Chapter 7 The typological sequences in the quire transepts

The recommended route now returns to the sanctuary rail in the quire. Whilst the great east window is the cathedral’s focal point, the windows in the quire transepts are, despite their size, the least visible windows in the building, visible from the sanctuary rail only. The Master Scheme set out a detailed typological scheme for both quire transept windows, but, as we have seen (Chapter 5) the north window was never executed. Typological schemes were common in medieval windows, and involved the juxtaposition of Old Testament figures and scenes as types or prototypes for events from the Gospels.185 Such a scheme is also the basis of the iconography of the reredos.186

S4. The southeast quire transept.

Donor, dedicatee and insertion.

This window was the result of a gift of £900 from Lady Eliza Truscott for a memorial to her husband, Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott. He was born in Cornwall and was Lord Mayor of London in 1880, the year of the laying of the Cathedral’s foundation stone. He is one of the figures in the predella of the Benson window which shows the laying of the foundation stone (n33—see Chapter 12). This transept window was inserted in 1897.187

S4. This window was erected by Lady Eliza Truscott to the glory of God and in memory of her beloved husband Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott born at Truro who as Lord Mayor of London assisted at the laying of the foundation stone of this Cathedral by H: R: H: the Prince of Wales on the .

The Adoration of the Magi and scenes from the life of Christ.

S4 tracery rosette. The central panel contains the sacred monogram IHS surrounded by four cherubim. The seven outer panels each show a cherub, two of whom hold scrolls on which is written Et vocabunt nomen ejus Emmanuel (And they shall call his name Emmanuel) (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). The other five cherubs play, clockwise from the top, a psaltery (the cherub is holding a plectrum in its right hand), a viol, an unidentified stringed instrument (perhaps another psaltery; this cherub also has a plectrum in its right hand), cymbals and a trumpet.

The window consists of four lights below a tracery rosette. The centre of the rosette is the sacred monogram, and is surrounded by seven panels of cherubim. Two of these hold inscribed scrolls, whilst the remainder play a variety of musical instruments. The main scene in the window spread across all four lights is a depiction of the Adoration of the Magi. Beneath this scene are eight predellas, two in each light. Their subjects, detailed in the 1887 Master Scheme under the heading of events of the thirty-three years’ life and ministry188 are the flight to Egypt above the Doctors in the Temple; Christ in the carpenter’s shop above Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist; Christ’s temptation in the desert above the wedding at Cana; and finally the Sermon on the Mount above the Transfiguration.

There was one major deviation from the 1887 Master Scheme. There, two subjects were allocated for the main sections of the window, namely the Annunciation to the Shepherds and the Adoration of the Magi. When Lady Truscott’s gift was announced in December 1896, Chapter records show that some discussion took place with regard to the subject of the window as expressed in the authorised scheme for the stained glass of the Cathedral.189 As a result of this meeting the Annunciation to the Shepherds was dropped, and the involvement of Canon Mason in the change was confirmed:

The Chancellor undertook to communicate with Canon Mason, under whose supervision the designs had been carried out by Clayton and Bell, on the subject and the method of execution thereof.

Within two months Mason produced what proved to be the final design.190 Two questions therefore remain to be answered: why was the Annunciation to the Shepherds dropped from the main scene, and secondly, why were these specific eight Gospel events chosen?

The Annunciation to the Shepherds was already included in the design for the lower east window (e1 in Chapter 6). Removing it from the scheme for the southeast quire transept puts the focus of the quire transept window primarily on the central role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It also enhances the significance of the gifts of the Magi. The artistic treatment of this depiction of the Adoration of the Magi is in marked contrast to the manner in which the same scene was portrayed in the lower east window (e1 left lancet in Chapter 6). There the event was treated on a small scale and with an intimacy appropriate to the retro-quire’s architectural space and narrowing lancet head. Here the scene straddles all four lights and takes up over half the total window space of one of the largest stained glass windows in Cornwall. The presence of the full-length figure of the Archangel Gabriel, who is depicted holding a lily and a wheel191, links directly back to the scene of the Annunciation in the lower east window (e1 left lancet). The presence of another angel behind Mary, a crown at her feet and another lily held by Joseph, concentrates the whole theological focus of the scene on the fulfilment of the promises made to her at the Annunciation, and the significance of the Magi’s gifts.

