Chapter 5 The Old Testament sequences

This section of the recommended route starts in the centre of the nave facing the west rose window and then progresses eastwards, via the transept crossing and the south quire aisle, to the sanctuary rail in the quire.

In the 1887 Master Scheme all of the upper-level windows were designated to be filled with subject-matter drawn from the Old Testament. The Scheme envisaged placing Old Testament figures and narratives in the upper windows of four distinct parts of the building (Appendix 1 for full details). Firstly the Creation and Garden of Eden narratives were to form the subjects for the west rose and the four lancets beneath. Secondly, sixty-two Old Testament figures were to be placed in the clerestory windows of all the nave, transepts and quire. They were arranged to form a chronological journey through the Old Testament from the west to the east of the building. This was to balance the ground-level Church History sequence windows which started at the east of the building and progressed as a similar chronological journey in the opposite direction from east to west. Thirdly, the subjects in the north transept rose were chosen from the Old Testament to illustrate the genealogy of Christ. Lastly, the northeast quire transept was planned to be twenty-eight Old Testament narrative scenes. These were to be a typological commentary on the New Testament Gospel narratives in the southeast quire transept window opposite.

Of this incredibly ambitious programme only the west and north rose windows were completed, and even here the subjects in the 1887 Scheme for the north rose were modified (see Chapter 4). The aim of this chapter is to examine all the elements of the projected Old Testament sequences in the 1887 Master Scheme, and to offer some suggestions why so many were not eventually inserted. As a footnote, there are details of an intriguing alternative scheme for the clerestory windows from the archive of Chancellor Worlledge.

(A) s26, s27 and n35, n36. The lancets beneath the west rose.

The 1887 Master Scheme146 and the 1902 version147 are ambiguous about the layout of the subjects of the lancets beneath the rose:

In the rose will be depicted the symbol of the Creator Spirit, and in the four lights, the Creation and the Fall.
  1. The Creation of Light, Herbs and Trees, Sun and Moon.
  2. Whales, Fowl, Beasts
  3. Creation of Adam, the Naming of the Creatures, the formation of Eve.
  4. The temptation of Eve, The Judgement on Fallen Man, the expulsion from Eden.

In the event, all the events of the six days of Creation and the seventh Day of Rest found their way into the design for the rose, whilst the narratives of the Garden of Eden and the Fall became the main subjects for the four lancets beneath.

As these lancets are positioned immediately above the western gallery, the details in this narrative sequence can be observed at close hand, unlike all the other high-level windows.

s26. Uriel and the Creation of Adam.

s26. Uriel and the creation of Adam.

s26 2. Sanctus Uriel

The archangel Uriel, holding a closed book in his left hand and with his right arm round a staff.

s26 1. The creation of Adam. Adam is blessed by the Hand of God. His head is surrounded by a ring of cherubim. A lion, a lamb and a rabbit are nearby. Flanking the scene is a pair of angels standing upon a cloud, each playing a violin.

Uriel is depicted in the upper section holding a closed book. Beneath is a scene depicting the Creation of Adam. Adam is blessed by the Hand of God. His head is surrounded by a ring of cherubim. The background of the Garden of Eden in the first three lancets is of rich and abundant foliage. In this scene are figures of a lion and lamb lying down and also a rabbit. Flanking the scene is a pair of angels standing upon a cloud, each playing a violin.

s27. Gabriel and the Creation of Eve.

s27. Gabriel and the creation of Eve.

s27 2. Sanctus Gabriel

The archangel Gabriel, holding a spray of lilies in his left hand and a scroll inscribed Ave gratia plena (Hail, full of grace) in his right.

s27 1. The formation of Eve. Adam lies naked asleep in the foreground while Eve is formed out of his rib. She holds up her head and arms toward the Hand of God which is surrounded by semicircles containing stars and rays. Eve is depicted with unbound hair. Flanking the scene is a pair of angels standing upon a cloud, playing (left) a psaltery and (right) an unidentified stringed instrument, possibly another type of psaltery.

s27 1 detail. The creation of Eve.

