Some folks don't do windows. Grace Cathedral does windows.
When Grace Cathedral does windows, it does them on a scale that befits Grace Cathedral, a big place with big windows.
Grace Cathedral is spending $3 million these days to do its windows because if you do not clean and spruce up stained-glass windows every so often about 75 years or so they can start to look irreverent, or dirty, and the lead strips can no longer hold the bits of colored glass in place.
The man in charge of cleaning and restoring the stained-glass windows at the cathedral atop Nob Hill is Bob Terra, who was doing his cleaning yesterday from a jittery scaffold 80 feet above the cold stone floor. He does not use a safety belt.
"I'm careful," he said, and there is also Someone watching over the proceedings, he acknowledged.
Each of the 100 windows must be cut from the window frame, mended and cleaned. Terra and his eight-member crew clean the windows the way a lot of people clean windows, with water and a clean rag and the blue stuff in the spray bottle.
The windows in the western half of the cathedral were created in the 1930s by stained-glass master Charles Connick. They are jam-packed with angels, saints, shepherds, seraphim and good-deed doers.
Yesterday, the crew labored long and lovingly to reinstall window 24 directly behind the altar, a towering depiction of a prodigal son and a Good Samaritan. The window must be in place by today, because the deacons perhaps to recoup some of the $3 million have leased out the cathedral to a film company for that new Robin Williams sci-fi movie, and Terra's scaffolding is not part of the plot.
Church fathers acknowledged that most of the painstaking detail of the images, including finely painted eyelashes on the saints, is lost on visitors who must view the windows from 80 feet below.
"These windows were done for the glory of God, not for the glory of man," said canon Anthony Turney, cathedral director of development. "God can see the eyelash, and He can appreciate it."
©1999 San Francisco Chronicle