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                                                        Peter - Creation Window - Chester Cathedral
Day 2 Panel

Day 2 Panel

Day 3

And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth. And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kind, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

God now creates the seas and dry land and having thus created open space he now begins to fill them. The artist herself has created a wonderful variety of fruit giving her an equally wonderful range of colours from which to draw inspiration.  From the red of the apples down to the purply mauve of the fig, she uses a veritable rainbow of hues with which to celebrate God’s bounty. The eye is inevitably drawn to the yellow and red of the pepper and in so doing we are focussing on the seeds that, ’yield according to their kind'.

In the lower part, below the figs and melons, we can see the grasses, bulrushes, peas, wheat and herbs. This whole image speaks of the fecundity of creation as God prepared the earth for animals and finally, mankind. The final part of this light has in its centre a yellow and black chequered butterfly resting on an orchid-like flower. Above it is the tendril of a climbing plant attached to which is a butterfly’s egg. It’s actually a simple everyday image from our garden. However the introduction of the glass beaker is intended to suggest the new science of genetic engineering. 

Day 2

And God said, Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Note the Greek Alpha at the top of this piece, a direct reference to Rev 22:13.

The main theme of this section is the dividing of the waters. At first glance we see nothing so much as a jumble of interwoven strings of colour, however what the artist has chosen to create is a picture of a river delta. We concentrate here on the meandering, intersecting and separating streams of water. The original photograph used here showed the delta to have a degree of mineral pollution, which the pink tinge is attempting to show.

The lower part of the window is almost photographic in its depiction of the Earth as seen from the Shuttle spacecraft. The tail fin of the shuttle is clearly seen against the blue-black of outer space whilst the now classic view of Earth is wonderfully indicated in streaky blue and white glass.
Day 3 Panel

Day 3 Panel

Day 4 Panel

Day 4 Panel

Day 4

And God said, Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years, and let them be light in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth. And it was so. God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night and the stars.

Here begins natural light and the swirling planets and stars of the heavens. The topmost image is that of the moon presiding over the night sky containing some of the familiar planets of our solar system. Here we can see a bright red Mars, a green Earth just above a streaky purple Jupiter and, a little to the left, a grey coloured Saturn with its bright ring. The whole display is attendant upon the Sun shown in light yellow glass at the bottom of the window. This part of the window brings to mind a reflection on the vastness of the universe with the words of Psalm 8 verses 3 & 4 which concludes ‘what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?’ (KJV).

From ‘outer space’ we are now drawn into ‘inner space’ as we look at the lowest section of glass. What we have here is a representation of a brain scan. The wonder of this image is that it shows the person is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. However its not just anyone for it is the artist Rosalind Grimshaw herself who suffers from Parkinson's.
Day 5 Panel

Day 5 Panel

Day 5

And God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky. So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swam, and every winged bird of every kind.

Here we find the companion for Alpha as we notice the sign for Omega at the top of the glass. Below this comes the open sky and then comes a succession of birds, the first of which we see encompassed by the outline of God’s thumb. A little lower are a number of birds though not so easily distinguished. It is not difficult to appreciate the skill in making the Leviathan, which rises above a veritable school of fish in their brilliant tropical colours.

The land, the air and the sea are now filled with the goodness of God's creation, seemingly complete in itself. All these living things had a purpose, which was, ‘to be fruitful and multiply’.

Continuing the theme of water the lowest image is depicting a hand pump. The girl is giving a shower to the child who is crouching down in the stream of water. The artist’s skill is never better displayed than in this area for the child appears to be illuminated through the pouring water. A technique achieved by plating or layering of the glass.
Day 6 Panel

Day 6 Panel

Day 6

Then God said, Let us make mankind in our own image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them.

The star here reminds us that Christ was born a man and so stands as a symbol of God sharing our humanity. The image of the cow is taken from an aboriginal painting and therefore is intended to show man’s first efforts in creating something for himself. Notice the artist’s own hand print on the animal’s shoulder. The man and woman are, I assume, self-explanatory but below them we can see a spiral horned deer and a Banyankoli cow. Their closeness to the couple indicates verse 28 giving ‘dominion over’ living things.  Notice that the outline of God’s hand does not enter this panel.