Gabriel is depicted in the upper section: his left hand holds up a spray of lilies and his right a scroll inscribed Ave gratia plena. Below is a scene depicting the Formation of Eve. Adam lies naked asleep in the foreground while Eve is formed out of his rib. She holds up her head and arms toward the Hand of God which is surrounded by semicircles containing stars and rays. Eve is depicted with unbound hair, and her head is surrounded by a ring of cherubim. The flanking angels are now playing plucked instruments.

n36. Michael and the Temptation.

n36. Michael and the Temptation.

n36 2. Sanctus Michael

The archangel Michael. He is wearing armour and in his left hand he holds a shield carrying the device of a St George’s cross with a sun placed behind it, while his right hand rests upon a sword.

n36 1. The Temptation. Adam is seated whilst Eve offers him an apple. Between them stands the Tree of Life laden with more apples. The red serpent is slithering down its trunk. The flanking angels show attitudes of horror with their hands covering their eyes.

n36 1 detail.

Eve offers Adam an apple.

Michael is depicted in the upper section: his left hand holds a shield carrying the device of a St George’s cross with a sun placed behind it, while his right hand rests upon a sword. The lower section is a scene depicting the Temptation. Adam is seated whilst Eve offers him an apple. Between them stands the Tree of Life laden with more apples. The red serpent is slithering down its trunk. The flanking angels show attitudes of horror with their hands covering their eyes.

n35. Raphael and the Expulsion from Eden.

n35. Raphael and the Expulsion from Eden.

n35 2. Sanctus Raphael

The archangel Raphael. In his right hand he holds his usual attribute, a fish, while in his left he holds a pastoral staff.

n35 1. The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This shows the bent figures of Adam supporting Eve, partly clothed in leaves, with a rather self-satisfied serpent now crawling on the ground. They are being driven out of the garden into a devastated landscape by the flanking angels, each one holding a flaming sword in their right hand.

Raphael is depicted in the upper section: his right hand holds out his usual attribute, a fish, while his left holds up a pastoral staff. The lower scene depicts the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This shows the bent figures of Adam supporting Eve, partly clothed in leaves, with a rather self-satisfied serpent now crawling on the ground. They are being driven out of the garden into a devastated landscape by the flanking angels, each one holding a flaming sword in their right hand.

The evolution of the designs for s26, s27, n36 and n35.

When the anonymous donor of the west rose and lancets contacted Clayton and Bell in April 1903 two conditions were laid down: that the design was to be to the approved 1887 Scheme, and that his identity should not be revealed.148 Part of the 1887 Scheme was to include the figures of the two archangels, Michael and Gabriel, in the lower west aisle lancets s25 and n34.

By August 1903, Canon Mason had received the designs for the lancets under the western rose from Clayton and Bell, and was initially unhappy with the new inclusion of the four archangels.149

I will beg you to substitute for the four Archangels, which you have given, figures representing ‘dominions, thrones, principalities and powers’. It will make no material difference to the general design, but it will rest on a scriptural basis (Colossians 1 v. 16), and whereas two of your four Archangels have not even the basis of the Apocrypha.

A later section in this long letter was obviously written after Mason had revisited Truro and realised that the lower single aisle lancets (s25/n34) which it is now proposed to fill with Michael and Gabriel, in no way group themselves with the rose and its four lancets, but rather with another set of windows in the lower part of the towers.150 It is obvious that when the 1887 Master Scheme was formulated, no-one had realized from the plans that the western gallery would block the view, and there would be no visual unity between the upper rose and lancets upper windows and the two lower west aisle windows.151 With this admission that he had got the spatial arrangement of the windows wrong, Mason now revised his advice on the suitability of the archangel subjects in the four lancets.

In these circumstances, I should like to ask whether it would be better somewhat to alter the general scheme, and to make the angelic figures in the four lancets represent the four angels named in the Bible (including Apocrypha), i.e. Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Gabriel.

All of this was qualified by the need to secure the agreement of both Chapter and the anonymous donor, as it was a major alteration to the 1887 Scheme. Such approval was obviously granted as all of Mason’s suggestions appear in the finished window. Now that Michael and Gabriel were incorporated into the lancets under the rose window, new subjects for s25/n34 were not proposed at this stage (Chapter 13).

