my name is Peter and I am the eighth sibling in the Tappin family. My intention is to use this section of our family web site
to share with you some of my interests, and hopefully, in doing so offer them to a wider audience. The core of these interests
is church architecture, both the buildings and in particular the stained glass. I also intend to illustrate the lives of the
saints with examples from various church windows, along with a brief biography. My particular passion lies with the churches
of rural Lincolnshire, though our magnificent cathedrals will not be ignored. My hope is that you may view this subject afresh,
relishing its beauty, artistry and the history of our land that it illustrates so well.
My first example
is the magnificent Creation Window of Chester Cathedral.
This splendid modern stained glass window is to be found in the refectory of Chester Cathedral and I have seen few windows
with a greater power to command my attention than this. To my mind this is evidence that this ancient art form is alive and
well. With its bold form and use of colour it readily speaks of the creation we meet in the pages of Genesis. Indeed the artist,
has managed to evince a sense the original ‘chaos’ when one views the window for the first time. The riot of colour
seems to splash across the glass and because this is so vivid it is easy to miss the hand of God, here outlined in white,
stretching over five panels.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon
the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there
was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from darkness. And God called the light Day,
and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
At the topmost point of this section there is an angel with a yellow face and with wings created in appropriately named
Angel Glass. Below this we see the ‘crystal cold’ of the blue arctic sky with its brilliant white star. A little
lower is some streaky purple glass representing the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). We next see the dawn sky with its
attendant yellow, gold and red hues. Here we stand at the margin of the night as it yields to day. As the eye travels down
the glass we can see the added colour of the earth in the brown shades and darker reds. The ‘hot’ colours of this
area remind us of the heat at the earth’s core. An additional source of
light comes with the blue of the lightning strike as it snakes its way through the dawn sky to meet the earth below.
At the bottom of this section and depicted in grey-blue glass, we can see the form of an eagle. Here the eagle represents
the Spirit of God. To its right an area of streaky purple, this time standing as ‘the breath of God, hovering over the
waters.’ The eagle is an emblem of St. John whose gospel begins ‘in the beginning was the word.' The lowest section
of the window is representative of how mankind lights the darkness. We can see skyscrapers, such as in New York, with their
many illuminated windows. There is also the head and taillights of passing cars on a motorway and the bright flashes of cameras
catching the scene.
And God said, Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God
made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament:
and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Note the Greek Alpha at the top of this piece, a direct
reference to Rev 22:13.
The main theme of this section is the dividing of the
waters. At first glance we see nothing so much as a jumble of interwoven strings of colour, however what the artist has chosen
to create is a picture of a river delta. We concentrate here on the meandering, intersecting and separating streams of water.
The original photograph used here showed the delta to have a degree of mineral pollution, which the pink tinge is attempting
The lower part of the window is almost photographic
in its depiction of the Earth as seen from the Shuttle spacecraft. The tail fin of the shuttle is clearly seen against the
blue–black of outer space whilst the now classic view of Earth is wonderfully indicated in streaky blue and white glass.
God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed,
each according to its kind, upon the earth. And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according
to their own kind, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
God now creates the seas and dry land and having thus
created open space he now begins to fill them. The artist herself has created a wonderful variety of fruit giving her an equally
wonderful range of colours from which to draw inspiration. From the red of the
apples down to the purply mauve of the fig, she uses a veritable rainbow of hues with which to celebrate God’s bounty.
The eye is inevitably drawn to the yellow and red of the pepper and in so doing we are focussing on the seeds that, ’yield
according to their kind'.
In the lower part, below the fig and melon, we can see
the grasses, bulrushes, peas, wheat and herbs. This whole image speaks of the fecundity of creation as God prepared the earth
for animals and finally, mankind. The final part of this light has in its centre a yellow and black chequered butterfly resting
on an orchid-like flower. Above it is the tendril of a climbing plant attached to which is a butterfly’s egg. It’s
actually a simple everyday image from our garden. However the introduction of the glass beaker is intended to suggest the
new science of genetic engineering.
And God said, Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night;
and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years, and let them be light in the dome of the sky to give
light upon the earth. And it was so. God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to
rule the night and the stars.
