Stained Glass Window History and Symbolism

Have you ever wondered what all of the windows in our historic sanctuary mean? Read on to learn the fascinating history and meaning behind each of the windows.

The windows are made of different glass. The south windows are made of the original glass that was imported. At some point in our church’s history, the other windows in the sanctuary were removed and replaced with newer glass. This change represents two different ages in our history. Each window contains some of the finest instructive symbolism in the entire church.

Within all the windows except the south wall are symbols in plain black silhouettes.

  1. The Fleur-de-lis, a french lily, like many flowers, a symbol of the resurrection, and as well, because of its three parts, a symbol of the Holy Trinity.
  2. Crowns, symbolic of Christ’s kingship over time and eternity.
  3. Greek Crosses, which are a type of cross in which all four arms are of equal length.
  4. At the bottom of the windows, in color, are flowers, again symbolic of the resurrection, for as seeds are placed in the ground and die that the flowers may grow, so Christ’s earthly body died, and he rose to immortal life.
  5. At the top of the windows, around the crowns, are colored vines, which remind us of Christ’s word that he is the True Vine, and we are the branches.

Each of the windows in the sanctuary have a single medallion three-quarter of the way up which has a symbolic meaning.

This is an elaborated Roman Cross, which is the basic cross design of Christendom. This one is highly stylized and each of the arms contains three pearls, symbolic of the Holy Trinity.
Here are lilies, a symbol of the Resurrection. Which is why Lillies are always present on our chancel and communion table at Easter.
The communion cup is, of course, symbolic of the Last Supper, where Jesus said, “This cup is My blood which is shed for you.” (Matthew 26:27-29)
The open Bible superimposed on a Roman Cross, showing the fact that the Word of God reveals Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
The two ancient tablets, with the Roman numerals I to X are a traditional Jewish symbol for the Ten Commandments. The tablets are surrounded by clouds representing God’s presence with Moses on the mountain and with the nation of Israel in the wilderness.
A reclining lamb is reminiscent of the prophetic passage in Isaiah, where it says, of Christ, “He was… led as a lamb to the slaughter.” (Isaiah 53:7) But the Lamb carries a banner, symbolic of the fact that Christ not only died but more importantly arose.
The sheaf of wheat comes from Christ’s description of Himself as “The Bread of Life” (John 6:35)
The medallion contains a bunch of grapes, reminiscent of Christ’s Last Supper, and His comparison of the cup of wine to His own blood.

An anchor is a traditional symbol for Christian faith; we are rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation. (Ephesians 3:17)

The lamp, here an ancient oil vessel, is based on John 8:12 where Jesus describes Himself as ” The Light of the World.”

Lilies of the Valley remind us of when Jesus said that if God takes care of the lilies of the field so well, He will surely take care of us, His children. (Matthew 6:28)

The flower here, showing its seed pods, is a symbol that Christ’s Church grows from age to age; like continuing floral life, one generation seeds the other.

The descending dove is one of the few symbols of the Holy Spirit and is based on the passage in Matthew (3:16) when Jesus was baptized and God’s Spirit came down over Him like a descending dove.

This medallion is based on a medieval legend (not based in fact) that in time of famine the pelican would pluck her own breast until the blood flowed in order to feed her young. Symbolic of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sakes.
At the top of the south wall, this window has eight points (eight is the mystic medieval number for immortality), and in the center, a medallion with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, reminding us of Revelation 1:8, where Jesus says, ” I am the Alpha and the Omega.”
The window over the west door and the window over the east door contain two matching medallions. One is the Greek letter Alpha and the other is the Greek letter Omega.
In the choir loft there are two windows; the medallion on the west is a crown, with the same meaning as elsewhere; the east window has roses in it, in reference to the “Rose of Sharon” from the Song of Solomon 2:1.
In the east stairwell, the medallions are for St. John and St. Mark. St. John is represented by an eagle because the eagle flies higher than any other bird, and St. John’s Gospel gives a higher understanding and witness for Christ than any other written work in the world.

St. Mark is represented by a winged lion, because the lion is an ancient symbol of royalty, and because in his Gospel St. Mark wrote of the royal dignity of Christ. The lion has wings as a symbol of the Resurrection since Christ the King did not die, but lives.

In the west stairwell, the medallions are for St. Matthew and St. Luke. St. Matthew is represented by an angel holding a crown. The angel symbol for the belief that his pen was guided by angelic hands and the crown is symbolic of the fact that St. Matthew presented, for all to read, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

St. Luke is represented by a winged ox. In ancient times the ox was used as an animal of sacrifice, and as a Christian, the symbol reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. It is used as a symbol for St. Luke because in his Gospel he emphasized Christ’s sufferings and death.