I Spy Stained Glass


Stained glass designers down the centuries have evolved symbolic methods for depicting key people or events. I am not thinking of those symbols which stained glass designers share with or borrow from artists who work in other media; I am specifically thinking of symbols which just occur within stained glass.

Now I do know how last week (August 15th) saw the Assumption (i.e. the Virgin Mary).

But here is the stained glass symbol which you can often find in English churches to represent the Ascension (Jesus). It’s intriguing. I hope you’ll have a look.

The Ascension

So of course you’ll know the usual image which will occupy a full-sized lancet window: Jesus, hands held up, feet hidden behind his clothing to suggest his upward flight to Heaven.

But this is the small, symbolic image which you’ll often find (if you look for it) in the same window:

Stained glass ascension

The Ascension in stained glass

It’s an aerial view of Jesus’ foot-prints. So, seen from above, this is the space he has now left: an imprint in the grass.

Next time you see a full-sized stained glass Ascension, look closely and see if you can find the corresponding symbol.


David Williams of Williams & Byrne, the glass painters