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A BEACON OF LIGHT
The Easter Story in Stained Glass: Cathedral Trail
Holy Week is the most important week in the Christian calendar, as we follow Jesus Christ from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his suffering, death and resurrection. Katie, our Marketing Intern, has developed this trail using the beautiful stained glass windows of Newcastle Cathedral to tell the story…
If you follow this trail on your phone and are unfamiliar with the space, we recommend clicking on the map and having it open in another ‘tab’ within your web browser.
The first three windows are sequentially placed in the North Quire Aisle.
Entry into Jerusalem
North Quire Aisle (I)
Artists: Percy Bacon and Brothers (of London), c.1895
Heading from the Nave, past St George’s Chapel, you will see on your left a window depicting scenes from Jesus’ final days spent in Jerusalem. In the first light (the name given to a single window) you see Jesus’ entry into the city on a donkey, on what we now call Palm Sunday. On the short ride from the village of Bethany where he stayed with his disciples the night before, He is greeted by crowds laying palm branches onto the road like a carpet and shouting ‘Hosanna’ to express their adoration, praise and joy.
The accompanying scenes show Jesus driving the moneychangers and traders from the precincts of the Temple at Jerusalem before coming into conflict with the scribes and Pharisees and finally foretelling to His disciples the Temple’s ultimate destruction.
North Quire Aisle (II)
Artist: H.W.Bryans (of London), 1902
The upper light shows Jesus preaching against the scribes and Pharisees. Beneath this, Mary Magdalene anoints the feet of Jesus. Judas Iscariot stands over her, criticising the use of expensive ointment when it could have been sold and given to the poor.
The central lights show Jesus sharing the Last Supper with His twelve disciples on what we call ‘Maundy Thursday’ (Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum meaning commandment). At this meal, He tells his followers to “love one another as I have loved you”.
He also warns the men that one of them will betray Him. Judas has a black halo and is seen clasping a bag containing thirty pieces of silver – his price for having already betrayed Jesus to the chief priests and elders of the Temple. Finally, in this window, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples as a lesson in humility.
The Garden of Gethsemane
North Quire Aisle (III)
Artists: C.E.Kempe & Co. (of London), 1904
This window illustrates Jesus and some of His disciples entering the Garden of Gethsemane, a walk of about 20 minutes downhill from where they had the Last Supper.
The second light illustrates Christ’s ‘Agony’, symbolised by an angel proffering the Cup of Suffering. Matthew has Jesus say: “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, Your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42).
In the next window, Judas leads the ‘authorities’ into the Garden to carry out their arrest, having agreed to guide them to Jesus when He was alone and away from crowds. In the dark of the night, Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss: the agreed signifier of Christ’s identity.
North Quire Aisle (IV)
Artist: Caroline Townshend (of London), 1907
Townshend’s window is of a strikingly different style from those preceding it. Figures from the early history of Christianity in Northumbria take up the lower portion. Above are scenes leading up to the judgement of Jesus on Good Friday.
In the first light, disciple Peter uses a sword to try to protect Jesus, but he is instructed: “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). Next, Jesus is taken before the high priest Caiaphas and asks, “Why smites thou me?”.
The third and fourth lights show Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and presented with the Crown of Thorns. As he stands before the masses, Pilate proclaims: “Behold your King!”.
Ahead of you are the Cathedral’s three Eastern Chapels: the Chapel of the Resurrection Chapel, the Chapel of the Incarnation and the Chapel of the Ascension.
The Road to Calvary
Chapel of the Resurrection
Artist(s): Clayton & Bell (of London), 1901
Continuing Christ’s story are small dramatic scenes depicting a ‘Station’ on the road to Calvary. Jesus carries a heavy cross to the site of his Crucifixion, flogged by soldiers. His followers, including Mary Magdalene, Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary, watch on helplessly.
In the fourth light, Simon, a visitor from Libya, is compelled by the Romans to take over, carrying Jesus’ burden. In the final scene, Jesus is nailed to the wooden beams in preparation for His Crucifixion. Across the top of the window, angels bear emblems of Christ’s Passion (the three nails, hammer and tongs, the Cross, the Crown of Thorns and His seamless shirt).
Chapel of the Incarnation
Artist: William Wailes, 1860
The large central scene is a highly dramatic representation of Christ’s Crucifixion, incorporating elements from all four Gospel accounts. The mocking notice, which reads ‘King of the Jews’, is nailed above Christ’s head, while beneath, soldiers throw dice to decide which should have the first choice of the prisoner’s garments.
Accompanying this is another depiction of the Last Supper, with Christ breaking a piece of bread and blessing it. “This is my body,” he says before picking up a cup of wine and saying, “This is my blood”. This incident represents the institution of the Eucharist and the First Holy Communion. (At the time of this window’s installation, the High Altar was placed directly beneath it, making the image highly appropriate for this location.)
The Gift of Communion
Artist: Stephen Cox, 1996/97
Opposite the Chapel of the Incarnation, high on the wall, is ‘Communion’, a sculpture added in 1996/97 by Stephen Cox. The top disc, in Egyptian alabaster, represents a broken Communion wafer, while the second, in Roman imperial porphyry, represents the flat surface of a cup of Communion wine.
Image courtesy of Jigsaw Design & Publishing
Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet
Artist: Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto, 1547
For many years, a large painting by the famous Renaissance Italian painter Tintoretto (1518-1594) depicting Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet hung in the Eastern Chapels. This was originally created for the church of San Marcuolo in Venice, given to St Nicholas Church in July 1818 (by Sir Matthew White Ridley of Blagdon Hall, Northumberland) and remained here until the mid-1980s. It can be seen today in the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
The Risen Christ
St Margaret’s Chapel
Artist(s): C.E. Kempe & Co. (of London), 1896
In St Margaret’s Chapel (at the opposite end of the Cathedral), you’ll find a window memorialising Charlotte Gainsford, wife of Roman historian John Collingwood Bruce and dedicated to her by her sons.
Along the base is a continuous scene showing the Sepulchre, the cave tomb where Jesus was sealed. In the early hours of Sunday morning, three Holy Women, including Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Jesus, visited the tomb only to find the entrance uncovered and the cave empty.
As depicted in this window, two angels outside the cave address the Holy Women: “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6).
Chapel of the Ascension
Artist: L.C. Evetts, 1962
This window was created by Leonard Evetts, head of design for 37 years at King’s College, Newcastle University, to replace an earlier window destroyed during the Second World War. Its inscription reads, “Thanks be to God for the preservation of this Cathedral in time of war 1939-45”.
The second, third and fourth lights depict Christ’s bodily Ascension to Heaven, around forty days after his Resurrection and having spent the intervening time teaching and ministering to his disciples. Mark and Luke describe Jesus’ departure as being “taken up into heaven” after speaking to his disciples a final time on the Mount of Olives in outer Jerusalem.
The whole design is conceived within a framework of a huge chalice extending over the five lights (which some say also represents a Spitfire aircraft), reminding us again of the importance of the Holy Communion to Christianity.
Image courtesy of Jigsaw Design & Publishing