The Windows of St. Chad’s

Plan of the Church

It is traditional to describe the contents of a church in a clockwise direction. In the discussion which follows we will begin by looking at the four Archangel windows in order and then the rest of the windows.

All photos of the windows linked from this page are by Barry Hale. Follow the links to see high resolution photos of each window.

The Four Archangels

Archangels, chiefs or rulers of angels who answer directly to God, are found in a number of religious and spiritual traditions throughout the world and are therefore not exclusively Christian. Ancient Jewish texts mention seven archangels, listed in the Book of Enoch, whilst Islam recognises four. Some mystical and magical traditions have as many as fifteen. In the Anglican Christian tradition there are four and they are represented in windows near the four corners of St. Chad’s. As spiritual beings without physical bodies, any depiction of an archangel is purely an artistic interpretation.

Raphael window at St Chads
Detail of the Archangel Raphael Window (C) Barry Hale.

Gabriel (SW Corner). Gabriel is the archangel who announces to the Virgin Mary that she is to bear a child by the power of the Holy Spirit16. The inscription around the edge reads “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel – God With Us”, which is from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah, whilst the banderole (the narrow flag-like device, often used in stained glass as the equivalent of a speech bubble) above Gabriel’s head reads “Blessed art thou among women”, a direct quotation from Gabriel’s greeting to Mary.

Raphael (NW Corner). The archangel Raphael is not mentioned by name in the Bible but he does appear in the Book of Tobit. Tobit is an ‘apocryphal’ book, meaning that, although it was left out of the Bible, still has something to teach us about the life of faith. Raphael is a healing archangel who is often called upon to restore faith to those who have lost it. The Raphael window was installed in memory of William Philip Molyneux, KG, 4th Earl of Sefton. He died in 1897, making this one of the last Holiday windows to be installed at St. Chad’s. The Raphael window has suffered damage from vandals over the years and some quarries have been replaced with plain glass.

Uriel (NE Corner). The archangel Uriel (meaning “light of God”) does not appear in the Bible. In Paradise Lost, Book III, John Milton describes him as “… one of the sev’n Spirits that stand / In sight of God’s high Throne” (654/5)17. The Uriel window is partially obscured nowadays by the organ case which was introduced some years after the window was installed. It was given in memory of Sarah, wife of Thomas Mercer. Sarah (née Ledson) and Thomas were married at St. Chad’s Chapel on 27th January 1858 by Rev. R.H. Grey, at the ages of 25 and 28 respectively. Thomas was a farmer and we know from the fact he could fund a window of this quality that he must have been successful. Further evidence of this is that he was asked to give evidence to the Royal Commission on Agriculture in 189418.

Michael (SE Corner). A fierce warrior who leads God’s army to finally vanquish the devil in the Book of Revelation, the archangel Michael is also referred to as Saint Michael and a number of churches are dedicated to him – for example at nearby Huyton. St. Michael is celebrated on September 29th and the garden plant the Michaelmas daisy gets its name as it is usually in flower around that date.

West Windows

The three lower windows are all dedicated to the memory of the 4th Earl of Sefton (d. 1897) making them amongst the last Holiday windows to be installed at St. Chad’s.

The first window (approached from the south porch) is titled “A Light to lighten the Gentiles” and shows a scene from the story in St. Luke’s Gospel19 in which the baby Jesus is taken to the Temple at the age of 40 days; this was a religious requirement for the first-born sons of Jewish families. The elderly man holding the child is Simeon, a holy man and a visionary, who upon seeing Jesus proclaims him to be “A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of [God’s] people Israel”. Christians remember this event every year on February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas.

The central window“Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” features a subject which was very popular in late Victorian art; the story in which Jesus tells his disciples not to stop the children from coming to Him.

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. Part of the reason for this story appearing so prominently in the imagery of the time was the high infant mortality rate – a series of long, hot summers in the 1890s had caused a spike in the death rate among young children, which was already very high due to poor living conditions and pollution in industrial areas.

The third window features the Mother of Jesus, Mary. “Mary kept all these sayings in her heart” (detail overleaf [BH]) describes the teenage mother’s reaction to the things that were said of her son. To hear that your son “is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel” and “a light to lighten the Gentiles” must be confusing, to say the least!

The central lancet window above “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” is not by Henry Holiday. It depicts Jacob’s Ladder (the ladder leading up to heaven in the patriarch Jacob’s dream in the Book of Genesis) and is believed to be by the Liverpool artist H. Gustave Hiller (1865- 1946). Whilst unsigned, it does share stylistic similarities with the artist’s earlier work at St. Bridget, Wavertree, and Christ Church, Toxteth Park. The window dates from 1931, when it was given by Helena Mary, Countess of Sefton, in memory of three family members. These were Osbert Cecil Molyneux, 6th Earl of Sefton (1871-1930), his son Midshipman Cecil Richard Molyneux (1899-1916) who was killed in action aboard HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland, and his daughter Evelyn Mary Molyneux (1902-1917).

