A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Assumption in Stained Glass

Glen McCullough

We celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven on 15th August. There is no scriptural reference to the Assumption, but it has been part of Church tradition since the 4th Century. Pope Pius XII declared in 1950 that “It is dogma revealed by God that the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven.”

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We then celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 22nd August. To my mind, the two feasts are inseparable, because Mary would have been crowned Queen on her arrival in Heaven. So there are numerous stained glass windows showing a merging of assumption and coronation. Some of these have already been featured in the Messenger (March 2017).

Probably the simplest is this one [1] showing Mary ascending, unadorned other than by the wrap-around decorations. It is in St Pantalèon Church in Chavagnac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.

 

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More typical is Mary suspended amongst angels. The first [2] from St Patrick’s Cathedral, Auckland, is spectacular. The other [3] from St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, on the other hand, is more reminiscent of Revelations, showing Mary standing on the moon with her foot on a snake.

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One of the most beautiful I have seen is this one [4] from St Matthew’s, Hastings.

Intriguing are three windows in St Mary’s Church, Banff, Canada, which show a progression from dormition to assumption to coronation. The ones showing the Assumption [5] and Coronation [6] are shown.

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This window [7] in Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver BC, has a wealth of detail about Mary’s reception as she was assumed. Note the angels incensing, the crescent moon, the snake under her feet. To my mind this window speaks the most about the Assumption - that Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory as befits the Mother of God.

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Pope Pius XII said in 1946 “Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice [of the Father].” This colourful window from Monastere Royal de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse, France [8] shows Mary being crowned by God the Father and Son, witnessed by a varied host below, and showing what might be her tomb.

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I was asked once “why do you worship Mary?” My reply was “We do not worship Mary. Worship belongs to God alone. However, just as we honour our own mothers, we honour Mary the mother of Jesus, and seek her prayers on our behalf.”

This beautiful window [9] in St Mark’s Church, Drummoyne, Sydney reflects a simple love of Mary, Queen of Heaven.

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Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.*


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