St. John’s has had two sets of church windows: the ones installed with the construction of the building in 1926 and the present ones. The original windows were surely lovely, created as they were in the gothic, triangular leaded glass style that is still found in many of Larchmont and Mamaroneck’s older homes. (They are, in fact, still present in the staircase to the balcony and the coat closet in the narthex.)
Starting in the early 1940s the congregation began a years-long project to replace the original windows with the present stained glass ones. The first to be installed, in 1945, were The Annunciation to the Angels and The Nativity in the sanctuary and The Crucifixion and The Resurrection in the chancel. These windows, as were all the windows in the church, were gifted by members of the congregation.
(Please continue reading below the gallery.)
As the remaining windows were installed, the narrative of Christ’s life and teachings came alive in pieces of painted glass. The entirety of Christ’s story is revealed, starting next to the pulpit with The Annunciation to the Angels and The Nativity and progressing down that side with Christ Teaching in the Temple and The Baptism of Christ to the Call of Peter and Andrew and The Marriage at Cana, finishing with Christ and Nicodemus and Christ with Mary and Martha. The images continue along the north wall, beginning with Christ Blessing the Children and Christ the Good Shepherd, moving on to The Widow’s Mite and Christ Healing on the Sabbath, followed by The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and The Healing of the Blind, and concluding, of course, with The Garden of Gethsemane and The Last Supper. Images of The Crucifixion and The Resurrection flank the altar and in the choir loft the resurrected Jesus rises to the Heavens. Hidden to most of us except, perhaps, a nervous bride waiting behind closed doors to walk down the aisle, are the Tudor Rose and St. John’s Eagle flanking the double doors at the entrance to the sanctuary.
Before literacy was commonplace, stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals were used as teaching tools. Thus, information in the windows was about more than just the story associated with the imagery. Color, animals, flowers, objects and other items provided important details to Christianity’s message of heaven and hell, love and redemption, and everlasting life.
Our windows are no different. We all know the “big ones”: lambs represent little children, doves mean peace, white is for purity, and red is for blood. But like most aspects of faith, the symbolism in our windows goes beyond the obvious. Contained within, you will find symbols for industriousness (bees), souls (fish), immortality (crown), the Word of the Lord (sword) and divine blessing (olives), among others. White also represents righteousness and red symbolizes sacrifice. The Holy Spirit and authority is blue; redemption is silver; life and prosperity is green; and God’s Kingdom and glory is gold.
Symbolism in numbers is seemingly infinite, but within St. John’s windows it is confined to the primary aspects of Christianity: the Beginning and God (one), Witness and Division (two), Complete, meaning Father, Son, Holy Spirit or Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (three), Creation, meaning the elements, directions, seasons or divisions of the day (four), and grace (five). Even the positioning of the church on the lot has meaning: the main entrance and stairs face east, to sunrise (i.e., a new day) and God’s light and glory; the altar is opposite symbolizing the setting sun and end of the Age; our windows over Long Island Sound face the south, a symbol of the quietness of the earth and refreshment. And the north wall is considered to be symbolic of power and authority, the throne of God and true worship.
We invite you to take the time to look around. Teach your children more than the stories depicted – make sure they understand the morals of these stories. Observe the colors of the glass and rejoice in the splendor of the ruby-reds and brilliant golds on a sunny day. Savor the contrast of the warmth of our congregation and the cool tone of the windows on a blustery day. But most of all follow the events of the life of Christ and watch God’s promise of grace and redemption unfold before your eyes.