As always, Mason’s relationship with Clayton and Bell extended far beyond the broad decisions on the subject matter of the windows. In the same letter we see his close involvement with the artistic representation of the subjects.

In the left hand lower lancet, the figure of Adam appears to me stiff and hardly pleasing. I would suggest that the right foot should be represented as already drawn out of the ground and planted upon it, so as to give the bent knee; and, unless you think it would be too close a repetition of the action of the Eve in the next light, Adam’s left hand might be sketched upwards towards the Creature Hand, as in the Michelangelo’s picture.152

Again, the finished result shows that all of Mason’s suggestions were included. It is remarkable how much energy and effort Mason devoted to the overall implementation of the Master Scheme, as well as the detailed window designs, at a time when he was Master of Pembroke College and Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University.153

(B) The main clerestory sequence

The vision of a complete chronology of Old Testament persons using all the clerestory windows was inspired but fatally flawed. The planned clerestory sequence, with Adam and Eve next to the Creation lancets at the west end through to Simeon with Anna and Zacharias with Elizabeth in the clerestory windows next to the great east window, had two major breaks in the sequence. This occurred where New Testament themes were to be elaborated: firstly at the north transept, where Christ’s genealogy from the Old Testament was to be illustrated, and secondly at the northeast quire transept where typological narratives from the whole of the Old Testament were to be set opposite the Gospel narratives in the southeast quire transept.

This was indeed a major practical flaw in the whole concept. The scheme for the north transept rose and the northeast quire transept windows (N13 and N4) removed from the clerestory sequence some of the most important and obvious subjects from the Old Testament. Therefore, unless there was to be a lot of repetition of subjects, the clerestory sequence was bound to include some very minor Old Testament figures (see Appendix 1). These would be singularly unattractive to potential donors. Also, whereas the donor of the western windows wished to protect his anonymity, future donors to the clerestory windows would be deterred if it would be impossible to read their dedications from the floor of the cathedral.

However, besides the practical problems, another obstacle to the fulfilment of the clerestory scheme was aesthetic. From the consecration of the cathedral in 1887, the effect of the stained glass on limiting the amount of light within the building was a cause for concern to Pearson and the Chapter as well as contemporary observers.

The east wall of the choir is filled with early glass of dark hue and with small figures. If this is adhered to throughout the church will be anything but light. The architect intends to make the clerestory windows lighter and more translucent than those in the transept and the choir.154

However, the intention to complete the clerestory sequence in some form or another persisted for fifteen years. In 1894, Mason suggested starting in the clerestory windows of the quire with modifications drawn from his observations of medieval clerestory glass at Chartres and Quimper.155 As late as 1904, Mason was still suggesting clerestory windows as one of the uses of the Feobell legacy: how would it be to make a beginning with the clerestory—say the S. Transept?156 This was the last recorded evidence that the possibility of starting the clerestory sequence was raised. There is no direct evidence whether the subsequent failure to implement this part of the 1887 Master Scheme was due to practical or aesthetic reasons, or probably a combination of both. There is however one fascinating footnote to the clerestory windows, which is in Section (E) below.

(C) n15n20. The lancets beneath the north transept rose.

n20 (left). Eve, semen mulieris (the seed of the woman), with her two children, surrounded by briars and thorns.

n19 (right). Sarah, spes gentium (the hope of the nations), bringing the cakes to her angelic visitors among the foliage and acorns of the terebinth.

n18 (left). Tamar, Leo de tribu Juda (the lion of the tribe of Judah), shaded by the graceful palm from which her name is derived.

n17 (right). Rahab, peccatorum amicus (the Friend of Sinners) with the scarlet cord and the flax plant, with which she covered the spies, about her.

n16 (left). Ruth, sol justitiae (the Sun of Righteousness), holding in her hands her veil and kinsman’s shoe, and the corn stalks on either side.

n15 (right). Bathsheba, radix David (the root of David), crowned as queen, and the vine of David encircling her figure.

