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Bridlington Priory Church North Aisle Windows
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Bridlington Priory Church North Aisle Windows
There now remain eight windows, which form a series of Old Testament studies. A cursory glance will immediately show the superb craftsmanship of this series. Authorities in modern painted glass assert that these windows possess some of the finest modern glass in the country, and that as a series it is unique.
The first in the series begins with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and portrays the entrance of sin into the world. The wording at the top of the window is: "Sin entered into the world and death by sin". The vivid portrayal of the serpent, the devil, entwined in the tree laden with golden fruit, from which Eve has plucked the forbidden fruit and now offers it to Adam, and the two figures of Adam and Eve bring reality and action to the story sometimes forgotten. Note the beautiful colouring and the perfect details of the tree and the flowers of the Garden of Eden. Below this is to be seen the angel with the flaming sword driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden, and the serpent moving over the ground on its belly.The clue to the interpretation of the next window is given on the scroll borne by the three angelic figures at the top of the window.
The inscription gives the words: "Since by man came death by man came also the resurrection of the dead" (I Cor, xv, 21). Below this is portrayed Adam and Eve finding Abel their son who had been murdered by his brother Cain. Note the altar, and the flame of fire indicating the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice. In the background also is to be seen the symbol of sin, evil and death. So the wonderful symbolism shown here of sin and sacrifice finds a place throughout Holy Writ.
The inscription is: "The just shall live by faith". On the left is to be seen the figure of Enoch and around him is the banner carrying the words of Enoch's prophecy, " Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints", (Jude 14).
On the right of the window is to be seen the figure of Noah. In his right hand he carries a staff while in his left is to be seen the ark, representative of him as the builder of it. The banner around Noah carries the description of him given in Genesis vi, g: "A just man and perfect in his generations". The scene at the bottom of the window depicts the Flood (Genesis vii and viii) and its grim symbolism shows both man and beast perishing while the serpent (symbolic of evil) entwined on the broken tree still remains to the end. In the background can be seen the expanse of waters and the ark floating peacefully upon them.
Immediately above is to be seen a picture of the ark at rest on Mount Ararat and Noah and his family gathered around the altar in thanksgiving to God for their deliverance. God's covenant, shown by the rainbow, is portrayed: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a token of a covenant between Me and the earth": Note the realism of this scene. The flame from the sacrifice on the altar, the bow in the sky. Noah's attitude of thanksgiving, Noah's wife on her knees at the side of the altar, and his sons and their wives gathered around in prayerful thankfulness for their deliverance.
As we pass on to the next window, towards the East, we have the clue to its message in the inscription on the shield, borne by the two flying angels, bearing the first two and last letters of the Greek word "Christos": so here we are taken to two outstanding historic figures of the Old Testament, Abraham and Melchisedec, each of whom is prophetically related to Christ.
On the left, Abraham is shown with his right hand resting upon a sword. Encircling him is a scroll bearing the words: "Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness". On the right Melchisedec is portrayed wearing a crown, symbolic of kingship, and having in his hand a chalice, symbolic of priesthood. The words on the scroll surrounding this noble figure are: "King of Salem and Priest of the Most High God".
In the scene below is shown Abraham returning after his great victory over Chedorlaomer, when he liberated Lot; and Melchisedec bringing forth bread and wine for their refreshment (Gen. xiv, 18), and finally bestowing his blessing upon Abraham before his departure. Melchisedec it should be noted typifies the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews viii.)
The lower scene depicts Abraham offering Isaac, his only son, upon the altar. There is portrayed the most dramatic part of the record given in Genesis xxii. Note in the foreground the fire which they had carried with them; to the left is the ram caught in the thicket. Isaac has been prepared for sacrifice and his father is about to slay him as a sacrifice to Jehovah, when the Angel of the Lord, portrayed emerging from the clouds, utters the words: "Lay not thine hand upon the lad . . . for now! know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me". It was the spirit of sacrifice, not the blood of Isaac, that God wanted. Many theologians see in this recorded incident a fore-shadowing of the vicarious work of the Atonement, and it does bear out, when examined, by most interesting parallels and coincidence in details, the simplicity of the words in St John iii, 16: "God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life".
