The Stained Glass Windows

The Stained Glass Windows


Westdale United Church

By Rev. Dr. Philip Gardner

Among the most subtle and fascinating of the arts is the art of stained glass, which depends for its success not only on shape and colour but also on the presence of light, without which even the most skilfully designed and painted window cannot be brought to life. Throughout time, light has been symbolically equated with goodness, revelation and beauty and has, therefore, been a focus of the philosophies and religions of humanity. In the Old Testament, Creation begins with the creation alight and in the New Testament Christ is described as “the light of life”. This perception of the importance of light combined with the desire to tell the story of the Bible in pictorial form brought about the explosion of stained glass art in the Middle Ages that came to be one of the glories of gothic architecture. We are especially indebted to the Abbe Suger, one of the creators of the gothic style, who desired to fill his Abbey Church of St. Denis with “radiant windows” through which the light would “illumine men’s minds so that they may travel through it to an apprehension of God’s light.”


In 1948, the nave, chancel, and transepts of Westdale United Church were finally completed in a design by F. Bruce Brown and Ross Brisley, renowned church architects who had been entrusted by the building committee with the task of turning an oddly-proportioned, obviously unfinished building into an inspiring space of grace and elegance. The finished church was in the gothic revival style. Inspired by the great parish churches of England, it combines elements of early gothic with its barrel vaulting, rounded nave arches and nave windows in the late 12th century ”plate” style. A more flamboyant late 14th century style is evident in the chancel arch, the flowing carving of the reredos and the “curvilinear” detail of the chancel window. What the completed church lacked was the feast of light and colour which its architectural style demanded. During the 1950’s church officials sought to rectify this by devising a plan to fill the church with stained glass windows intended either as memorials or as tributes to living persons who have made a significant contribution to the life and work of the congregation. The Rev. Dr. Thomas R. Davies, then minister, took a lively interest in the plan to fill the church windows with stained glass. The delicate task of devising a scheme for these windows was entrusted to Dr. W.T. Morrison Kelly, a professor at Emmanuel College. Taking the medieval tradition of “typology”, the matching of Old Testament themes on one side of the church with corresponding New Testament themes on the other, Dr. Kelly put forward a plan for twenty-five windows that would tell the story of the entire Bible from Creation to Christ’s final appearances after the Resurrection. The firm of Robert McCausland Ltd., which has provided church windows in Canada since the mid-19th century, was selected to design and execute the windows. The style is traditional with its roots in the efforts of artists Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and the pre-Raphaelite movement to recapture the glory of medieval glass for the nineteenth century. Great attention is paid to the painting of figures, brilliant transparent colour and the placement of lead lines as well as to rich symbolic detail. To date, the windows are the work of three designers, John Ramsden, Edward Low and Marlene Herbst.

            The plan was given a magnificent launch with the generous bequest of Mrs. Susan Hughes who made possible the commissioning of the reredos, organ screens and the installation of the most important of the church’s windows, the beautiful chancel window that draws the eye of the worshipper upward from the Sea Of Galilee, first to the gorgeously robed figure of Christ breaking bread during the supper at Emmaus and then through exultant cherubim to the very throne of God symbolized in the uppermost tracery.

            Although the plan itself has been extended somewhat to include some of the smaller windows of entranceways, it remains essentially as the late Dr. Kelly envisioned it. The glass is now nearly finished. The Chancel, North and South aisles and South transept are completed and half of the North transept; a small St. Cecilia window graces the stair to the North transept. The dramatic theme of “The Exodus” planned for the North transept will remain incomplete until donors are found. Nevertheless, anyone who has experienced the eruption of red-winged cherubim into flame as the newly warm spring sun bathes the west wall of the church knows that the legacy of the original planners and designers is a rich role. Like the building itself with its gothic treasure-trove of symbolism, the windows both delight and instruct the faithful, leading the minds of worshippers to the contemplation of the divine source of the light that is the light of the world.

