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North Aisle, West

Benedicte Window (1), St Peter's Church, Staines

Designed by Edward Arthur Fellowes Prynne (1854-1921) in 1919, this window is one of four matching three-light windows illustrating the Benedicte — the Apocryphal song sung by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when King Nebuchadnezzar cast them into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden image. All four windows were designed in 1919 for St Peter's Church, Laleham Road, Staines, Surrey. The window above, executed by Charles E. Moore (carrying on the business of his father, A. L. Moore), was installed only in 1932, to celebrate the life and professional career as MP and Solicitor-General of Sir Edward Clarke, the church's founder and benefactor.

Verses illustrated, left to right: (a) "O all ye winds, bless ye the Lord" (from v.43). (b) "O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord" (from v.44) (c) "O ye lightnings and clouds, bless ye the Lord" (from v. 51).

According to an early twentieth century source, the Benedicte "holds an honoured place in all the liturgies of Christendom. Legendary as it is, it implicitly contains a splendid protest against idolatry, an invocation of all that is great and strong, beautiful and holy to join in the perpetual benediction of the Source of all. Charles Kingsley regarded it as the very crown and flower of the Old Testament" (Snell 73-74). It is praised for its incantatory nature: "The very monotony of form, with its accumulated doxologies, is itself effective" (Snell 74). But Prynne's musician angels are anything but monotonous. The angel illustrating the wind has several horns to blow, and everything here is in motion — hair, flight feathers on the wings, robes and sash, and even the long grass at the angel's feet. The dramatic central light is particularly poignant, reminding us of the three brave young men singing in the flames that were expected to consume them. The angel is untouched by the fire, except that little tongues of flame dance above its head, suggesting the presence of the Holy Spirit. Above the next angel, dark clouds loom, and bolts of lightning are about to be hurled. This angel blows a magnificent horn. All three are dramatic portraits both of the angels and the elemental subjects they represent.

South Aisle, Middle

This window, also designed by Prynne, was signed by James Jennings, and installed in 1921 to mark the Brownies Jubilee (see Eberhard). Again, the angels, their instruments and the scenes are brilliantly differentiated, this time with a touch of fantasy about them that reminds us of Prynne's fairy painting. The central angel, not shown below, in a panel resplendent with fruit and flowers, illustrates: "Oh all ye things that grow on the earth, bless ye the Lord" (from v. 54).

Verses illustrated, left: "O ye whales, and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord" (from v.57). (b) "O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord" (from v.58).

These two curly-haired angels look more feminine. The angel on the left has a horn like a shell, and wings like fins. Around the angel float a sea-snail and jellyfish (above), a seahorse (to the left) and some fine and sometimes grotesque-looking specimens of fish. Kingsley, as connoisseur of the underwater world, would have loved this one! The angel illustrating or evoking birdlife might be other people's favourite: this angel's wings are colourful, and the peacock peeping behind the angels' shoulder has fanned out its tail, framing the halo. At the very top, an owl perches in a tree; the the left, an eagle flies, and below, the long necks of a flamingo and goose enter Prynne's composition. Other species appear too, and this angel blows, most appropriately, two long thin pipes. As well as being precious artworks and casting coloured light into the church, such windows perform one of the earliest functions of stained glass in this context: to teach and uplift the congregation. Here is all the wonder of creation, reflecting the glory of the Maker, just as the original versifier would have intended.

Other Stained Glass Windows in St Peter's, Staines

Sources

"Architects and Artists I-J-K" (see under John J. Jennings). Sussex Parish Churches. Web. 22 October 2013.

Eberhard, Robert. "Stained Glass Windows at St Peter, Staines, Surrey." Church Stained Glass Windows. Web. 22 October 2013.

Snell, Bernard Joseph. The Value of the Aocrypha. LOdnon: James Clarke &Co., 1905. Internet Archive. Web. 22 October 2013.

Taylor, John M. Centenary Souvenir: St Peter's Church, Staines. Shepperton: Ian Allan, 1973 (brochure available at the church). Print.

_____. Souvenir of the 75th Anniversary of St Peter's Church, Laleham Road, Staines. Shepperton: Ian Allan, 1969 (brochure available at the church). Print.

Welcome to St Peter's Church, Staines Parish: A Guide to the Stained Glass Windows. Available at the church. Print.


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Last modified 22 October 2013