Our History: Ascension Window

Our History: Ascension Window

Ken Rae, our Church Historian, has been working over the last few years to document more about the Old Kirk and it’s history.

I wonder if like me you have been somewhat dazzled by the sunlight streaming through the Ascension Window?  The myriad of colours appearing and disappearing is quite stunning and is all caused by the sunlight and the glass panes in the window.

Coloured glass has been made since ancient times. Both the Egyptians and the Romans manufactured small coloured glass objects.  These were produced primarily by incorporating various dyes and chemicals in the production of the glass.

Stained (or coloured) glass gained recognition as a Christian art form sometime in the fourth century as Christians began to build churches.  The spread of Christianity throughout Europe is directly related to the expansion of stained glass across the globe and made stained glass the dominant art form of the new millennium.

One of the oldest known examples of multiple pieces of coloured glass used in a window were found at St. Paul’s Monastery in Jarrow, England, founded in 686 AD. The oldest complete European windows are thought to be five relatively sophisticated figures in Augsburg Cathedral.  Until the sixteenth century, stained glass was a primarily a Catholic art form and much of the precious art form was destroyed during the 1600’s by order of King Henry VIII after his break with the Church.

The purpose of stained glass windows in a church was both to enhance the beauty of the setting by filling the sanctuary with light and colour, and to inform the viewer through narrative or symbolism. In the middle ages, each window had a picture that told a story from the bible thus allowing people who could not read or write to learn about the bible by means of an illustrationIn early times of using stained glass in windows paper was scarce and parchment very expensive, therefore the full scale outline of the design for a stained glass window was drawn out on a whitened table top.   It is difficult to imagine the work and artistry that must have been required to prepare a window of even modest size.  Just think of the work and detail that would have been needed to prepare and build the Queen Victoria Memorial Window in our sanctuary. ( In case you don’t recognise it is “The Ascension Window” and I will return to this at a later date.

One of the windows which always catches my attention is the War Memorial window, both with its poignancy and the meaning of the of the figures it illustrates.

The first window (no 3 on the East aisle south to north) has the inscription “Put on the whole armour of God – To the Glory of God and in Memory of those connected with this Church who have fallen in war” The illustration is that of a knight in plate armour holding a lance-like spear in his right and bears a slightly curved sword on his left.  Golden locks of hair flow from under his helmet. This signifies the warrior ready and prepared for battle.  The next window (no 4 on the East aisle south to north)has the inscription “Be thou faithful unto Death and I will give three a Crown of Life – These windows are placed here by the congregation and friends”

The illustration is that of a knight in plate armour and purple and red robe, with his sword discarded nearby, crouched on the floor with his right arm stretched upwards to an angel.  The angel holds a laurel wreath and is shown in pale colours.  The significance being that the warrior knight has stretched out his arm to receive the comfort of the angel.

 More might follow if anybody has any other information please let me know.

Old Kirk