North Aisle Windows

The North Aisle windows all depict women who feature prominently in the Old Testament. Stylistic differences between the windows suggest they were not all designed at the same time. Unfortunately these windows have all suffered vandalism damage over the years, being on the exposed north side of the building.

The Queen of ShebaOld Testament Sheba corresponds roughly to modern Yemen, and the story of the encounter between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon tells us that Sheba and Israel were allies and trading partners. Their two rulers may well have been closer than that: the Ethiopian legend of Kebra Nagast tells of how the Queen of Sheba bore King Solomon a son, Menilek, who became the first in a very long line of Ethiopian kings. The banderole around the Queen reads “Seek, and ye shall find”, possibly a reference to the fact that she travelled to visit King Solomon in search of his famed wisdom.

HannahThis window is very similar to the Queen of Sheba window, suggesting the two were designed together. Hannah was an infertile woman who prayed for many years to have a child. Eventually her prayer was answered and she gave birth to a son, Samuel, whom she dedicated to the Lord. Her banderole reads “Ask and it shall be given”.

RuthThis window is in quite a different style to Hannah and the Queen of Sheba. It also uses a different colour palette and was fired using a different technique. The breakdown of the purple and yellow pigments suggests that borax was used at the time of firing. Borax is a natural material, an alkaline compound which was added to make the glass easier to fire; unfortunately, it is water-soluble and over time it washes out, causing the colour of the window to fade.

Around the edge of the window is a version of the Mediaeval “Jesse Tree” showing how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was descended from Jesse (and therefore from his son, King David).

MiriamIn a different style again, this window takes as its subject the sister of Moses. Miriam saved Moses’ life as a baby and she later became the first woman in the Jewish tradition to be recognised as a prophet. The window is badly damaged, with Miriam’s face, right arm and left thigh all exhibiting evidence of missile strikes. This window combines elements of two styles with a Pre-Raphaelite figure of Miriam surrounded by a border of Arts and Crafts style foliage. Within this border are more Old Testament figures.

SarahThis window is in the same style as Miriam’s, suggesting they were designed as a pair. Sarah was the wife of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham and the mother of Isaac.

East Windows

Traditionally the most important windows in a Victorian church, the east windows at St. Chad’s are upstaged a bit by the wonderful mosaic reredos and its surround. This is unfortunate, for they are windows of the highest quality. They were given in memory of the Rev. Robert Cort, who was Vicar of St. Chad’s for a remarkable 56 years (1793-1850).

The three lancet windows and the rose window above the central lancet all form a single scene: a miraculous episode in the life of Jesus known as The Transfiguration, which is told in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Jesus went up to the top of a high mountain where, all of a sudden, he became radiantly bright and “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew ch.17, v.2, King James Version). The Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah (also known as Elias) appeared at either side of Jesus and he spoke with them as three of his astonished disciples looked on.

The central lancet shows Jesus in a sumptuous white robe with exquisite gold details, his right hand raised in blessing.

To his right (our left as we look at the scene) is Moses, holding a scroll with a picture of a snake lifted up on a stick, referencing a story that foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross.

To his left is Elijah, carrying a scroll with a picture of a chariot, which tradition held came down from God to take him to heaven.

In the rose window above are three angels, watching the events unfold from their heavenly vantage point.

To the left of Elijah, on the north wall of the sanctuary, is a window depicting the Old Testament priest Melchizedek.

South Aisle Windows

The four South Aisle windows all depict saints – people whose devotion to God and to the Christian religion represents an outstanding example.

St. AndrewThe Patron Saint of Scotland, Andrew, is depicted with the X-shaped cross upon which he was crucified for his faith (and which appears on the flag of Scotland). He is believed to have been the brother of St. Peter. The face of St. Andrew is so detailed and lifelike that it must have been drawn from life, although we do not know who the “model” was. The style is typical of the mid- to late- 1880s.

St. PeterOne of Jesus’ most important disciples, Peter became the first Bishop of Rome and therefore the first Pope. Leaving his job as a fisherman to follow Christ’s calling, he is depicted carrying a set of keys – the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Items which identify a saint in a work of religious art, such as Peter’s keys or Andrew’s X- shaped cross, are referred to as the attributes of the saint. The Peter window is, fittingly, in the same style as his brother Andrew’s, suggesting the two were designed together as a pair.

St. StephenThe first Christian martyr, Stephen was put to death by stoning. Many early Christians lost their lives for their faith as the radical political nature of the early Church challenged powerful vested interests. In many parts of the world today a profession of Christian faith carries the risk of persecution or even death. A large section of St. Stephen’s vestment is missing and has had to be replaced with plain glass.

St. TimothyThis window is clearly one of a pair with St. Stephen and thankfully remains intact and undamaged. Timothy was a bishop in the early church who was known for his fair and encouraging leadership style, and was the person to whom two of St. Paul’s Epistles, or letters, were written. He is depicted with the attribute of a bishop’s crozier.