Stained Glass and Church Furnishings
Why have holy images ?
"The Word became flesh and lived among us", (John1:14). Jesus Christ is both truly man and truly God: this mystery, which we call the Incarnation and celebrate at Christmas, is a turning point in human history and reveals the purpose and dignity of the whole material creation. All the glories of Christian figurative art depends on this doctrine: before this mystery was accomplished in the womb of Mary the invisible God could not be portrayed; now, because God has become man in Jesus, he can be depicted. Therefore to reject holy images is to deny that Jesus has come in the flesh and thus implicitly to deny our salvation.
All Pluscarden's medieval glass has all been lost except a few fragments, some of which are in the display case by the West door of the Church. From these it seems that at least some of the medieval windows had grisaille glass. This, as in the famous 'Five Sisters' window at York Minster, involved plain glass, pale green in the Pluscarden fragments, with a painted foliate design and sometimes medallions of colour: one of the fragments was coloured pale blue. As the building is being restored the windows are being filled with striking modern designs, mostly made by monks in the Abbey's stained glass workshop. The community began the making of windows on Caldey Island in the early years of the twentieth century and the craft was continued when they moved to Prinknash. After the first monks came to Pluscarden in 1948 a stained glass workshop was established here and work by the monks can be found all over Scotland and even further afield. Dom Ninian Sloane and Br Gilbert Taylor were the main craftsmen involved.
The creation of stained glass windows for Churches is an art over a thousand years old. Traditionally coloured glass is cut to shape and joined by lead strips. This is still the main technique used at Pluscarden, but a new technique developed in the last century is the thick slab glass know as dalles de verre, literally 'glass paving slabs'. In this method the slab of glass is cut, faceted and set in a matrix: epoxy resin in Br. Gilbert's windows, concrete in Sadie's. The Peter Shiach window also contains a technical innovation: paintwork fired into the glass, highly unusual in slab-glass windows. In direct sunlight dalles de verre gives a jewel-like sparkling which is seen at its best in the window high up in the south wall of the South Transept.
THE PLUSCARDEN WINDOWS:
The East Window of the Choir: Christ our Eucharist
Br Gilbert (1983) Leaded Glass. The names of the donors are on the glass.
As a backdrop to the High Altar, this window has a Eucharistic theme, from the wheat and grapes in the lower panes to Christ himself, holding his body and blood under the forms of bread and wine in the upper window. It can perhaps best be understood through the symbolism of the colours. The four lower pointed lancets represent creation, our world with its 'four corners'; red (blood) suggests humanity and animal life while the greens and browns suggest vegetative and inanimate creation. The grapes and wheat, fruit of the earth and warmed by the golden sun, are made into the bread and wine of the Mass. The created world, like the four lancets, points up to the Risen Christ, the Lord of Creation, shown as both God (white) and man (red). He is in Heaven (blue) and holds the bread and wine of the Eucharist, which has been transformed into his Body and Blood to give life to the world. The red in the top window shows that, in Christ, man enters heaven to be transfigured and deified, a process of which Baptism is the beginning and the Eucharist the means. St Athanasius teaches that in Christ, "God became man so that men might become gods"; and for St Paul, "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). Thus as well as being a carpet of colour for the austere stone of the monastic Choir this window teaches the central truth of the Christian Faith.
THE TRANSEPT CHAPELS
The Visitation : North Transept Chapel.
Br Gilbert (1965) Leaded Glass. A gift in memory of Elizabeth Muir of California.
The Gospel of Luke (1:39-56) tells us that when Mary accepted the Angel's message that she was to be Mother of God she ran to share the news with her relative Elizabeth, who was also with child. The striking composition of the figures in this window is based on a design traditional in the middle ages. It captures the joy of their meeting and is remarkable for showing the two babies in the womb, Jesus (on the left) and John the Baptist, who leapt for joy when Mary arrived. Mary's response was her great song of praise, the Magnificat, which is sung every day at the evening service of Vespers.