The Journey

            Margaret Visser in her book The Geometry of Love suggests that a church building should present each person who enters it with the possibility of a “journey”. In this church, the journey begins at the door to the North Transept. On the left is the pilgrim’s point of departure: the sudden burst of energy and colour that is the most significant aspect of “The Creation” window and the fertile beauty of the paradisal garden. Moving through the stories of Genesis and Exodus, the path continues down the North Aisle through the books of Samuel, Kings, and the major prophets and ending with the angel’s announcement of the immanent birth of the Messiah. After travelling across the narthex the pilgrimage continues with the first window of the South Aisle depicting the story of Jesus birth. Windows that follow are concerned with Jesus’ physical and spiritual growth and ministry culminating with the “Transfiguration” and the reappearance of Moses and Elijah. Upon entering the Memorial Chapel in the South Transept, the journey continues with the story of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. Finally, on looking upward, the past the “Supper at Emmaus” taking place in the chancel window, the pilgrim is led to the tracery where, in the celestial city, the flaming cherubim and seraphim continually cry “holy, holy, holy” before the enthroned Trinity. The journey that began in a garden has ended in a heavenly city. It is the journey of our Christian faith.

The Windows of the North Transept


Presented in celebration of 50 years ministry of the Rev. Harold E. Frid by his wife, Lilojean Frid

This rendering of the creation story, vibrant with colour and movement, is the first lesson in the biblical chronicle of Westdale’s stained glass. It depicts the bursting forth of the Creation when the Spirit of God moved over the waters described in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. The waters of chaos, swirling in the centre of the window, give birth to the created order of heaven and earth. The earth appears in the middle left panel, with the sun, moon, planets and stars appearing above. The bottom sections portray the earth after the appearance of the dry land. Spiralling out from the central symbol of the trinity are the swarms of living creatures that fill sea and land. Surrounding this spiral is the lush vegetation of the earth’s garden.


Installed through the gifts of members and friends of Westdale United Church and dedicated in memory of Sam T. Burd, Alexander & Jean Cameron, Wilson & Audrey Wylie, Mary McIntosh

The rich and dramatic colours of this window reflect the intense emotions of Adam and Eve as they are expelled from the Garden of Eden following their disobedience. Their eating from the forbidden fruit of the garden is suggested in the symbol of the tree with the coiled serpent in the lower left panel. Adam and Eve move outward from the east gate of Eden, now guarded by the angel with the flaming sword into the wilderness “east of Eden” where they must now work in order to survive. In their shame and grief about their banishment, Eve and Adam have not noticed the nimbus directly above them suggesting that god is going with them on their journey. Literally, in the orientation of our sanctuary, they proceed eastward but metaphorically, they establish the clockwise movement in the salvation history represented by Westdale’s stained glass scheme which begins with the Creation and proceeds around the church to the heavenly enthroned Trinity in the chancel window tracery. Contained in the symbolism of the window are other stories from Genesis that have alienation from God as their theme. In the topmost tracery is the Tower of Babel and beneath it to the right is Noah’s Ark and the rainbow of God’s covenant. To the left, above the lushness of the paradisal garden, is the dove with the olive branch, another symbol of god’s promise to restore the world to wholeness.


Presented in memory of Priscilla Furneau, Jean Sibley & Ainsley Jamieson

In the right panel of this window, Jacob is shown sleeping on a stone with the ladder stretching up to heaven and the angels ascending and descending in the background.  The symbol directly above the ladder (the circular glory with the Hebrew characters) represents the Lord who is presiding over the event.  The Hebrew characters are translated as the word for Adonai, “the Lord” or better “my Lord”.  In the small panel at the top of the window is the breastplate bearing the twelve precious stones that represent the twelve tribes of Israel.  The breastplate is worn by the high priest and is also symbolic of the bribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.  In the right panel Jacob is depicted wrestling with an angel on his return to the promised land. (28:12).  Jacob transported his family and flocks back across the ford Jabbok when he learned that his brother Esau was coming to meet him with an army of 400 men.  In great agony of mind Jacob prepared for the worst.  He spent the night alone in communion with God and while thus engaged, a mysterious man appeared to Jacob and wrestled with him until daybreak, when the man asked to let go.  Jacob refused to do so until the man blessed him.  The man afterwards asked his name and blessed Jacob with the name Israel, meaning “one who wrestled with God”.  The symbol used in the area above the main theme is a group of sheep.  Jacob spent fourteen years in the service of Laban, tending his flocks. (31:41).  At the bottom of the two windows, in the left panel is the symbol of the hand of the Lord, with fingers extended in benediction.  The symbol echoes the text in the window, “And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”.

