A travelling tour of the three central Wollongong churches which contain some of John Radecki’s most personal works was held on Saturday 18 August 2012.  The tour was developed by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) Illawarra Shoalhaven Branch and supported by the Migration Heritage Project.  The tour was based on the research conducted by Zofia Laba and Barbara Mazur for the Migration Heritage Project.

The Wollongong tour started at St Mary Star of the Sea College Chapel then onto City Central Church (St Andrew’s Presbyterian) and concluded at St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral.

Local historian and MHP committee member, Zofia Laba provided commentary throughout the tour on Radecki’s life and works, including a work created in remembrance of a kindness more than 50 years after the event.

‘This presentation in the chapel and churches, served to educate us and members of the public about Wollongong’s rich stained-glass heritage.  Your research has unlocked information that was largely unknown and yet still relevant to so many in our community’ – Meredith Hutton Chair Illawarra Shoalhaven Branch, National Trust, 20 August 2012.

John Radecki (1865-1955) was born in Poland and lived with his family in the Illawarra as a young man.  Radecki was an accomplished sketch artist and became Australia’s first locally trained stained-glass artist.  He designed and produced some of the finest stained-glass windows for public and church buildings in Sydney and country NSW, including Illawarra.

The extensive list of Radecki’s identified work includes: ‘Sermon on the Mount’ at St Paul’s, Cobbitty (together with Frederick Ashwin); ‘Te Deum’ window in Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney; Caxton Window of the Mitchell Library; the vaulted ceiling of the Commonwealth Savings Bank in Martin Place, Sydney; Naval Chapel, Garden Island, Sydney; and many more churches in Sydney, NSW and Australia.

John Radecki attended the German art school in Posen and Sydney’s Mechanics School of Art, later known as Sydney Technical College in Pitt Street, he learnt stained art from Frederick Ashwin.  Radecki’s natural talent in figure drawing, composition, his eye for colour and his knowledge of glass painting techniques together with his passion and dedication, contributed to the architectural beauty of many buildings.

The most splendid window in St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Wollongong is a two-panel piece designed by John Radecki in 1935 for Thomas and Charlotte Wearn. The inscription at the bottom of the window reads ‘Arriving on Forfarshire 16 January 1882’ (John Radecki’s and Wearn families shared the journey to Australia). The face of Saint Mary Magdalene from one of the panels resembles Charlotte Wearn’s face.