Symbols of the Four Evangelists and Agnus Dei : North Transept Chapel
Br Gilbert (1985) leaded glass.
The gift of the Grant family. It makes use of Gloucester reamy glass to admit light into a dark corner, and selenium glass to give brightness and colour to the centre.
Our Lady and Child : In the interior wall of the North Transept Chapel
Br Gilbert, leaded glass.
Originally exhibited at the Glasgow Vocations Exhibition 1960.
Window in the east wall of the South Transept Chapel
Br Gilbert (1998) leaded glass.
This window is dedicated to the daughters of John Slevin's family, all named Mary, so Marian symbols predominate.
Marian Window : North Wall of the North Transept
Sadie McLellan (1964-67) Dalles de Verre.
This window, donated by Neil and Philippa Petrie, celebrates the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the monastery is dedicated, in the history of Salvation. The roundel is based on chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation and symbolises the universe divided between the darkness of the dragon and the Light of Christ, shining through the Woman (Mary-the Church). The inner circle is the earth, under the power of Satan, but from which come wheat and grapes which will become the Body and Blood of Christ, shown here as a child, who will defeat the dragon on the cross. This is the cosmic battle between good and evil and each one of us must choose on which side he or she stands.
The seven doves of the central panel are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the rest of the window shows the Rosary and various titles of Mary :
Middle left: The House of Gold as the Divine Dwelling Place; The Lily for Chastity; The Mirror to reflect Christ; The Enclosed Garden for Virginity. Middle centre: The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11.2). Middle right: The Star to herald Christ; The Rose of Sharon; The Gate of Heaven. Lower left: The Crown of Mary and The Rosary. Lower centre: The Lily among the Thorns for Mary the sinless. Lower right: The Star that leads to Christ.
SS Benedict and Gregory: West Wall of the North Transept
Br Gilbert (1988) Dalles de Verre. The gift of James Boyle.
Against the red background of this window, St Benedict holds his Rule and by him stands his symbol the Raven, St Gregory tells us that one brought him bread when he was living as a hermit as a young man. Pope St Gregory the Great (c540-604) is a Doctor (teacher) of the Church and wrote the Life of St Benedict. He sent monks to convert the English to Christianity and also played an important part in the development of Latin Church Music, called after him Gregorian Chant which is sung here at Pluscarden. The dove by his ear illustrates the legend that the melodies of the chant were dictated to him by the Holy Spirit.
SS Peter, Patrick, Margaret and Celtic Saints with Pluscarden Abbey: West Wall of the North Transept
Br Gilbert (1992) Dalles de Verre. Given in memory Peter Shiach.
Abstract design with crosses: high up in south wall of Transept.
Br Gilbert (1982) Dalles de Verre.
THE LADY CHAPEL
The City of God and the Monk's Journey
Centre and right lights, Dom Ninian (1958-60); left light Br Gilbert (1960). Leaded Glass.
In memory of Alexander Bonnyman who came from a local family but died in Tennessee. The right light shows a man coming from the world to enter the monastery, ending with his Solemn Profession; the left light continues the monk's life to his death, showing, by the words ORA ET LABORA (prayer and work) monks working, praying, and tempted by the devil.
Crear McCartney (c1957) leaded Glass.
STAINED GLASS IN OTHER PARTS OF THE MONASTERY
Saints Maurus and Placid: Former Noviciate Chapel
Br Gilbert (1961) Leaded Glass.
They were young monks in St Benedict's monastery at Subiaco. St Gregory tells us that on one occasion Placid fell into the lake and Benedict told Maurus to fetch him out. He did this not realising that he was running on the water and so by his obedience miraculously saved his brother from drowning. The scene is dramatically captured in this roundel.
Crucifix with Our Lady and St John: Refectory
Dom Ninian (1957) leaded glass.
King Solomon on his Throne: Slype Library
Eddie Ryan (c1959) leaded glass
This window depicts the great ivory throne of Solomon described in 1 Kings 10:18-20.