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Window 6: The Temptation, Ss Leonard and Fergus, Dundee

Window 6: The Temptation.

Creation and the New Creation, Dundee

Introduction to the Project

1983-1986 were probably Dad’s busiest years as he built his career as a self-employed stained-glass artist. As an energetic young man he took on many jobs, not least among them the design, creation and installation of 24 windows for the Catholic church of Saints Leonard and Fergus in Dundee, Scotland.  

 

The original brief came to Clive Sinclair, a fellow stained-glass artist, via Hayes and Finch (suppliers of church furnishings). The brief was to design just seven narrow windows representing the seven Christian sacraments. They were to replace seven single glazed windows that stood in a row on the north-east side of the church. Each window was approximately 35cm wide x 230cm tall including transoms.

 

In those days Dad often collaborated with Clive, and so they, and a representative of Hayes and Finch, visited the church to meet with the parish priest, Fr Hugh McInally (now deceased) to assess the job. On seeing that the church building had 24 windows of the same size and style along its four walls, there was general agreement that replacing only the seven windows on the north-east side of the church with new windows would not be aesthetically pleasing.

 

It was felt, rather, that the new windows should be placed randomly around the church with the sacraments themselves portrayed symbolically in medallion designs against a simple background pattern linking each window. In addition, all agreed that, for the sake of aesthetic harmony and flow, it would look better if all 24 windows were replaced with new ones, following the same basic design idea of a symbol or image in a medallion inset into a simple background pattern. Some of the early suggested symbols and images were of various saints, the four evangelists, and scenes from the Bible. The parish priest readily agreed to this proposition.

 

Dad submitted an initial design of five windows to give a sense of what that might look like (see below).  Three of the five windows symbolically depicted three of the sacraments, one window contained an image of St Leonard, one of the patron saints of the church, and one window contained small medallions of the four evangelists. All were in full colour against a soft-tinted Celtic-style latticed background. The plan was to make and fit five or six windows at a time, eventually replacing all 24 windows with new designs.

Window 22: Holy Orders, Ss Leonard and Fergus, Dundee

Window 22: Holy Orders.

After presenting the design, the idea of incorporating the theme of the seven days of creation, as told in the book of Genesis, was suggested. Fr McInally had a lightbulb moment: he had the idea of calling the whole project ‘Creation and New Creation’, with the seven sacraments interleaving and overlapping the seven days of creation.

 

This changed the tone of the whole project. The larger-than-life Fr McInally was quite the visionary and his enthusiasm for the project was infectious. The design ideas continued to develop, including the addition of a series of stories from Jesus’ ministry.

St Margaret medallion cartoon for Ss Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland.

Cartoon (template) of a medallion featuring Saint Margaret of Scotland.

Original design for first five new windows for the Church of Ss Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland

Initial design of five windows.

Dad submitted a scroll of rough sketches of the 24 windows showing a basic background pattern overlaid with various symbols and images for the sacraments, the days of creation, stories from Jesus’ ministry and other features, along with various written suggestions and ideas. He also presented a full-size, full-colour cartoon (template) of a medallion featuring Saint Margaret of Scotland. Together the drawings gave Fr McInally a sense of the scope of the project and a clear idea of the medallion style of design.

 

Dad then asked Fr McInally to suggest ways of giving a Scottish flavour to many of the themes, a request that gave the born-and-bred proud Scotsman great joy! For example, McInally suggested that the four evangelists, traditionally symbolised as an ox, a lion, an eagle and a man, could be portrayed as a Highland longhorn, a Scottish wildcat, a golden eagle and a stag. The reason a stag takes the place of a man will be revealed in the write-up of the relevant window …

 

Seeing the rough drawings of all the windows and the cartoon of Saint Margaret of Scotland generated much excitement for the whole project, and the priest decided he wanted all 24 windows to be fitted at the same time for maximum impact!

A full, complete design was never made, and Dad was given free rein to interpret Fr McInally’s input and ideas as he wished. None of the windows were created in sequence but at times, Dad would experience little synchronicities as he worked that seemed to suggest he was on the right path. For example, when he was checking how he should order the colours of a simplified rainbow he was designing for Window 4: The Firmament, he noticed that the rainbow order of blue, green, yellow and red mirrored the way he had ordered the seasons of the year – he had started with Winter with its shades of blue, rather than the usual Spring, with its greens and yellows.

 

Despite there being no final design to work to, the whole scheme, mainly intentionally but partly serendipitously, took shape and the windows were made and then duly fitted. I cannot begin to imagine the nerves as three years of painstaking and unique work, contained in 48 windows (24 main windows plus 24 transoms), was carefully loaded into a van and transported from Birmingham to Dundee, a journey of 363 miles.

Bee detail in stained glass window at Ss Leonard and Fergus church, Dundee, Scotland
Blue tit detail in stained glass window at Ss Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland

Blue tit detail in Window 8: The Woman at the Well.