THE EXODUS (proposed)

The Windows of the North Aisle


Given in memory of Ruth Irene VanLoon

This window, one of the most serenely beautiful of the nave windows, depicts Samuel at the moment when it becomes apparent that God is directly calling him to a life of service. The light of the temple burns above him and in the upper tracery are the scrolls of the Torah. In the right panel is seated Eli the priest who has advised Samuel to respond to his call with the words “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Particularly notable in this window is the painting of the drapery which flows effortlessly down the stairs in the foreground. The companion for this window on the south aisle is “The Transfiguration” which depicts a similar moment of recognition of God’s direct intervention in human affairs. Like Jesus, Samuel is dedicated at a young age to service. His mother, Hannah sings a song on which Mary’s “Magnificat” is based. Moreover, the words “he grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favour with God and men” are first applied to the youthful Samuel (I Samuel 2:26).


Given in memory of Mrs. Allen Smith by Joe and Jean Barrett

            In the left panel of this window, David is presented in the gorgeous robes of kis kingship. He sings, plays the harp and is joined in song by a chorus of angels. Various instruments mentioned in the psalms adorn the tracery. The people of Israel looked upon the reign of David as their golden age. In the days of their afflictions, they dreamed of the restoration of David’s kingdom by the Messiah. This recognition is made evident in the companion window across the church depicting Christ at Caesarea Philippi where Christ’s true identity is revealed to the disciples.


Given in memory of Jean Barrett by Joe Barrett

            This is the first of a sequence of four windows showing major prophets of the Old Testament. Here Elijah heals the poor widow’s son, an act that is paralleled across the church in the window “Jesus Healing”. In the tracery other important incidents in the prophet’s life appear: Elijah in the cave being fed by the ravens and the fire on Mount Carmel.


Given in memory of Lenore Hanh and her mother Mrs. M. Cobean

Paired with the window “Jesus Preaching” this scene portrays Amos bringing the word of God to Israel. Symbolic of the prophetic role is the staff in his left hand. The anger of this prophet is evident in the clenched right fist. Elsewhere in the window, various of Amos’ prophesies appear. In the left panel “I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel” and “I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen” are depicted while in the right “I will send a fire upon Judah. It shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.”


Given in memory of Mary Slack

            The theme of angry prophesy continues in this window portrayed in intense colouring and in the symbolism of destruction and the “basket of figs”. Like Jesus in the “Temptation” window across the church, Jeremiah is tempted to give up reaching but cannot. Another important theme of this window is revealed in the upper tracery where various of the idols that have seduced the children of Israel are piled up.


Given in memory of Elizabeth Milne Eaton by Dr. Roy Morrison and his sister Hazel Watson

            This window portrays the events of Isaiah’s vision in the Temple where the prophet’s mouth is cleansed and purified by the burning hot coal removed from the altar by the six-winged cherubim. God’s throne appears in the upper tracery and God’s train spills down to the left and right panels. By this act of purification Isaiah accepts his calling and prepares to enter upon his ministry much as Christ, across the church, is cleansed by his baptism and prepares to enter his brief period of public ministry. In the lower right panel, Isaiah’s prophecy “there shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse” prepares the theme of the next window.


Given in memory of Mr. & Mrs. J. Christilaw by their daughter, Mary Wigle

            Appropriately, the final window on the North Aisle is a New Testament scene marking the fulfillment of the preceding sequence of acts and prophecies. This window owes its inspiration to Renaissance depictions of The Annunciation (especially that of Leonardo da Vinci) where Mary is surprised by the angel Gabriel in an attitude of prayer and meditation. In traditions surrounding the life of the Virgin, Mary is taken to the temple by her parents at an early age where she lives and is schooled in her faith. The open book and the other books above indicate her status as a learned woman. The predominant colours here are blue and white, the traditional colours associated with the Virgin – blue the colour of the sky and white symbolic of her purity. In the upper tracery the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the dove. In the upper left panel appear Gabriel’s words “Fear not, for Thou has found favour with God.” Appropriately, these words in the last of the North Aisle windows establish, through Mary’s quoting of Hannah, a connection with the first.

