In the second of the three talks on the treasures of St. Margaret’s we were treated to an excellent tour of the stained glass windows of the church by Jan Bramley, a long-standing parishioner with an abiding interest in the art and architecture of our church. As Jan said, when we are familiar with something, as is the case with the windows, we do not always appreciate the subtleties of meaning hidden within them. This talk focused on the spiritual content of the windows and what they set out to teach us: in the Middle Ages such windows were not intended to be solely decorative, but were visual teaching aids for a largely uneducated and illiterate populace. We were advised to bring binoculars so that we could see more clearly the detail in the windows.
For a basic introduction to the layout and makers of the windows there is a booklet ‘A Guide to the Windows of St. Margaret’s’, but Jan uncovered layers of meaning and interpreted more fully the figures in each window, each with its own little ‘nuggets’ of information embedded in it. For example, in the Benedicite (Creation) Window at the West End, one of the Archangels, St. Michael, is portrayed as a soldier, for which reason he is often chosen by churches as their patron saint where there had previously been a pagan site such as St. Michael’s Hubberholme and at Linton near Grassington. The armorial bearings in the window are of the diocese of Ripon and York, the diocese of Bradford not having at that time been created.
At the top of the window is the Hand of God raised in blessing over his creation, whereas in the Incarnate Window (North Side) the Hand of God is pointing downward to bless his people. In this window the Virgin Mary is dressed in blue, while earlier portrayals show her in red. This is because St. Brigid had a vision in which she was wearing blue. The formal teaching of the window is in the centre while the informal subjects surround it.
The window to the right of the Chancel and partly obscured by the Organ Vestry is the Children’s Window, showing children being blessed by Christ. This was another of the many gifts given by the children of St. Margaret’s.
Looking at the Old Testament windows in the South Aisle, Jan reminded us how Jesus Christ was steeped in knowledge of the Old Testament, referring to it constantly. The image of King Solomon was what people expected of a King and his Kingdom. Jan thought that the arrangements of the prophets seemed odd in that Samuel anointed both Saul and David (he is shown holding oil and a crown) and, looking at the adjacent plain glass window she felt it should really portray the Transfiguration because Jesus was part of the Old Testament and should also depict Peter, James and John. Are there any millionaires among us who could realise Jan’s dream for this window?
Fr. Bernard thanked Jan for a most interesting and illuminating talk - we shall never look at these windows in the same light again! The session ended in the Chancel beneath the East Window where we all said Psalm 103, vv 19-20 and the Grace.
Jane Sheldon and Val Banks