Bible windows

The windows are called variously, the poor man’s bible, theological windows or typological windows as they were used as a teaching medium probably mainly for the monks.  There were originally 12 windows but only two remain. These are in the north choir aisle next to the St Eustace wall painting. They are perhaps the most beautiful twelfth century windows in the cathedral and can be compared favourably with the best in Europe (Image 1).

The left hand window is made up of three columns each with 7 levels, each scene alternating between circular and square framing. Each level relates to a different subject: light, presentations, warning etc. The central column shows scenes from the New Testament (NT), known as Antitypes, whilst the scenes on either side show scenes from the Old Testament (OT), known as Types that relate to the adjacent Antitype.

To select a few scenes to illustrate: the top central scene shows the three wise men in wide bottomed trousers, indicating they are from the East, on horseback pointing to the star above their heads.

On the third level, scenes are related to warning. There is an OT colourful and graphic portrayal of Lot and his wife leaving Sodom and Gomorrah, beautifully shown being destroyed by earthquake and fire; Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt after being warned not to look back.. On the same subject of warning, in the central NT scene the three kings appear again this time in bed, together each with their crowns on. An angel appears to them warning them not to return to Herod.

The seven scenes at the bottom of the window have been introduced from another window to fill in the gaps and, as can be seen, some do not fit well in this window as each window was made with different framing.

The right hand window does not have a common theme as most of the glass comes from different windows, although several scenes relate to miracles. The second scene from the top in the middle shows the marriage feast at Cana with the pots of water in the front about to be changed to wine. On the left near the bottom there is a scene of Noah in his Ark, labelled ‘NOE IN ARCA’, in a very choppy sea receiving an olive branch from a returning dove.

The sheer quality of these two windows is quite staggering especially when one considers that they were made well over 800 years ago with very primitive materials and technology.  

What to see:

  • In the left window centre top, the three kings pointing to the star (Image 2)
  • On the left in the third level, Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt (Image 3)
  • In the right window in centre midway down, the marriage at Cana (Image 4)
  • At the bottom left of this window, Noah is graphically portrayed in his ark (Image 5)