Window of the Week.
Our final window is the great west ‘Benedicite Window,’ a masterpiece from Powell & Sons from 1897.
This window is based on the ‘Song of the Three Jews,’ known liturgically as the ‘Benedicite.’ When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into the fiery furnace in Dan. 3, the Lord comes to save them, and the Benedicite is the song of praise the three men sing.
It is a celebration of creation and an exhortation to all things to “bless the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever.” In our window this is depicted by angels holding globes containing beautiful representations of lines of the canticle. On the left, “night and days” and “heavens and waters.” In the centre, “all green things upon the earth” and “sun and moon.” On the right, “fishes and fowls” and “beasts of the earth” (including Adam and Eve.)
With the angels are the four great archangels. From left to right: St Michael, the leader of the archangels, whose name means ‘Who is like God.’ He is armoured and holding the sword with which he protects heaven and God’s people, and scales for weighing souls at the final judgement.
Next, St Gabriel (‘God is my strength’), who announced the births of Jesus and St John the Baptist, holding a sceptre, a symbol of God’s rule over creation, and raising a hand in blessing.
Then, St Raphael (‘God is my health’), holding a pilgrim’s staff on which hangs a jar of fish gall. In the apocryphal Book of Tobit, Raphael is sent to Tobit’s son, Tobias, to assist him, and they have many adventures together. Tobit becomes blind, and when Raphael saves Tobias from being eaten by a giant fish, he explains to him that the gall can be used to cure blindness. Tobias uses it to restore Tobit’s sight, and Raphael reveals himself as God's angel.
Finally, St Uriel (‘God is my light’) stands with an open book with the Greek letters alpha and omega, the first and last letters of the alphabet, representing the beginning and the end of all things. He is also shown with the ‘smoke of prayer’ rising from his hand (Rev. 8. 4). Uriel appears in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and is traditionally the angel who guarded Christ’s empty tomb at the Resurrection.