Beneath the north transept rose window are six lancets. These form the first major break in the planned chronological Old Testament sequence for the upper windows. Whereas the north transept rose window follows the Hebrew paternal line of ancestry (Chapter 4), the lancets below start with Eve and Abraham’s wife Sarah, and then include the four women specifically mentioned in St Matthew’s gospel, namely Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. The characteristics that these four women have in common are that they were either of foreign stock or had foreign husbands. As we have seen, in the overall Master Scheme the iconography of the rose window works as being one third of the sequence of Holy Trinity rose windows. However, taken as a separate entity, the north transept rose endorses the male and royal line of Christ’s ancestry, whilst the lancets below draw attention to the sub-text of the place of non-Jewish women in both the ancestry of Christ and in the Jewish connection with Gentiles. This is typical of the manner in which the windows at Truro are both part of an over-arching scheme for the whole building and at the same time individually presenting further subtexts of meaning and levels of interpretation.

In the 1887 Master Scheme these lancets were not designated to be filled with stained glass, and they remained as plain glass for fifteen years. By 1894, Canon Mason was already proposing ideas to extend the Master Scheme and fill these lancets:

What do you think, on the other hand, of filling one or two of the six lights under the rose window of the north transept? Eve with the thorns and thistles, or Sarah with the terebinth, and perhaps a scene or two, would be a nice subject, and scriptural; and perhaps it would be seen more clearly than the clerestory.157

Notice that Mason was already conscious of the practical and aesthetic problems inherent in the projected sequence of windows in the clerestory.

Two years later, Mason had refined his idea:

that it would be a very effective and appropriate treatment if they were filled with the six ancestresses of our Saviour, with their symbolic plants or trees … I hope that these figures might still be kept as the chief subjects of these lights. It would be more interesting than to take again some of the male ancestors whose heads are in the Jesse rose above; and anything quite different would throw out the genealogical scheme. The only other thing I can think of would be to find a series of scenes in the genealogical history, without figures; but I would not like this so well158

Another illuminating feature of this letter again shows Mason’s involvement not only with the window’s iconography but also with its detailed design.

The plants (i.e. the attributes of the six female figures) may be powdered over the field of the window upon grisaille, if that were thought well,—or upon bands above and below the figures. Or if it were wished, there might be circular scenes accompanying the figures—the birth of Seth—the expulsion of Hagar—Tamar displaying the bracelet—Rahab concealing the spies—Ruth and Boaz—Bathsheba honoured by Solomon (1 Kings ⅱ.19).159

Within two weeks Chancellor Worlledge had approved Mason’s figurative ideas, subject to the Bishop’s approval. The proposal to fund them by dedicating the windows to the memory of Canons Martin, Phillpotts and Wise met with very little public response.160 Six years later however the windows were inserted1605, the money being raised by public subscription in memory of Lady Protheroe Smith, the widow of a Mayor of Truro. A footnote to this was a letter from Frank Loughborough Pearson to the effect that in his opinion the glass in colour was rather light,161 indicating that although John Loughborough Pearson’s son had been entrusted with the completion of the building to his father’s designs, it was Mason who had total responsibility for the stained glass windows by this time.

(D) N4. The northeast quire transept.

This quire transept was the second major break in the planned chronological Old Testament sequence of the clerestory windows. It was intended to be a typological commentary on the Gospel subjects in the southeast quire transept opposite (S4) (see Appendix 1D). The upper lights were to include narrative scenes from the Old Testament illustrating types of the Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection and Ascension; whilst the lower lights were to be narrative scenes illustrating types of the Church in the two outer lights, and Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist in the inner lights. These typological relationships will be dealt with in detail in Chapter 7, and they are also relevant to the iconography of the Sanctuary reredos and great east window in Chapter 6.

