St. Denis Cathedral – some of the oldest stained glass
Until the middle ages, church windows were little more than narrow slits carved in the stone high above the people’s heads. Thus early buildings were physically dark and cold places.
The process of making colored glass developed around 1100; at about the same time as Gothic architectural design; which using flying buttresses and arched supports allowed for entire walls of glass. First used about 1140 in the church of St. Denis Paris, God’s house was suddenly flooded with the full spectrum of light. [see photo above]
The symbols selected for the windows at St. Paul’s were chosen to reflect Lutheran theology(beliefs about God) and doctrine(teachings) rather than specific Bible accounts – although, each may call forth a favorite story for some. The red shield behind the symbols on the side windows, the colors of the symbols, and the diamond panes echo the ancient colors of the Tabernacle and Temple.
Stained- glass windows came to be seen as a reflection of God’s spiritual light shining down upon His people. As the colors of the spectrum reflect the created light of our loving triune God, so may the reflection on these symbols of faith bring to life the truth and beauty of the Gospel of our Lord’s grace and salvation, worshiping Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Sola Deo Gloria.
Each nave window is surrounded by the grapevine whose brilliant green leaves and full clusters of grapes show it to be a living, fruitful vine. Grapes also symbolize Communion and the blood of Christ that which nourishes His body, the Church.
Found at the peak of each window, it testifies that all symbols used in our church windows show us the redemptive work that Jesus Christ and the blessings we receive by His grace. The church indeed flourishes as she remains connected to Christ Jesus “ I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” – John 15: 1,4
THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
This window is often called a “rose window” because of its circular petal shaped frame. Circles denote eternity and there are three large ones seen in the window; A white one surrounds the dove; farther out a Gold circle is seen, symbolic of royalty; and then there is a large thorny purple one that reminds us of Jesus crown of thorns. The descending dove is a Biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit from the baptism of Jesus. The Cruciform Halo and the Equilateral Triangle behind the dove identifies the Holy Spirit as God the Third Person of the Trinity. The Flame is also a Biblical symbol of the Spirit from the Pentecost account. Radiating outward from the dove, they represent the manifold gifts of the Spirit to the Church. Surrounding the dove is an 8 point Star of Jacob; A Messianic symbol from Numbers 24:17. Eight represents the number of regeneration through baptism; drawn from the connection of Noah’s ark, where eight people were saved through the waters of the Great Flood. Also, eight days after entering Jerusalem, Jesus rose from the dead. The Holy Spirit regenerates us through faith in Jesus Christ and by the waters in Holy Baptism. The star “frame petals”, small circles, and sets of three flames all number eight. The field of blue represents heaven.
THE LAMB OF GOD
The Lamb symbolizes Jesus. The Cruciform Halo or Tri-Radiant Nimbus, signifies divinity – Jesus is God.He carries the Resurrection Banner of Victory as His work of redemption is a complete and Satan has been defeated. He stands upon the Book of Life. Three Seals evoke the Trinity and refer to Revelation 5 which declares that only The Lamb is worthy to open the seals and judge the world. Because the Book is closed it shows the final judgment has not yet taken place. There is still time to hear the Gospel and believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb, who is our victorious Savior and Judge.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM
The descending dove is a Biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit. John 1: 32. The Sacrament is symbolized by the Font, whose eight sides are seen as a Biblical number representing our spiritual regeneration as the Spirit works faith in our hearts. I Peter 3:20-22. The Blue ribbons evoke the visible means of water used at baptism. The Cruciform Halo shows the Holy Spirit to be God. The Cross testifies it is into faith in Christ that we are baptized. Romans 6: 3,4.
