St Mary’s Aisle is known for its gorgeous windows. Six date from the 1840-50s and were part of a real passion at that time for stained glass that had its origins in the often grim reality of life in the Industrial Revolution.
Firstly, people were harking back to what seemed to them a simpler and more chivalrous time – the Medieval period. This interest in the past led to the Gothic Revival, and Truro Cathedral is a fabulous example of its impact on architecture and art.
The second factor driving high demand for stained glass was more practical – in an era when school wasn’t free or compulsory, many people couldn’t read. Stained glass windows were a vivid way of telling Bible stories.
The 1840-50s story-telling windows in St Mary’s Aisle were made by William Warrington. During the building of the cathedral, they were carefully stored for seven years and then reinstalled in the south wall in 1887. They catch the light beautifully and my personal favourites are the two that feature donkeys – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the Good Samaritan.
Stained glass window expert, Michael Swift, was baffled for a long time by one of the windows. It features what looks like a Medieval princess being serenaded by a boy with a harp. But who are they? And why does he have a bird perched on his shoulder?
The window is more modern than it looks. It was the last one to be installed in the whole cathedral, donated in 1957 in memory of John and Nan Llewellyn. They were from Neath in Wales, and that turned out to be a clue. Michael has now discovered the answer: the boy is St David, Dewi Sant, the patron saint of Wales. He is singing and playing the harp to his mother, St Non or Nonna, and the dove on his shoulder is, according to legend, teaching him and singing with him.
You can find out more about all the wonderful windows in St Mary’s Aisle through the website www.cornishstainedglass.org.uk
Which is your favourite? Please let us know @TruroCathedral #StMarysAisle
In the meanwhile, thank you to everyone who has so far supported the St Mary’s Aisle Appeal and visited our Community Exhibition. Please continue to help us spread the word.