The Windows of the South Aisle


Given in memory of Mrs. W.D. Proctor by her family

This lovely window portrays the familiar scene of Christ’s birth. Mary, Joseph and the baby appear in the company of the shepherds. The text reads “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” In the lower right panel are two children caroling, a reminder of the joy of music and a tribute to the musical interests of Mrs. Proctor.


Given in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Victor E. Christilaw

Jesus’ childhood is a subject seldom treated in stained glass. In the right hand panel, the boy Jesus is seated while around him appear symbols of education and industry. In the upper tracery are the hammer and sickle and the birds of the air, while in the left panel are small figures engaged in the activities of sowing harvesting, and tending flocks all of which provide Jesus with the raw material for his parables. In the lower left panel are the scrolls of the Torah establishing a link with Samuel reinforced by the text “and Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man.”


Given in memory of Maud Patterson

This window portrays the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan at the moment when the dove descends with the message “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. John the Baptist appears in the left panel carrying a staff underscoring his role of “preparing the way.” Other traditional symbols of baptism such as the shell and the font appear in the tracery.


Presented in memory of Addison Ialene & Maud

Following His baptism, Jesus enters upon a period of testing. In this window he is surrounded by the wild beasts in the wilderness where he is to spend forty days. In the tracery are the three temptations: at the top the orb and sceptre, symbolic of the temptation to worldly power, to the right stones to bread, and to the left the temptation of presumption, indicated by the pinnacle of the temple. In the lower left Satan is portrayed as a dragon, the traditional enemy of the created universe, cast down by Jesus words “Get thee hence, Satan.”


Presented in tribute to Dr. & Mrs. A.E. Johns

This is the first of windows depicting Jesus’ ministry. It presents Jesus, scripture in hand, engaged in the activity of preaching and teaching. The familiar monogram XP (the Greek letters Chi and Rho which are the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ) and the staff appear in the tracery as well as the lamp and the open Bible both emphasizing the text “I am come that they many have life and that they may have it more abundantly.”


Presented in tribute to James Wilfrid Gardner

Like Elijah, Jesus appears here healing a poor woman’s son. The cross in the tracery labelled “faith” indicates the importance of this virtue to the process of healing. The serpent on a staff recalls Israel’s period of wandering in the wilderness and is also a familiar medical symbol. The mortar and pestle in the upper right and the test tubes in the lower left panel further establish the connection with modern medicine.


Presented in tribute to Mr. & Mrs. Walter Tate

Jesus appears in this window, surrounded by his disciples. Israel dreamed of the restoration by the Messiah of King David’s golden age and the disciples shared in this hope. Peter attempted to dissuade his master from abandoning this concept of messiahship but at this moment Christ’s true identity is revealed. The keys to the kingdom appear in the lower left panel, while the text reads “Who do men say that I am.”


Given in tribute to former ministers: Rev. G. Trimble and Rev. W. Williams

Here Christ is presented at the moment of the Transfiguration arrayed in white rather than his traditional red. He is flanked by Moses and Elijah, while the disciples cower in fear in the lower left and right panels.  In the bottom panels are the three booths that Peter says he will make for Jesus, Moses and Elijah; for a second time in this sequence of windows the voice of God descends: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye him.”

The Windows of the South Transept (Memorial Chapel)


Given in memory of Katherine McKay by her daughter, Mary McKay

This window shows the familiar scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as described in the Gospel of Matthew. A jubilant crowd welcomes Jesus, who comes into the city humbly mounted on a donkey. The crowd lay their palm branches and cloaks in front of him. The text is “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest”. The hosanna is repeated in the upper tracery as well as the royal symbol of the palm branches and crown (which reappear in the “Resurrection” window at the end of the sequence). In the lower tracery are the spilled bags of the moneychangers, foreshadowing the next story in the Gospel account of Jess’ final week.


