A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Resurrection in Stained Glass

by Glen McCullough


This month we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. There are many stained glass windows that feature the Crucifixion, all very much the same, but the Resurrection windows I have seen show the progression of events following the Resurrection with, at times, a good deal of poetic licence.

The Gospel acco

unts of events after the Resurrection have apparent anomolies. These are dealt with in the article by the editor on page 39, so I will not attempt to resolve them here.

The first instance of poetic licence involves Jesus’ emergence from the tomb. The Gospels do not mention this, other than Matthew’s account of an angel rolling away the stone, sitting on it, and the guards falling down - no mention of Jesus emerging.

The most striking window I have seen of Jesus emerging is in St Pius X church, Tokoroa, [1] at right. It has a definite Māori flavour, shows Jesus with some bindings hanging from his wrist, and has one guard falling down. Other windows with the same theme are in Chiesa San Francesco di Rivotorto, near Assisi [2], and the Franciscan Friary, Killarney, Ireland [3].


3 - Note the staff and flag

More conventional windows of the same scene, such as the one below from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Randwick, Sydney [4], show Jesus as an ethereal figure surrounded by cloud, stepping from the tomb, holding a staff with a pennant or flag, and the addition of an angel or two. The flag is like a battle standard and is possibly a symbol of the Lord’s victory in the battle against Satan, and over death and evil.


The next scene recounted in the Gospels is the women, or woman, visiting the tomb, being told by the angel, or angels, that Jesus had risen, and to go and tell the disciples. Some of these windows are beautiful, reflecting the joy of the occasion for the women. From sadness and mourning to unbelief, then joy! The two here, from Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, Auckland [5], and St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney [6], illustrate the point.



I have seen two touching scenes following the women’s encounter with the angel(s). The first, in St Mark’s Church, Carterton [7], shows a woman telling two others that ‘He is risen!’ While not specifically stated in the Gospels, it is so much in keeping with the day that I can imagine it happening. The pure joy of those women is in the window for all to see. More scriptural (John 20:16) is the window from St Mary’s Church, Karori, Wellington [8], showing the moment when Mary Magdalene recognised the risen Jesus in the garden.



Finally, on the next page are two contrasting windows from St Mark’s, Carterton [9], and St Barnabas, Roseneath, Wellington [10]. The former inspires me: the small words at the bottom,‘He is risen,’ are the key. The window is full of joy and hope. The other is more understandable, perhaps, with a coffin, flag of victory, and what could be understood as a flood of light from heaven.



Both windows display artistic licence. Which image do you prefer, or, more importantly, which inspires you the most?

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1 Responses »

  1. Beauitful depictions of the Our Lords Resurection in your story of the Churches stained glass art. Christ's victory over death, giving way to our own salvation through His most Mercyful gift to all who receive His Love