Dedicated 1958 (In memory of Mr. & Mrs. Albert Kiefer by their children)
The serpent is a Biblical symbol for the devil, enemy of God and man. Revelation 12:9 The globe(the world) signifies all creation, including mankind, which is in bondage to sin (the serpent’s grip on the world) since the fall of man.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Dedicated 1958 (In memory of Mr. Edward L. Kiefer)
The tablets of stone represent God’s Holy law Exodus 20:1-12. The first table shows our duty to God. Matthew 22:37-38. The second table our duty to fellow man. Matthew 22:39. The Law shows us our sin and lost condition – we need a Savior. Thus, the stylized cross(purple rays) remind us of Jesus, who fulfilled the whole law for us. Romans 8:3,4. As a redeemed people, the law no longer condemns; but becomes to us a mirror; a curb; and a rule for Christ-like living. Romans 3:20; 7:14-25.
THE CROWN OF THORNS
Symbols of Christ’s Passion – His suffering and death, especially the crucifixion: The nails signify the manner of Jesus death on the cross. Three nails are shown as in Western Christianity it is believed Jesus feet were crossed and only one nail pierced one to each side of the cross. The Bible does not give the number. The Thorns are a ‘mockery crown,’ depicting Jesus humiliation at the hands of the soldiers. The initials INRI stand for Latin superscription by Pilate (John 19:19-20); I – Jesus, N – of Nazareth, R – King, I – of the Jews. This window testifies St. Paul’s confesses Christ crucified. I Corinthians 2:2.
THE PELICAN IN HER PIETY
Based on the legend that in times of famine a mother pelican would pluck her own breast and feed her young from her blood so that they would live. Used since the middle ages as a symbol of our Lord’s selfless sacrifice. Jesus shed His blood upon Calvary to free us from the wages of sin, which is death. This is represented by a single drop of blood for He is the only Savior. The young birds signify the Church, redeemed from death, and sustained by the blood of Christ. The nest resembles thorns, another reminder of Christ’s death. Ephesians 1:7.
THE BLESSED HOLY TRINITY
The Trefoil (clover is three circles, either open as shown or interlocked). It symbolizes eternity and permanent union. It shows each Person of the Godhead is fully God and equally eternal; yet are a united one. The equilateral triangle has been the unique symbol for the Trinity since the 17th century. While there are three distinct angles(three Persons), it forms a single shape(one God). Thus we confess as the Bible teaches that Father, Son, and Spirit are Three in One. The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery of faith meaning that though it is beyond our human reason, it is necessary to believe for salvation. While the Bible does not use the word Trinity, scripture clearly teaches us it is true. Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 4:4-5, II Corinthians 13:14.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Wheat, Grapes, Cup , and Wafer show the visible elements of this Sacrament. The IHS inscribed on the wafer and the stylized Greek cross behind it signify Jesus is the author of the feast. In, with, and under the bread and wine we receive His very body and blood – the real presence. I Corinthians 11:16, John 6:53-54.
THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT
Dedicated 1958 (In memory of Mr. William Helmlinger by Mrs. Wm. (Emma) Helmlinger)
The words are Latin: Spiritus “of the Spirit”, Gladius “the sword”. The open Bible is the Word, especially the saving Gospel of Christ. The sword is the power of the Spirit given to us, through the Word of God. Drawn from Ephesians 6:11-17, our Triune God instructs His children: “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth – having shod your feet with the gospel of peace; … taking the shield of faith…take helmet of salvation; and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. This symbol is also known as “the Apostolic Shield of St. Paul”.
THE CROWN AND THE CROSS
The cross represents our victory of faith in Christ, who by His atoning death gives to all believer’s eternal life – the Crown. II Timothy 4:7-8
Based on the mythological Phoenix, a bird believed to live in the Arabian desert, it periodically burned itself on a funeral pyre – symbol of physical death. The bird then rose from its own ashes to live another cycle of life. It has been used since the e1st century to depict Christ’s bodily resurrection (the Cruciform Halo signifies His divinity). Without the halo it is a symbol of the general bodily resurrection of all dead at the Last Day. John 5:28-29
THE SEAL OF HEAVEN
The blue field represents Heaven. Palms symbolize worship, rejoicing, and victory. The saints in glory (the stars) now restored to God’s image (the gold color) will live and rejoice eternally in the presence (the rays of light) of Jesus, our King (the crown). Revelation 14:14; 15:3