Given by Soraya Erian Dokainish in memory of her parents: Meleika Erian & Samira Seddik

Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane that the “cup” of the events of Calvary might be removed from him. The colour green evokes the verdant nature of the garden while the intensity of Jesus’ agony is reflected in His expression. The moment of resignation can be seen in the position of the hands and in the text “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”. In the left panel, the angel bearing the cup signifies God’s willingness to spare Jesus’ human life. In the tracery are the symbol of the vine (“I am the true vine”) and the ladder, spear and sponge — symbols of the Crucifixion which is to come but also a connection with the story of Jacob, whose window is located directly across the church. In the top right panel are the sleeping disciples, while in the lower right, the symbol of the “Agnus Dei”, the Lamb of God bearing the red-crossed flag of victory over death.


Presented in tribute to Aggie B. Hahn

Finally, in the sequence of Jesus’ life the earlier pronouncements “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” receive an ironic echo in the centurion’s response to the death of Christ on the cross: “Truly this was the Son of God”. The centurion appears in the right panel with the two mourning women (the disciples are now conspicuously absent). In the left panel is the crucified Jesus with the mocking “INRI (the four initial letters of the Latin words, “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum” — Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) nailed to the cross above him. To the left and right of the cross are the darkened sun and moon and at the foot of the cross the piercing nails. The red flowers symbolize the blood while the shaft of light descending from a cloud in the right hand panel provides a comforting reassurance of God’s presence. In the tracery are the familiar symbols of the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet — alpha and omega. In the lower panel is the familiar IHS, the first three letters of Ihsus, the name of Jesus in Greek.


Given in memory of Walter Hahn

This window depicts a radiant Easter morn as described in Matthew’s gospel. While a guard sits stupefied, the two faithful women are shown the empty tomb by a splendid angel, who tells them “He is not here, for He has risen”. Beside the tomb are the discarded shroud and crown of thorns, now transformed into the crown of glory that shines brilliantly above the head of the angel. In the upper tracery are the symbols of the phoenix, rising new-born from its own ashes and the crossed palms of victory over death. In the lower panel, the cross of the crucified Jesus in the companion window is transformed into the luminous cross of faith, now empty, and symbolizing the triumph of the Resurrection over the powers of death and evil.

The Chancel Window

Made possible by the legacy of Susan Hughes in memory of Dr. & Mrs. Hughes

The chancel window has justly been called “one of the finest church windows in Canada.” Its main theme is clearly Christ at Emmaus and shows Jesus on the evening of his Resurrection breaking bread with two of his disciples. The day is “far spent”. The scene is laid in the Upper Room. The central panel which rises immediately above the cross, heightening its symbolism, reveals Jesus as he breaks the bread. The chalice appears before Him on the table. His face is illumined by the “divine light” which is burning above Him. The panels on each side depict the two disciples at the moment of recognition. One disciple’s hands are clasped in adoration as he looks into the face of Jesus. The other gazes upon the bread and the cup which the Lord gives for the nourishment of body and soul. In a moment the well-beloved form will no longer be with them and they will declare to the other disciples “How He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

The outside panels and surrounding figures compliment the main theme revealing angels sharing in the glory of this tremendous moment. The wheatsheaf is symbolic of the bread of communion and the grape motif is symbolic of the wine. The cross and the crown in the hands of the angels recall the significant words — “ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” The lower panels depict the scene by the Sea of Galilee when Jesus charges Peter with the responsibility to “Feed My Sheep” and “Feed My Lambs.” Thus, nourished at the Table of the Lord, the Church is sent into the world that she may feed humankind with the Bread of Life.

In the upper tracery is the symbol for the Trinity surrounded by cherubs and the words “Holy, Holy, Holy.” To the left is shown the Lamb of God, symbolic of the Resurrection flanked by the familiar symbols of Christ XP and IES. To the right is shown the dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, flanked by the sword and the torch, symbolic of the sword of the Spirit and the Lamp of the Spirit.



Given in memory of Jane Howlett

In contrast to the serious themes of the main church windows this small, single light window, gracing the stair from the choir room to the North Transept possesses a more whimsical quality. It is presented as a tribute to someone who offered her musical gifts in service to the congregation and, in particular, to children. St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music is portrayed in her traditional pose, a garland of red and white roses bound in her hair. She plays a small organ — the instrument she is said to have consecrated to the service of the church.