Column: Eternal beauty of stained glass windows
A recent visit to St Luke's Church, in Staining, turned out to be quite different than I had expected.
The church had installed a new stained glass window which revealed a dove and flames of fire. I was invited to help dedicate this new window alongside a small congregation. Instead, the church building was heaving with people and there was a rich appreciation of this pictorial art. Some children had been involved in designing this Holy Spirit window and they were thrilled to see this illuminated wall decoration.Originally stained glass was used to decorate churches and to illustrate bible stories for an unlettered congregation. It is one of those medieval crafts which has survived and maybe is about to grow in popularity. I say that, having viewed a number of residential properties recently and noticed how few books people seemed to possess. Have they all moved on to Kindles or are people just reading less? And if they are reading less, then perhaps they will be more open to pictorial art such as decorative windows composed of pieces of coloured glass.My favourite master of glass is Charles Kempe. This Victorian stained-glass artist and church decorator was prevented from becoming a clergyman because of his severe speech impediment. Instead, the work of Kempe and Kempe’s firm appears in 27 of our cathedrals, in many city churches, schools, universities and parish churches all over the British Isles. Rather than pass on the Christian message by word of mouth, he used his artistic ability. He decided, ‘if he was not permitted to minister in the sanctuary he would use his talents to adorn it’.Kempe windows usually have a little wheatsheaf in the corner to distinguish glass produced by the artist. Look out for it when you next visit a church.I have frequently used some of the main events of Jesus’ life, especially his birth, his death and resurrection, pictured in church windows. After my Blackpool experience I will be pointing to even more bible stories painted on our windows.