Whilst the stained glass of Gospel subjects in the southeast quire was inserted in 1897, there is no evidence of any donor coming forward for the Old Testament northeast transept opposite; that is, until it was raised in discussions between Canon Mason and Chancellor Worlledge in 1904:

I feel no doubt about the NE Transept window. It is in the right place, in travelling round the Cathedral, to put the typical Old Testament scenes; and I do not think anything can be of greater teaching value, especially at the present time, than such a pictorial use of the Old Testament. From what you say, however, I doubt whether the executors would allow the Feobell legacy to go to part of a window, and I suppose it would not suffice to do the whole.162

Discussions with the executors must have continued, for in May 1905 Clayton and Bell put in an estimate for the lower transept lights of £427, with a quote on two lights of the retro-quire of £255.163 Sadly, Mason’s fears about the executors’ unwillingness to donate for only part of a window were obviously well-founded, the plan remained unfulfilled, and the northeast quire transept remains plain glass to this day.

However, there is in existence164 a coloured sketch (vidimus) of the projected design (upper and lower) for the North Transept of the Choir and signed by Clayton and Bell. It is undated, but seems almost certain to have accompanied their 1905 estimate. As Clayton and Bell’s archive was destroyed in the London blitz, this is a very valuable example of how such a major window design was presented to potential donors.

The sketch sets out the design for each of the panels of both the upper and lower parts of the window’s four lights, showing that all the subjects in the 1887 Master Scheme were included unchanged nearly twenty years later. In both the upper and lower levels they were to be read in chronological order from top to bottom, reflecting the same arrangement of the narrative panels in the southeast quire transept window opposite (S4). Incidentally, this is in contrast with the lower great east window e1 which is read from bottom to top. The sketch also shows the provision for a memorial inscription across all four lights in the lower level. The upper level lights are surmounted by two quatrefoils depicting the Agnus Dei and the Phoenix. The lower lights are surmounted by four quatrefoils depicting the Dove of the Holy Spirit, the scallop shell, the Chalice and the Hanging Pyx.

In the absence of any further documentation, it is not possible to know how many of the twenty-eight narrative scenes in the sketch were originally created for Truro or whether Clayton and Bell were reworking existing cartoons. Many of the scenes are portrayed with a dynamic vigour (e.g., Noah, Elijah and Jonah) that is lacking in some of the predellas of the Church History sequence. Had they been inserted, there can be no doubt that aesthetically the quire and sanctuary would have been greatly enhanced, compared to the deadening effect of the plain glass in the northeast transept today. There can be no argument that Mason’s aim to have something of great teaching value would have been triumphantly achieved. The projected scheme is a salutary reminder how biblically literate the Victorians were.

(E) The armorial alternative for the clerestory windows

The 1905 correspondence165 is the last documentary reference to the Old Testament sequence for the upper windows, and it can be assumed that for either aesthetic or practical reasons, or a combination of the two, the idea of such stained glass subjects in the clerestory had by then been shelved.

However, there is in existence an unsigned and undated notebook166, in Chancellor Worlledge’s and Canon Mason’s handwriting, which takes the story one stage further. It must be dated after 1902 when the nave had been finished. The new scheme was to abandon the Old Testament scheme and to fill the clerestory windows with armorials and heraldic designs. One must presume that this was chosen as a last resort in an attempt to attract donations or contributions from Cornish families.

The notebook suggested that the clerestory windows of the quire were to have the arms of four Cornish Priories (Bodmin, St Germans, Launceston and Tywardreath). The remaining windows could be filled with eight of the ancient and Chief Cornish Boroughs, but with the observation that such arms were mostly late and full of trivial detail, very different to the effective and simple medieval coats. A preferred alternative was the arms of the great medieval Cornish institutions and families; it seems the very place as the Choir is so essentially the Church’s part of the building. Specifically the arms of the Earldom of Cornwall and the County and Dukedom were suggested, as well as the arms of St Piran (sic), and the Diocese of Exeter.

There then follows a long list of Cornish families whose arms were allocated to specific clerestory windows in the nave. These are divided into Pre- and Post-Reformation, with the proviso that persons pre-eminent for their service to the Church should have preference providing they were persons of great consequence.

