Stained Glass Windows
Part 1 - The Round Windows
The following is an excerpt from the book, "The Windows of St. David's", that was produced as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of St. David's in 2006. Researched and written by Bruce Thomas. Photography and production by Linda Thomas. Bruce and Linda are both long-time members of St. David's.
The Rose Window - "The Twelve Apostles"
Location: Above the Altar
The 12 shields incorporate symbols that call to mind each of the disciples. Beginning at the 12:30 position with the keys of St. Peter and proceeding clockwise, we encounter the symbols of all 11 disciples mentioned in Acts 1:13 who, after returning from experiencing Jesus’ ascension from the Mount of Olives, went back to their meeting room in Jerusalem: “Those present were Peter, James, John and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.”(Not to be confused with Judas Iscariot.) Sometimes this son of James is known as Jude, and he’s called Thaddeus by other gospel writers. At the 11:30 position the twelfth symbol is for the replacement disciple Matthias, whose election (to take the place of Judas Iscariot) is recorded at the end of the first chapter of Acts. These twelve disciples were called by Jesus to “bear much fruit,” and nearly all of them suffered and died as a result of doing so.
“I am the true vine,” Jesus said. And in the stained glass of the rose window, the vine originates from the center of the window, where the Lamb of God (“Agnus Dei”) lies with the Banner of Victory, a powerful symbol of Jesus. In the 5th chapter of the Book of Revelation, the Lamb is called “worthy to receive power, wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessings,” and “able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
"The Jesse Tree"
Location: High Above, Left Side of the Nave
High up on the left wall of the nave is the small round stained glass window that represents one such Jesse Tree. It reminds us of twelve persons of the Bible (in addition to Jesse) who in various ways heralded the coming of Messiah – the Christ – the Anointed One. In the center of the window is a gnarled tree, “the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). Using the grapevine theme that’s seen in the large rose window above the altar, grape leaves and clusters of grapes stretch out to the twelve sections of the window, encircling the symbols of the persons chosen for this particular Jesse Tree. Starting at the top, and going clockwise, the first is the symbol for Moses: the miraculous water of Meribah.
Ruth, whose story is told in the book of the Bible bearing her name, was a faithful widow-woman of Moab who accompanied her widowed mother-in-law back to Israel (saying to Naomi, “your people will be my people, and your God my God”). There Ruth remarried and became the grandmother of Jesse. Her symbol is the sheaf of wheat, for she collected the grain left behind by the harvesters in the fields near Bethlehem. Samuel, the last of the judges of Israel (hence the scales of justice as his symbol) anointed David, the son of Jesse, to succeed Saul as king. David is represented by the five smooth stones and the slingshot he used to slay Goliath. It would be to Bethlehem that Joseph later took his expectant wife Mary, “because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Each of the seven Old Testament prophets listed in the stained glass of the window proclaimed the need for, and the coming of, Messiah. Elijah (who, along with Moses, is depicted in the Transfiguration window with Jesus) is symbolized with the flaming chariot in which he was transported to heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Isaiah’s symbol derives from his vision of his mouth being purified by the seraph carrying a live coal with tongs (Isaiah 6:6-7). Jeremiah is represented by three stones that figure in his prophecy of how a disobedient Israel would be made captive of Babylon; legend says his people stoned him to death for his stern pronouncements. Later the prophet Ezekiel spoke of the east gate of the city of Jerusalem being the one through which Messiah would enter the city (Ezekiel 44:1-3). The prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah prophesied in the 8th century before Jesus’ birth that the behavior of the people of Israel and Judah would lead to destruction and captivity and the need for Messiah. Hosea likened Israel to an unfaithful wife, and he is symbolized by a bridegroom’s white cloak, reminding us of the image of Christ as the Bridegroom. Amos was a shepherd, and the symbol of the shepherd’s crock reminds us of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Micah predicted that the Redeemer would be born in Bethlehem, where “… the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established … and peoples will stream to it.” Capping these Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, the words of John the Baptist conclude the twelve sections of the Jesse Tree window. Displayed hanging on a cross, they proclaim in Latin: “Behold the Lamb of God.”
There is one more symbol in this window to share with you. A very small basketball is discreetly inserted near the edge at about the 5 o’clock position, in the segment devoted to the Prophet Elijah. The window was given in memory of a young man who loved playing basketball. Hardly visible from anywhere on the main level of the nave, the basketball can best be seen by those seated in the gallery. The young man’s parents sat there as faithful members of the choir.
"The Twelve Tribes of Israel"
Location: High Above, Right Side of the Nave
In the same style as the other two round windows, this window has 12 sections, each listing the name of one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Except for Levi, the symbols depicted for each tribe derive from Jacob’s words recorded in chapter 49 of the Book of Genesis. (The incense pot shown for Levi alludes to that tribe’s later role as the keeper of Hebrew law.) Instead of a grapevine entwined around the twelve symbols, as in the other two round windows, a vine with blossoms looking like tassels binds the tribes to the Ten Commandments, perhaps a reference to Numbers 15:37-38, assuring that every aspect of the window is grounded in the words of Torah.
For a very moving account of how this window came to be at St. David's, download and read "The Windows of St. David's."