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Our Lady Queen of Peace, Worcester

When Dad was asked to submit a design for the East Window of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Worcester in 1983, the church building had the bleakness of an old army hut. It was in the process of being renovated after being only ‘semi-permanent’ since it was originally built in 1950. The window itself was boarded on the outside so it was not possible to look through the aperture into which a new stained glass window was to be inserted. Dad was given only a vague brief: to design a window that represented the name of the church, Our Lady Queen of Peace.


Dad started with three basic ideas. First, he wanted to take this opportunity to design something more abstract than his earlier window in Dagenham. Second, it needed to represent something of Our Lady and of peace, in keeping with the name of the church. Third, he wanted the design to be simple so that it did not detract from the altar before it.


At that time, Dad was into the work of the French Post-Impressionist, Henri Matisse, and in particular, his paper cut-outs work. Dad was inspired by the windows at Vence chapel that Matisse designed; you can see their influence upon his design here.


Drawing on Matisse’s Vence chapel windows, Dad introduced, at the centre of the window and just behind the tabernacle, a beautiful golden yellow glass. It is suggestive of an aura of divine light emanating from the tabernacle – the dwelling place of the consecrated host, the body of Christ. In this, a continuity between the tabernacle and the window is established.

East window at Our Lady Queen of Peace church, Worcester, UK

Behind the golden aura is a rectangle of warm mauve glass representing the earth, with its four directions, and earthly existence. In Christian art squares and rectangles are often used as motifs representing the physical world.


Superimposed onto these simple shapes are eleven stylised fleurs de lis. Fleurs de lis are widely used in Christian symbolism, having various meanings. Here, Dad used them to represent the parishoners of the church. Each fleur de lis is green with gold pink – the same gold pink glass containing real gold that he used for the roses at Mary’s feet in the Dagenham window.


Rich blues surround the window, shaped as if in an embrace. These blues symbolise Mary, just as the blue in the Matisse windows in the Vence chapel does. Blue is also a colour of peace.


When the church was completely refurbished and the new East Window put in place, the church was consecrated by Archbishop Coeve de Murville in 1984. My parents attended the consecration and Dad introduced himself to the Archbishop. While the Archbishop was pleasant enough, Dad didn’t get the feeling he was very impressed by the window. But that is not too surprising as the Archbishop was something of a traditionalist and the window was perhaps too abstract for his taste!


Original design for East window of Our Lady Queen of Peace church, Worcester, UK

The original design for this window. Click on the image to enlarge it.

When I contemplate this window, one of the things that strikes me, apart from its simple beauty and elegance, is how the building outside affects it. When Dad made the window, the view through it was clear. Since that time, an already existing building outside was modified in such a way that it became more visible through the window. It would be easy to be dismayed by this, thinking the building has spoiled the original look of the design, but actually, I think it has added a new dimension to it.


As I wrote above, the warm mauve rectangle in the window represents earthly existence. And now, the colours and shapes of the building outside echo the rectangle – they make it less easy to see what is coloured glass and what is outside seen through clear glass. It seems very fitting that the real, everyday life outside the window becomes part of the window and, as such, is included in the embrace of Our Lady Queen of Peace.

The East window of Our Lady Quen of Peace church, Worcester, from the back of the church.

A view of the window above the altar from the back of the church, from the Taking Stock website. Click on the image to enlarge.

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