Towards the end of this projected list of possibilities and alternatives comes the following passage:-

I omit the following families for these reasons [author’s note:- in view of the opinions expressed the names of the families have been omitted]:-

  1. Family A: because already so frequently displayed in the Cathedral
  2. Family B: because I can find so little record of public service
  3. Family C: because never of great importance and remarkable only for prolific breeding and longevity
  4. Family D: the same without the longevity
  5. Family E: because their interests have been outside Cornwall

The following families [four families are listed] which were ‘good and old’ and nothing much besides are worth noting because they have representatives who would perhaps defray the cost of a shield.

The numbers of families never good nor old nor distinguished whose representatives would willingly come forward (even across the Atlantic) is legion. I will refrain therefore from a list!167

The comment to defray the cost of a shield betrays that the writers’ intention was to fish for patronage. It is a fascinating footnote to the whole narrative of the clerestory windows, and in view of the candid nature of some of the comments, obviously not intended for public view!

References

  1. TC: p 44.
  2. ABD p 387.
  3. CCRO TCM/434 Minutes of the Cathedral Local Building sub committee 2nd April 1903.
  4. CCRO TCM/546/14 section 2. Letter 11th August 1903 from Canon Mason (The Precincts, Canterbury) to Clayton and Bell.
  5. CCRO TCM/546/14 section 3. Letter 11th August 1903 from Canon Mason (The Precincts, Canterbury) to Clayton and Bell.
  6. Today the situation is further exacerbated by the west narthex (built 1980s).
  7. CCRO TCM/546/14 section 2. Letter 11th August 1903 from Canon Mason (The Precincts, Canterbury) to Clayton and Bell.
  8. Mason had also married in 1898 and by this time had a young family.
  9. Church Times 11th February 1887.
  10. CCRO TCM/1049/2 Letter from Canon Mason 14th November 1894 (7. Trinity Square) to Chancellor Worlledge … When I was last at Truro I thought a good deal about those clerestory windows and their irregularity; and I quite think that in the large ones it will be necessary to have something else besides the single figures. I do not, however, feel quite so certain that a scene below the principal figure would be altogether the best treatment. So high up, a scene would be somewhat lost; and it would also seem a little lacking in imagination, perhaps, to have the upper windows made so uniform with the lower ones. At Chartres, and other great churches abroad, there is a singular irregularity; and there, without interrupting the great solemn rows of figures, they have a variety of means of filling up the space. Sometimes two figures, not grouped, are set side by side in one light. Sometimes below the main figure there are kneeling figures of the donors. Sometimes the main figure (especially at Quimper) carries the donor on his shoulders. I think on the whole, if I rightly remember the width if the windows you refer to, I should be inclined to put two figures abreast. More of the Kings could easily be added to my former selection. And for the length, if required, I think I would put below such a figure as David’s, a bold three-quarter length angel with scrolls of voluminous texts from the Psalms, which I would gladly chose, if the idea is approved. I might perhaps say however that it is quite in accordance with the style to have colossal figures in the clerestory.
  11. CCRO TCM/919 Letter from Canon Mason to Chancellor Worlledge on windows 1st April 1904.
  12. CCRO TCM/1049/2 Letter from Canon Mason 14th November 1894 (7. Trinity Square) to Chancellor Worlledge.
  13. CCRO TCM/1049/3 Letter from Canon Mason 25th. June, 1896 (Canterbury) to Chancellor Worlledge.
  14. CCRO TCM/1049/3 Letter from Canon Mason 25th. June, 1896 (Canterbury) to Chancellor Worlledge.
  15. CCRO TCM/1134 Residentiary Chapter Minute Book 1888–1901: 5th August, 1896.
  1. Insertion reported RCG p 2, Cornish Telegraph p 3.
  1. CCRO TCM/1135 Chapter minutes 11th February, 1902.
  2. CCRO TCM/919 Letter from Canon Mason to Chancellor Worlledge 1st April, 1904.
  3. CCRO TCM/547/2 Estimate from Clayton and Bell 16th May 1905.
  4. The property of the Truro Cathedral Chapter, and currently in the office of the Canon Missioner.
  5. CCRO TCM/547/2 Estimate from Clayton and Bell 16th May, 1905.
  6. CCRO TCM/1554 Notebook on a possible clerestory scheme.
  7. CCRO TCM/1554 Notebook on a possible clerestory scheme.