The windows have to be seen to appreciate their full impact. The immediate feel on entering the church is of being bathed in a soft glow of colour that gradually changes from blues to greens to yellows and oranges to reds, reflecting the cycle of the seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. This is achieved by the Celtic style background pattern that connects each window, bold in some windows and only hinted at in others.

Harvesting grapes detail in Eucharist stained glass window at Ss Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland

Harvesting grapes detail in Window 15: The Eucharistic Wine.

As your eyes adjust, you start to see more detail in the windows. You can start to pick out the three main themes already mentioned as they weave their way around the church: The Days of Creation, The Seven Sacraments and a number of stories from Jesus’ Ministry. Taken together, the themes, patterns and colours work in harmony to echo the liturgical calendar that perpetually cycles through the year, with no beginning and no end.

 

Looking closer still you can see that, beyond the overarching themes, patterns and colours circling the church, each window has its own character and can be viewed in isolation. Each one features elements of ordinary life that reflect and speak to the concerns of the congregation, and link in some way to the Christian story. Many have a Scottish theme. Because the church itself is connected to Saint Fergus RC Primary School, Dad was mindful that children would be looking at the windows and so in his designs he included lots of details at children’s eye level. And, with his love of the humour often found in the craftwork of medieval cathedrals, he also included a fair sprinkling of jokes!

 

Eagle-eyed viewers might even spot the little worker honeybees dotted throughout many of the windows, there's even one on this page! They were painted by his daughter Ester when she was nine years old and represent the people of the parish, busily going about their work.

Below is a diagram of the church that marks the position of each window from 1-24. Next to it (or below, if you're viewing on a mobile) is a numbered list connecting these numbers to the names of each window. As you can see, the church roughly forms a diamond shape with the entrance of the church at the bottom ‘corner’ of the diamond and the altar at the opposite 'corner.' The first window, Window 1: The Void is to the left of the entrance and from there, the windows progress in a clockwise fashion. The windows either side of the altar, fittingly, represent The Eucharist - Window 14: The Eucharistic Bread and Window 15: The Eucharistic Wine. The windows continue down the right side of the church to the final window, Window 24: The Light, with an image of the Milky Way in the transom, which links, across the entrance, to the Void before the beginning of Creation of Window 1.

 

In the middle of the diagram are three letters, A, B and C. Each one represents a theme that circles the church, linked to the names of the themes in the adjacent list.

 

As this project progresses, each item on the list will turn into a hyperlink, which will link to a page containing a write up and photos.

Map of Ss Leonard and Fergus church, Dundee, Scotland, showing positions of stained glass windows

Themes that Circle the Church

A. The Days of Creation

B. The Ministry of Jesus

C. The Seven Sacraments

Individual Windows by Season

Summer

15. The Eucharistic Wine

16. Confirmation

17. Saints Leonard & Fergus

18. Matrimony

19. Adam & Eve

Autumn

20. The Sower

21. The Good Samaritan

22. Holy Orders

23. The Prodigal Son

24. The Light 

Gallery


Scroll through the gallery of photos below to see all 24 windows, or click on them to see more information:

Update: In May 2022 Dad, my sister Ester and I visited the church to take better photos of the windows than the ones we have. Given that the windows were installed 37 years ago, they're in pretty good shape. However, at some point between installation in 1985 and now, the frames of the seven Spring windows (8-14) have been replaced, presumably because the original ones were rotten. The windows have been put in replacement uPVC double glazed units and, to make them fit the new frames, borders of white obscured glass have been added to the lower sections of each window. In our opinion these borders detract from their appearance - it would have been better if the borders had been done in dark glass. What's more, unfortunately it doesn't look like the job was done very carefully as there are a fair few cracked pieces. Most annoyingly, one of the main windows and four of the transoms were put back in the wrong way round, and four of the transoms were also put back in the wrong position. Two of the transoms were put back in the wrong position and the wrong way round! 

On this website, by the miracle of photo-editing, I correct the following errors:

  • Window 8: The Woman at the WellTransom 11: The Sun and the Planets and Transom 12: Reconciliation (the Moon) have all been put back in the wrong way round. On this website, I flip their images so that they appear the right way round.

  • Transom 8, Transom 9 (the Papal Arms of John Paul II) have been put back in the wrong positions. I return them to their correct positions: the current Transom 8 should be above Window 13: Saints Peter and Paul, and the current Transom 9 should be above Window 8: The Woman at the Well.

  • Transom 10 and Transom 13  have been put back in the wrong positions and the wrong way round. The current Transom 10 should be above Window 9: The Almond Tree and the current Transom 13 should be above Window 10: Saint Margaret. As well as moving them, I flip the images so that they appear the right way round).

  • I remove the white border surrounding the Spring windows (8-14).

  • I 'repair' the cracked pieces of glass that were presumably broken during the replacement of the window frames.

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