Kenneth Conant: architectural historian & Orthodox convert

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Boston

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Boston

In the Resources section of our website, we have links to the histories of a lot of parishes. (I’ve honestly lost count; it must be around 150 now, or perhaps more.) One of those histories is of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Boston. When I first read that essay, this passage immediately caught my eye:

In 1935, Kenneth Conant, an internationally known medieval architectural historian and archeologist at Harvard was commissioned to do the stained glass windows. Conant had converted to Orthodoxy and became involved with the Cathedral Community. He worked with Cathedral Dean Fr. Efthimiou to develop proper symbols for the windows. Connant [sic] then enlisted the assistance of Charles J. Connick, another medieval architect, to complete the sanctuary windows. Lack of funds delayed work on the dome stain glass windows until 1937.

I’m not an architectural historian by any stretch of the imagination, so I’d never heard of Kenneth Conant. But it didn’t take long for me to learn that Conant was a rather significant scholar. His main claim to fame was as one of the world’s leading experts on the architecture of the great monastery at Cluny, in France. But that wasn’t his only speciality: according to his biography at the online Dictionary of Art Historians, “Conant’s second interest was in eastern church architecture. He participated in the Kiev excavations of 1936-38 and converted to Orthodox Christianity.”

Conant enjoyed an extremely long life, dying in 1984 at the age of 90. He had spent 35 years at Harvard, from 1920 to 1955, teaching generations of students. I know we have both Bostonians and architectural historians among our readers; perhaps some of you can shed some light on Conant’s story?