The last image of all is by now a very familiar sight, at least to expectant parents. This ultrasound scan allows us to catch sight of a developing child, something our grandparents would have been amazed at. However Jeremiah Chapter 1 verse 5 puts this in perspective as we read, ’before I formed you in the womb, I knew you’.
It’s the same hand that is easy to miss in the Creation Window. It is often the case that we are too busy looking at the detail rather than the big picture. This is true of life that, sometimes, all we are able to see is the “chaos” but creation reminds us that God’s hand is able to use what appears to us to be impossibly dark situations and turn them into something of beauty.
The Calling of St Matthew - Caravaggio

The Calling of St Matthew - Caravaggio

In the Contarelli chapel of the ‘French’ church in the heart of Rome, there are displayed three paintings. They were painted by the Italian artist Caravaggio in around 1598 and show scenes from the life of St Matthew. One in particular is called ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ and it depicts Matthew seated with others whilst his hand hovers protectively over a mound of cash. To the right of this group stands the figure of Christ. His arm is extended and His open hand is both pointing to and beckoning Matthew. The painting was revolutionary at the time because all the figures with the exception of Christ were shown in the contemporary dress of the sixteenth century. Caravaggio intended that we see not only an early disciple being beckoned by Christ but that we ourselves in modern times are subject to the same call.
The Hand of God
God reaching out to Adam

God reaching out to Adam

What struck me most about this picture was the beckoning hand itself. A couple of days before we had followed the tourist trail to the Sistine Chapel to view the frescos. After the golden magnificence of St. Peters the more muted tones of the chapel came as a welcome change. It was Michelangelo’s work we had come to see and specifically the scene where God reaches out to Adam, their fingers almost touching. Adam is reclining languidly as if it’s too much effort to reach out to God’s hand. It is this same hand that Caravaggio seemingly copied nearly ninety years later.
This splendid modern stained glass window is to be found in the refectory of Chester Cathedral and I have seen few windows with a greater power to command my attention than this. To my mind this is evidence that this ancient art form is alive and well. With its bold form and use of colour it readily speaks of the creation we meet in the pages of Genesis. Indeed the artist, Rosalind Grimshaw, has managed to evince a sense the original ‘chaos’ when one views the window for the first time. The riot of colour seems to splash across the glass and because this is so vivid it is easy to miss the hand of God, here outlined in white, stretching over five panels.
The Creation Window - Chester Cathedral

The Creation Window - Chester Cathedral

Day 1 Panel

Day 1 Panel

Day 1

n the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

At the topmost point of this section there is an angel with a yellow face and with wings created in appropriately named Angel Glass. Below this we see the ‘crystal cold’ of the blue arctic sky with its brilliant white star. A little lower is some streaky purple glass representing the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). We next see the dawn sky with its attendant yellow, gold and red hues. Here we stand at the margin of the night as it yields to day. As the eye travels down the glass we can see the added colour of the earth in the brown shades and darker reds. The ‘hot’ colours of this area remind us of the heat at the earth’s core. An additional source of light comes with the blue of the lightning strike as it snakes its way through the dawn sky to meet the earth below.

At the bottom of this section and depicted in grey-blue glass, we can see the form of an eagle. Here the eagle represents the Spirit of God. To its right an area of streaky purple, this time standing as ‘the breath of God, hovering over the waters.’ The eagle is an emblem of St. John whose gospel begins ‘in the beginning was the word.' The lowest section of the window is representative of how mankind lights the darkness. We can see skyscrapers, such as in New York, with their many illuminated windows. There is also the head and taillights of passing cars on a motorway and the bright flashes of cameras catching the scene.
Clink on the link to go to my other pages
Church Architecture and Stained Glass
The Creation Window - Chester Cathedral (this page)
St Martin's Waithe Lincolnshire
All Saints Walesby Lincolnshire

© Peter Tappin Jan 2009

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