Revealing Glory and Renewing Hope
A small part of the unprocessed glass, before etching.
‘Revealing Glory and Renewing Hope’ –
an east window currently being made for St James, Ludgershall.
The overarching theme of this window is Christ’s glory, revealed in the swirling energy of gold light that scoops viewers up into its flow. It is also a celebration of Ludgershall and its people, with particular reference to its significant historical military links.
Though the window does not depict people or buildings, every element in the design (the choice of colours, the position of lines, the textures of the glass) holds a specific meaning. These are highlighted below.
There are geographical markers (roads, castle, Neolithic mounds) which have been incorporated into the design from historical and contemporary maps. This does not result in a literal bird’s-eye-view of Ludgershall; rather, a threshold or liminal space is created, where the place is gathered up and transfigured by the embracing and radiant glory of Christ.
As well as the main geographical markers, other graphic lines express the vast sweeping expanse of sky above Salisbury Plain, where the Royal Flying Corps trained in preparation for battle. An area at the centre of the middle window consists of unsettled, fractured lines, like barbed wire: at the centre of our faith is the redemption of suffering through the cross of Christ.
One particularly strong line creates an undulating curve from the left to right of all three lights. On early maps this ‘line’ is present as a road passing through the town. In the window it represents the journey of life we all make, as a form of pilgrimage and also as a reference to the many tens of thousands of soldiers who passed through Ludgershall on their way to the various conflicts listed on memorials in the church and town.
The choice of colours is also significant. A selection of rich golds predominate in the upper part of the design, which symbolise Glory and Resurrection. No green glass used; instead, blue predominates where you might expect green fields were this a straightforward landscape. Blue is chosen for several reasons - to emphasise the liminal space depicted, and to point to the sea crossings made by the soldiers, whether by air or sea on their way to battle. Delicate threads of red can also be seen. As the colour of suffering, the red can be interpreted as remembrance poppies, but it might also refer to the suffering that is inextricably part of life.
Although difficult to describe in the painted proposal, the textures achieved through acid-etching will add meaning. By using bitumen and beeswax, and with repeated dipping in hydroflouric acid, complex tones and riven textures can be achieved in the glass. These can be picked out by the delicate application of glass paint. Such techniques will refract the way light passes into the chapel and make the surface of the glass rich and rewarding to contemplate.
I have chosen an abstract and symbolic design for this chapel because I am convinced that it is the most suitable approach for this building, with its stripped-back, almost Puritan, simplicity. The eastward facing window will sing with colour through the morning, whilst the relative lack of darkening paint will ensure that, as the sun moves around to the west, the chapel retains plenty of natural light.