.
Courtesy of Rob Massie
Stained glass artist Rowan LeCompte. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.

At the age of 81, Rowan was commissioned to produce what would be his last series of windows for the monumental building. The project was initially intended to take one year and be ready for the 2007 centennial celebration of the cathedral's founding.

Rowan would design and paint this enormous window while Dieter, his long-time collaborator, would select and cut the glass and do the leading and installation.

Master craftsman Dieter Goldkuhle. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.
Courtesy of Rob Massie
Master craftsman Dieter Goldkuhle. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.

The documentary chronicles the fascinating creative process but also captures how age begins to take its toll on Rowan. The window falls behind dramatically schedule and the centennial deadline is missed.

Artistic differences and the slow pace of work causes a tension to develop between artist and craftsman, and Dieter must eventually leave the project because of other commitments.

Six years in the making, “Let There Be Light” is told with stunningly beautiful imagery as it documents Rowan's life-long passion, imagination and creativity in using glass and light.

Later, in a surprise reversal, an official Cathedral panel questions installing the new windows at all.

Rowan LeCompte is best known for The West Rose window located in Washington National Cathedral. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.
Courtesy of Peter Swanson
Rowan LeCompte is best known for The West Rose window located in Washington National Cathedral. "Let There Be Light" follows two grand masters of stained glass (Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle) as they work on their last window for the Washington National Cathedral.

Credits:

Presented by Connecticut Public Broadcasting Inc. Distributed by American Public Television.