With windows dating back almost two centuries the stained-glass windows in the Cathedral are both beautiful and educational.
Stained-glass windows can be incredibly beautiful pieces of art, but they would also originally have acted as an educational resource for the Church. At a time when most people were unable to read or write, stained-glass windows were used to explain the stories of the bible in picture form. To follow the story of a stained-glass window you read from bottom to top, rather than from left to right (as you would when reading a book). The story always begins with the image in the bottom of the left hand window pane, then moves to the right and the centre panel is read last.
Unfortunately, no original windows survive in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral; the oldest windows date from the middle of the nineteenth century.
At the West End of the Cathedral is the window known as the “Saint Patrick’s Window”. This tells the story of the life of Saint Patrick in 39 different episodes beginning with his kidnapping from Wales and going right up to his death and burial in Ireland. This window was made by the firm of William Wailes & Co. in northern England and was installed in the nineteenth century during the Guinness restoration period. It was completely restored in 2004 at a cost of €500,000. Wailes also made the main windows in the South Transept and the windows in the East End of the Lady Chapel.
The window in the North Transept is dedicated to Edward Cecil Guinness, Lord Iveagh and son of Benjamin Lee Guinness. Continuing his father’s great support of the building, Edward gave a new peel of bells to the Cathedral in 1897. Three of the four other windows in the North Transept commemorate three different wars – the First World War, the Crimean War and the South African War.
In the north transept is a window by well-known Irish artist Sarah Purser (1848-1943) who was part of Irish arts movement known as “An Túr Gloine”. Made in 1906, the window contains a depiction of King Cormac of Cashel. Its dedicated to the Irish men who died in the Boer War.
Another Guinness window can be seen at the end the South Choir Aisle, inside the gate to the Lady Chapel. This window commemorates Annie Lee Plunkett, wife of Archbishop Plunkett, and daughter of Benjamin Lee Guinness. She was renowned for her charitable work, and is remembered here with a very appropriate text of scripture for her family, ‘I was thirsty and ye gave me drink’.
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