Motorists — and even pedestrians — can easily miss much of the beauty of the historic church buildings they pass — especially stained glass better viewed from inside with outside light shining through.

Since 1989, the Preservation Resource Center in New Orleans has sought to help people better see the windows through tours typically offered about twice a year.

“We’ve done at least 40 tours, and it is really fascinating to people, who say, ‘I’ve driven by that church and never knew how beautiful it was,’” said Patricia Andrews, of the center’s Stained Glass Art in Sacred Places Committee. “It is literally a door opening experience.”

The tours, which can draw from 50 to 100 people, have generally focused on New Orleans area churches — though this past October a tour conducted a week before All Saints’ Day included some mausoleums as the committee sought to highlight stained glass designed to honor the dead and console the grieving, said Lynn Long, who does media and marketing for the center.

“There are probably people who go to every single tour we do,” she said.

Now, the committee for the first time is offering a tour of Baton Rouge churches.

“We knew you had a treasure trove of stained glass, so we finally decided to do it,” Andrews said.

Andrews spent a recent Saturday visiting the churches scheduled for the March 3 tour: St. Joseph Cathedral, St. James Episcopal Church and First United Methodist Church.

“One thing that struck me, and it will make the tour more interesting, is the variety of glass,” she said.

Promotional material from the Preservation Resource Center notes how:

  • St. Joseph Cathedral, with its Greek Revival-style architecture, contains 15 stained-glass windows from the Emil Frei Studio in Munich.
  • St. James Episcopal’s distinctive windows include a large art nouveau depiction of the Angel of the Resurrection as well as windows that take viewers through the life of Christ from the Nativity to the Ascension.
  • First United Methodist has a large Tiffany-style depiction of The Last Supper.

Those on the tour should notice the differences in glass between the American-style glass at First Methodist, which uses variations or streaks in the glass, rather than paint, to create the look of fabrics, as compared to the more traditional German-style windows exhibited at the cathedral, Andrews said.

“Of course the feel of the churches is so different,” she said, noting the smaller intimate environment of the Episcopal space as compared to the huge Catholic cathedral with its “more open, sunny feeling.”

Committee members research the windows before the tour and will serve as guides in the churches and also distribute art notes to tour participants.

The cost of the tour — $85 for those riding buses from the New Orleans area and $75 for those meeting up with the tour in Baton Rouge — covers the costs of the buses needed, plus lunch at Capitol City Grill and a nominal fee to the churches. The tour will also include a visit at the Old Governor’s Mansion.

The stained-glass tours aren’t designed to raise funds for the center, but if there is any money made on the trip, it would go toward the ongoing preservation and educational work of the center, Long said.

The center was founded in 1974 “to promote the preservation, restoration and revitalization of New Orleans historic neighborhoods” and has helped renovate more than 1,000 homes.