04/02/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT

St-Madeleine D'Outremont church may lose priceless Guido Nincheri stained glass

An Outremont church is trying to raise more than $500,000 to restore its 1930's-era stained glass windows, which may be in jeopardy if repairs are not carried out as soon as possible. Water damage to the church's roof has caused the metal of the windows to break down with time.

The St-Madeleine D'Outremont church has several dozen stained glass windows created by Italian artist Guido Nincheri, who worked in Montreal and was hailed by Pope Pius XI as one of the greatest artists of his time. 

Artist's grandson preserves legacy

In their efforts to raise money for the church, the administrators of St-Madeleine D'Outremont have recruited Guido Nincheri's grandson, Roger Nincheri. He has dedicated his retirement to studying and preserving his grandfather's work. 

"For me, this has brought me back to [my] roots, and back to Italy again. The thing is, what I get from this is not the money, but making the public aware of the artistic value of this man," said Roger Nincheri. 

Summers spent sweeping floors at Guido Nincheri's atelier in the family summer home give Roger Nincheri a unique insight into his grandfather's work. 

"One of the windows in the church is my uncle George. He posed for [the portrait of an angel] and at my own studio at home, I actually have the black and white photograph of him posing for it," said Roger Nincheri. 

Parish fundraiser strengthens ties

The St-Madeleine D'Outremont parish has collected $200,000 so far in a church-wide campaign to complete repairs on the roof, before moving onto the windows. Church warden Odile Marcotte says the campaign has brought the close-knit community even closer together. 

"My mother was raised in this parish, and was married here in 1950. I'm not an expert in material things, but I felt I had to help the parish. And I've developed relationships with other church members of the community," said Marcotte. 

The church has set up a Facebook page for its fundraising campaign and is accepting donations online. The community is also holding a benefit concert for the church this June, with the choir from the Ste-Justine Hospital.

A common problem in Montreal

Stained glass experts at the Centre du Vitrail de Montréal say the city is full of churches with stained glass windows in poor condition. Many of Montreal's stained glass windows are from the period between World War One and World War Two, when zinc was scarce. Stained glass windows were held together with lead, which is more malleable, and more likely to break down over time. 

Workshop head Luc Lepage says Guido Nincheri's artistic style is also part of the reason the windows in St-Madeleine D'Outremont are fragile. 

"He was more of a painter than a stained glass artist. So he wanted to create his artistic vision without too many black lines, and using large pieces of glass. That compromises the structure," said Lepage.