Zettlerstrasse in Moosach, a small street lined with single-family houses, a grave in the Old Southern Cemetery and the Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt on Seidlstrasse in Maxvorstadt – these three places in Munich are linked by one name: Franz Xaver Zettler. The places and the name tell a piece of Munich art history: Zettler, born in 1841, founded the “Institute for Church Glass Painting” on Marsstrasse 150 years ago. The company achieved world fame. Thousands of artistically designed glass windows from the Zettler workshops can still be found in churches and other buildings around the world.
FX Zettler, original Zettler glass windows are marked with this signature. As a young, ambitious man, enthusiastic about the art of stained glass, Zettler worked in the Mayer’schen Kunstanstalt for church work. Exactly 150 years ago, in 1870, he founded his own institute on Marsstrasse in order to be able to dedicate himself even more intensively to the art of stained glass.
Michael Zettler, the great-grandson of the company’s founder, is someone who knows the company history of FX Zettler in detail. His father, Oscar Zettler, was the last owner of the company. He himself, who lives in Krailling today, has not carried on the family tradition after three generations of glass painting. To do this, he collects and archives everything he can find about the once world-famous company of his great-grandfather, grandfather and father: references in books and art-historical treatises, images of glass painting from the Zettler workshops, mentions in dissertations and newspaper articles about the artistic glass windows.
Company founder FX Zettler – as you read it in treatises on company history – brought the great stained glass art of the Middle Ages to life in the young company and quickly made a name for himself internationally. He received awards for his magnificently designed windows, including a medal of honor from Pope Pius IX. King Ludwig II named the company a “Royal Bavarian Court Glass Painting”. The sons Franz and Oskar joined the company and built on its international reputation. A branch was founded in New York, among others. The next generation also devoted themselves to the art of stained glass: the grandson of the company founder, Oscar Zettler, took over the management of the company, which merged with the Mayer’schen Hofkunstanstalt in 1939. After his professional retirement in 1970 – exactly on the centenary – the company became the property of the Mayer’schen Hofkunstanstalt.
Michael Zettler almost indulges when he remembers where and how many Zettler windows there are all over the world. Many were made to designs by artists. According to his source study, it should be around 14,000 on all continents. Michael Zettler has kept a document in his archive in which his father kept a list of exemplary jobs typed in a typewriter in 1952. “Thousands of windows exported for overseas. Mainly for the USA, then also for Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, China, etc.”, he has headed the list. Famous Zettler works are the 214 windows of the “Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey”. Michael Zettler also recorded Zettler windows in more than 50 churches in Chicago. The company has contributed to Munich’s fame in America – the Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt quotes Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, who died in 1952, on its website today: “Munich has become particularly famous in the United States for two things: its good beer and its own Glass paintings by the workshops Franz Mayer and FX Zettler! “.
In Munich, too, numerous churches such as the Frauenkirche and the Christ Church, but also the town hall, were equipped with art glass windows. But most were destroyed during the bombing of World War II, says Michael Zettler. In the course of the restoration of the Frauenkirche in 1959, a window design was made in the Zettler workshops according to a design by the painter and graphic artist Peter Gitzinger: seven scenic depictions of the “Sorrows of Mary” can be seen on the north facade of the church.
The Zettler family is immortalized today in Munich with the street name and the family grave. And in the small church on the summit of the Wendelstein there is a votive picture of the family from 1890, discovered Zettler. Philatelists may also come across traces of FX Zettler in their collections: In the 1990s, motifs from Zettler glass windows were featured on Australian and Finnish Christmas stamps. A Munich company, immortalized on an Australian postage stamp? “Which company can say that about itself?” Asks Michael Zettler, not without pride.