The Stained Glass Windows
‘Peace I leave you my peace I give you.’
The basic theme of the four large stained glass windows is the establishment of peace that Jesus Christ promised to his disciples. This is portrayed on two levels. The graphic illustrations on the windows depict the human effort which, with God’s help, brings about peace, while the background colours which change gradually from the first window to the last refer to the mysterious work of God which brings light from darkness and peace from conflict.
1. The human striving for peace
Prayer in the face of conflict.
This window focuses on the image of Benedict XV who was the Pope during the First World War. In the face of the violence and destruction caused by the weapons of war much of the energy of this Pope was directed towards achieving peace. Not least in this endeavour was prayer for peace so this window depicts the Pope at prayer under the image of Mary, the Mother of God. This depiction of Mary is based on the statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace, which Benedict XV had placed in the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome in 1918 placing the cause of peace on peace on earth in her hands.
2. Working towards peace
The imagery seen in this window is drawn from the oracle of the prophet Isaiah, which describes how, when the word of the Lord goes out from Jerusalem, the nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; [further] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. (Isaiah 2:4) At every level, it is the duty of the believer to fulfill this prophecy and to fashion that which destroys, into that which promotes growth and life.
3. Human efforts towards peace.
The theme of the human efforts towards peace is continued in this window, which refers to the statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Rome. This depicts the sculptor fashioning one foot of the statue from the marble block and symbolizes the constant effort required if the harmonious form of peace is to be hewn from the raw and often irregular raw material of human existence. From the unworked marble emerges a spring of living water reminiscent of the water, which flowed from the rock at Horeb, which saved the lives of the chosen people during the Exodus (Exodus 17.6). In this context it refers to the life given to the world by the waters of baptism and is a reminder, that the initiation of relationship with Jesus Christ which baptism brings about is the source of true peace.
4. End of humanity’s struggle for peace
The final window represents the final end of humanity’s struggle for peace by the inter-play of a variety of elements based on the Roman statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace. One of the striking features of the statue is the way in which Our Lady’s hand is raised calling for all conflict to cease. This order is followed by the dropping of the olive twig from the hand of the Christ child symbolising the new era of peace. At the base of the window, a dove awaits the twig, eager to announce this new peace to the world. The lilies and roses amongst which the bird stands depict the fruits of this peaceful era.
Peace - God’s work
The background to the first window is dark. The purples and blues symbolize the passion of Jesus Christ and the violence which humanity has inflicted on its Saviour and upon each other. As the windows progress, however, these dark colours give way to reds, greens, yellows and blues which symbolize the life that is given to us as a result of the victory of Christ. This progression culminates in the golden sun burst in the final window, symbol of the ultimate victory of Christ and the achievement of God’s plan for peace in him. The blue colour against which the sun is placed is symbolic of Our Lady Queen of Peace, the first believer, the model disciple, who was the first of our race to achieve the peace of heaven that God promises to all of us.