Following the refurbishment of the church in 1999, with a new sloping roof built to assist the drainage, the clerestory of clear glass above the high altar presented the challenge of strong south facing light in the eyes of the congregation. The solution was the installation of frieze painted and stained fibreglass panels attached on the inside of the double glazing. Several panels were sponsored by members of the congregation and others by local businesses. The panels were designed in her Bristol studio by the glass artist Rachael Wroe-Sawko (1933- 2013). Born in Wolverhampton, Rachael was a student at the Birmingham School of Art from 1950 to 1956. The panels (detailed below, left to right) include representations of Angels, (based largely on two passages from the Book of Revelation), Apostles and Holy Spirit, and incorporate many of the traditional symbols associated with Christian art.
The inspiration for the first two panels comes from Revelation 7: 2-3
The middle two panels show the warrior Archangel Michael, his sword raised against evil.
The remaining two panels represent The Annunciation – our Lady kneels before the messenger Archangel Gabriel who holds a white lily, a symbol of purity.
“Then I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels, whose duty was to devastate the earth and the sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’”
Trumpeting Angels herald the Good News, mingled with the rainbow, the symbol of God’s peace on Earth.
Twelve Apostles - from left to right: identified by their traditional symbols
1) Judas, turning away from the others
2) Matthew - purse (tax collector)
3) Mark - book (evangelist)
4) Philip - basket of loaves (John 6: 5-7)
5) Simon - cross (tradition says that he was crucified)
6) James the Great - pilgrim’s staff (he was closely associated in the medieval mind with the prestigious pilgrimage shrine
7) John the Baptist - lamb (named Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, John 1:29) reed cross (“a reed shaken with the wind?”,
Matt’w 11:7) grasshopper (“locusts and wild honey”, (Matt’w 3:4)
8) Luke - pallet and brushes (tradition says that he painted a portrait of Our Lady)
9) Bartholomew - knife (with which he was flayed alive!)
10) Andrew - fishing net (fisherman)
11) Jude - boat (traditionally travelled extensively, spreading the Gospel)
12) Peter - fish (fisherman)
The final panels represent Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit symbolised by a dove. This is followed by The people of God, river of life and the trees of life
“Then the Angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb,
and flowing crystal clear. Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river,
were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month ;
and the leaves of which are the cure of the nations.”
To read the background story from the artist herself click here