Moving further East it will be observed that the subject of the next window is Joseph, an outstanding character of the Old Testament. He is portrayed in the robes of his high office in ancient Egypt, next to Pharaoh himself in power. On the scroll above him are the words: "So now it was not you that sent me hither. but God" (Genesis xlv, 8); words with which he reassured his brethren after he had made himself known to them.In the lower scene Joseph is shown telling his dreams to his brethren (Gen. xxxvii) while in the scene above he is portrayed interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh (Genesis xli). Note the three small circles, one in the lower and two in the upper scene, in which is given the subject of the respective dream.
The quotation, separating the two scenes is taken from Genesis xli and reads: "Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt; and there shall arise after them seven years of famine".
The next two windows form a pair, the first of which has for its subject Moses the Lawgiver, The scroll around the central figure of Moses bears the words: "Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt". The first scene portrays the immediate conclusion of the crossing of the Red Sea by the Children of Israel. The last few people are seen climbing into safety while further on rejoicing at so great a deliverance is already beginning. Meanwhile, Moses is shown, in obedience to God, stretching out his hand over the sea (Exodus xiv). Dividing the two scenes are the opening words of the song of thanksgiving of Moses: "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea". The lower scene shows Moses striking the rock at Horeb with the consequent provision of water for the people (Exodus xvii). The prophetic symbolism associated with Moses and his life is shown by the Cross, hammer and three nails. This is fully borne out by our Lord's Words, recorded in St. John iii,14: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life".
This same prophetic symbolism is to be seen in the next window at the top of which are depicted the scourge, spear, sponge on a rod and vessel which contained vinegar, all of which were associated with the Crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The central figure of this window is King David, and he is here shown in royal robes with his harp in his left hand. The inscription of the Scroll over his head is: "A man after his own heart, who shall fulfil all my will". The first scene shows Samuel the prophet anointing David to be king over Israel, and the words dividing the two scenes record the tact: "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward". The lower scene depicts David as having slain the giant of the Philistines, Goliath.
The remaining pair of windows in this unique series are seen best from the Oak Vestry or Chapter House. The great prophet Elijah forms the subject of the first window; and he is represented holding in his left hand a scroll bearing the words of his eternal challenge, "lf the Lord be God, follow Him". The scene below shows Elijah raising the widow's Son. Underneath are the words, "And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came into him again and he revived". The lower scene depicts Elijah's translation in a chariot of tire as seen by his successor Elisha (2 Kings it). On the shield at the top of this window, are shown the hammer and pincers, tools used at the Crucifixion and it will be noted that at the top of the last window there is depicted the seamless robe of Christ, and the dice with which the soldiers determined who should possess it at the time of His Crucifixion (St. John xix, 23 and 24).
The central figure is one who might be regarded as the greatest of the prophetical writers of the Old Testament, namely, Isaiah. Words made immortal in song and speech are to be found on the scroll around the figure of the Prophet, which are taken from his writings (lsaiah xl, I). "Comfort ye, My people, saith your God". The first scene shows the fulfilment of one of Isaiah's prophecies delivered before King Hezekiah, when the invading Assyrians were put to flight. The words of the text across the window indicate how the fulfilment took place: "Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand".
Note the angel with the flaming sword and compare it with the angel in the first of this series of windows. In the lower scene there is portrayed Isaiah's vision concerning the coming of Christ. Note the aged prophet writing down his vision in a book. He records what he sees - the Virgin and Child - and so he writes (lsaiah vii, 14) the words given on the scroll: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son". This window concludes not only the description of a series of windows of outstanding merit in craftsmanship, interest and beauty but also our brief survey of the painted glass of the Priory Church. They possess a quality of transparency which much of the ancient glass could not have, and so this magnificent Church is not robbed of light but extraordinarily enriched by the splendour of its windows. So we conclude with St. Paul's quotation of the words of Isaiah the Prophet: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him".
Bridlington Priory written by the late John. W. Lamb, M.A., Ph.D.