Here begins natural light amid the swirling planets and
stars of the heavens. The topmost image is that of the moon presiding over the night sky containing some of the familiar planets
of our solar system. Here we can see a bright red Mars, a green Earth just above a streaky purple Jupiter and, a little to
the left, a grey coloured Saturn with its bright ring. The whole display is attendant upon the Sun shown in light yellow glass
at the bottom of the window. This part of the window brings to mind a reflection on the vastness of the universe with the
words of Psalm 8 verses 3 & 4 which concludes ‘what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that
thou visitest him?’(KJV).
From ‘outer space’ we are now drawn into ‘inner
space’ as we look at the lowest section of glass. What we have here is a representation of a brain scan. The wonder
of this image is that it shows the person is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. However its not just anyonefor it is
the artist Rosalind Grimshaw herself who suffers from Parkinson's.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome
of the sky. So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters
swam, and every winged bird of every kind.
Here we find the companion to Alpha as we notice the sign
for Omega at the top of the glass. Below this comes the open sky and then comes a succession of birds, the first of which
we see encompassed by the outline of God’s thumb. A little lower are a number of birds though not so easily distinguished.
It is not difficult to appreciate the skill in making the Leviathan, which rises above a veritable school of fish in their
brilliant tropical colours.
The land, the air and the sea are now filled with the
goodness of God’s creation, seemingly complete in itself. All these living things had a purpose, which was, ‘to
be fruitful and multiply’.
Continuing the theme of water the lowest image is depicting
a hand pump. The girl is giving a shower to the child who is crouching down in the stream of water. The artist’s
skill is never better displayed than in this area for the child appears to be illuminated through the pouring water. A technique
achieved by plating or layering of the glass.
Then God said, Let us make mankind in our own image, according to our likeness; and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over the wild animals
of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created humankind in his image, male and female
he created them.
The star here reminds us that Christ was born a man and so stands as a symbol of God sharing our humanity.
The image of the cow is taken from an aboriginal painting and therefore is intended to show man’s first efforts in creating
something for himself. Notice the artist’s own hand print on the animal’s shoulder. The man and woman are, I assume,
self-explanatory but below them we can see a spiral horned deer and a Banyankoli cow. Their closeness to the couple indicates
verse 28 giving ‘dominion over’ living things. Notice that the outline
of God’s hand does not enter this panel.
The last image of all is by now a very familiar sight,
at least to expectant parents. This ultrasound scan allows us to catch sight of a developing child, something our grandparents
would have been amazed at. However Jeremiah Chapter 1 verse 5 puts this in perspective as we read, ’before I formed
you in the womb, I knew you’.
The Hand of God
In the Contarelli chapel of the ‘French’ church
in the heart of Rome,
there are displayed three paintings. They were painted by the Italian artist Caravaggio in around 1598 and show scenes from the life of St Matthew.
One in particular is called ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ and it depicts Matthew
seated with others whilst his hand hovers protectively over a mound of cash. To the right of this group stands the figure
of Christ. His arm is extended and His open hand is both pointing to and beckoning Matthew.
The painting was revolutionary at the time because all the figures with the exception of Christ were shown
in the contemporary dress of the sixteenth century. Caravaggio intended that we see not only an early disciple
being beckoned by Christ but that we ourselves in modern times are subject to the same call.
What struck me most about this picture was the beckoning
hand itself. A couple of days before we had followed the tourist trail to the Sistine Chapel to view the frescos. After the
golden magnificence of St. Peters the more muted tones of the chapel came as a
welcome change. It was Michelangelo’s work we had come to see and specifically the scene where God reaches out to Adam,
their fingers almost touching. Adam is reclining languidly as if it’s too much effort
to reach out to God’s hand. It is this same hand that Caravaggio seemingly copied nearly ninety years
It’s the same hand that is easy to miss in the Creation
Window. It is often the case that we are too busy looking at the detail rather than the big picture. This is true of life
that, sometimes, all we are able to see is the “chaos” but creation reminds us that God’s hand is able to
use what appears to us to be impossibly dark situations and turn them into something of beauty.