SHERBORNE ABBEY

The Great West Window

Sherborne Abbey - Great West Window by John Hayward

Among the many exceptional works of art in the Abbey the Great West Window, installed in 1997, must surely rank with the very finest.  It was designed and created by John Hayward.  The window replaced a Victorian one conceived by Augustus Pugin of the Houses of Parliament fame, but the glass had been badly fired and there was wholesale fading of the painted detail, such as the faces, hands, draperies and inscriptions, leaving just great blobs of colour and prompting one Sherborne schoolboy to remark that the saints looked like 'Mr. Blobby'.

Unfortunately, the Victorian Society objected strongly to the prospect of the Pugin window being removed, despite there being other examples of his work in the Abbey, and the whole matter had to be referred to the Court of Arches.  The Court found in favour of the Vicar and Churchwardens.

The window is a triptych, being divided by two heavy mullions.  In the centre is the Abbey's Patron Saint, the Blessed Virgin Mary, seated among the branches of a tree and holding the infant Christ on her lap.  Below her, the tree starts with the Genesis story and the Fall of Man.  Above it breaks into new life, the Cross of Good Friday and as a canopy, the empty Shroud of Easter.  The Cross then becomes the Tree of Life against the sun burst of God the Father.  The Holy Spirit is shown as a dove descending in a tongue of flame.  The side elements of the triptych are occupied by the Magi on the left and shepherds on the right