top of page

Window 5: Baptism

The fifth window in the Creation and the New Creation series of windows at the church of

Saints Leonard and Fergus, Dundee.

The main focus of this fifth window is a symbolic image of the sacrament of Baptism. This sacrament marks admission into the Christian faith and, as such, is the first sacrament a person receives. Baptism is regarded as the beginning of a new life in Christ, and the death of a former life. It mirrors the Last Rites sacrament depicted in Window 3: Last Rites, which marks the end of earthly life and the beginning of eternal life. This connection is discussed more fully on the page about the theme of The Seven Sacraments that weaves its way through this series of windows (forthcoming).

The Holy Spirit as a dove hovering over the waters, a symbol of the sacrament of Baptism, detail in Window 5: Baptism in the church of Saints Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland. Designed and made by AJ Naylor.

In this window, Baptism is symbolically depicted in the lower half of the main window by the Holy Spirit as a dove hovering over the waters. The Holy Spirit is traditionally associated with the dove, based on the four gospel accounts of Jesus’s baptism, ‘And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him’ (Matthew 3.16, see also Mark 1.10, Luke 3.22 and John 1.32). The image is Dad’s own design, and is linked to his portrayal of the Last Rites in Window 3 in that the water in both is painted in a wavy, medieval style. The dove itself is in a more modern style and contains some lovely acid-etched detailing, giving it a sparkly effect, and a nimbus (halo) emanating a golden glow.

Salmon leaping up the silvery River Tay. Detail in Window 5: Baptism in the church of Saints Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland. Designed and made by AJ Naylor.
Window 5: Baptism in the church of Saints Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland. Designed and made by AJ Naylor.

Just below the Baptism image, and continuing the water theme started in Window 3: The Last Rites, are two salmon leaping in the River Tay on their journey upstream to Loch Tay. The salmon are painted onto seedy, handmade glass – glass that includes lots of tiny bubbles. As shown in the photo, the various shades of blue-green seedy glass create a perfect sparkle and shimmer for the lively, bubbly parts of a river where you find leaping salmon. Following the Tay Whale skeleton in the previous window (Window 4: The Firmament), and moving from death (the skeleton) to life (the swimming fish), these salmon

In the Catholic tradition, Baptism is performed with prayers, and blessed water is poured or sprinkled over the candidate’s head, indicating cleansing and the emergence of a totally innocent person. It connects the person to Jesus, who was baptised by John the Baptist (see Matthew 4.13-17), and who instructed the apostles to baptise others (see Matthew 28.19).

'The pearl of great price.' Detail in Window 5: Baptism in the church of Saints Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland. Designed and made by AJ Naylor.

begin to root this series more fully in the church’s geographical location of Scotland and more specifically Dundee in Perthshire, as the River Tay is one of the most important Scottish salmon rivers. In the transom of the next window, Window 6: The Temptation, the salmon appear again, only this time, are being fished for by a fly fisherman.

Continuing the Scottish theme, right at the bottom of the window is a beautiful Tay pearl, visible in an open mussel shell. Dad often took advantage of natural features in handmade glass in these windows, such as streaks of

colour, texture, bubbles, and other details. Here, the pearl in the mussel shell is a naturally occurring bubble in a piece of glass which glows like a beautiful pearl as it catches the light. While today it is illegal to gather pearls from the Tay and other Scottish rivers, in the eighteenth century there was a thriving pearling industry along the Tay, the pearls being taken from fresh-water mussels. So many mussels were destroyed in the search for pearls that they risked extinction which is why the practice is now illegal.

The Holy Spirit as a dove hovering over the waters, a symbol of the sacrament of Baptism.

Window 5: Baptism.

Salmon leaping up the silvery River Tay.

'The pearl of great price.'

The transom, with the suggestion of a saltire, the flag of Scotland, in the lower half. Detail in Window 5: Baptism in the church of Saints Leonard and Fergus, Dundee, Scotland. Designed and made by AJ Naylor.

The transom, with the suggestion of a saltire, the flag of Scotland, in the lower half.

The pearl, visible in its open shell, reminds us of the parable Jesus told of ‘the pearl of great price’ (see Matthew 13.45-46). In this gospel story, a merchant, who was in search of fine pearls, found one pearl of great worth. On finding this pearl, he went and sold all he had so that he could buy it. The pearl is symbolic of the Kingdom of Heaven, more valuable than worldly riches.

All of the detail in this window is in the lower half. Above the Baptism imagery is an array of blues, greens, whites and greys representative of both water and winter, together forming the Celtic style latticework background that connects all the windows. This patterning travels up the window and in the lower half of the transom naturally configures itself into a saltire, the Scottish flag, in which a white diagonal cross is set against a dark blue background, a play on the relationship between light and dark. While the saltire is only implicit in this window and not very pronounced, it foreshadows the more explicitly Scottish motifs of Window 7: The Scottish Window.

 

In the next window in the series, Window 6: The Temptation, as well as Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, we start to see the transition from water to dry ground, in the appearance of amphibious life and ferns. These features indicate the move to the third day of Creation on which God created dry land (see The Days of Creation theme). There are also some small hints of the beginning of Spring as the colours of the Celtic-style latticework background shift from the predominantly wintery blue colours that we have seen so far to fresher blue-greens with a few spots of green.

bottom of page