As with the great upper east window, there is an internal coherence within each light of this window. There is a complex relationship between the Magi and the other figures in the main scene, their gifts, and the ‘human and spiritual’ division between the main scene and the predellas beneath. Two of the four lights expand on the theme of the Magi’s gifts, whilst the other two show the manner in which these gifts provide a commentary on the chosen Gospel narratives.

Gloria in altissimis Deo Et in terra pax

S4 3a upper and S4 3d upper. Two angels in each panel hold a scroll on which is written Gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax (Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace [, good will toward men]) (Luke 2:14).

Melchior brings frankincense The Blessed Virgin Mary and infant Jesus Caspar, Balthazar and Joseph The archangel Gabriel

S4 3a to S4 3d. Ecce magi ab oriente vener(un)t Ieros(oly)mam dicentes ubi est qui natus est rex Judæorum. Vidimus enim stellam ejus in oriente. Et venimus adorave [sic] eum. (Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him). (Matthew 2:1–2)

The Adoration of the Magi.

  1. S4 3a. Melchior brings a gift of frankincense.
  2. S4 3b. The Blessed Virgin Mary and infant Jesus. Behind them stands an angel holding a staff and at their feet are a crown, belonging to Caspar, and a richly decorated vessel, Balthazar’s gift of myrrh.
  3. S4 3c. Caspar, on the left, brings a gift of gold. On the right is Balthazar, who brings myrrh. Behind them stands Joseph, holding a lily.
  4. S4 3d. The archangel Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation, holding a wheel and a lily.
S4 2a Accepit puer(um) et matr(em) ejus (nocte) et secess(it) in Ægypt(um) (He took the young child and his mother [by night] and departed into Egypt) (Matthew 2:14).

The Flight to Egypt.

S4 1a. (In)venerunt illum in templo sedent(em) in med(io) doct(orum) (They found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors) (Luke 2:46).

Christ addresses the Doctors in the temple.

In the first light Melchior is shown presenting the gift of frankincense, a symbol of holiness and righteousness, relating directly to the two scenes below from the early life of Christ. The Flight to Egypt emphasises that Christ was saved from the fate of the rest of the babies in Bethlehem for His ultimate fate on the Cross. Christ addressing the Doctors in the Temple relates to the events in the Temple in the Passion narrative.

S4 2b. Venit Nazareth. Et erat subdit(us) illis (He came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them) (Luke 2:51).

Christ with Mary and Joseph in the carpenter’s shop.

S4 1b. Venit Jesus a Galil(æa) in Jordan(en) ad Joan(nem) ut baptiz(aretur ab eo) (Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him) (Matthew 3:13).

The baptism of Christ.

By contrast, in the second light, the depiction of the Mother and Child with an attendant angel leads directly to the normality of Christ’s early life in the scene of the carpenter’s shop in the first scene below. However, at the foot of the Nativity next to Caspar’s crown is Balthazar’s gift of myrrh. The lower scene of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist marks the start of His ministry which would ultimately lead to the Crucifixion. The gift of myrrh to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice.

S4 2c. Jesus ductus est in desert(um) ut tentar(etur) a diab(olo) ([Then] was Jesus led up [of the Spirit] into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil) (Matthew 4:1).

The Temptation in the desert. The scroll beside Jesus reads Non in solo pane vivit homo (Man shall not live by bread alone) (Matthew 4:4).

S4 1c. Dic(it) eis Jesus havrite nunc et fert(e) architric(li)no (And Jesus saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast) (John 2:8).

The first miracle: turning water into wine.

The third light again focuses on the nature of the Magi’s gifts and Christ’s subsequent ministry. As a bridge between Christ’s early family life and His ministry, Joseph in the background stands looking backwards to the family scene in the second light. The gifts of gold from Caspar and myrrh from a crowned Balthazar refer to Christ’s kingship and divinity. The offering of gold relates directly to Christ’s rejection of worldly riches in the scene of the Temptation in the desert immediately below, whilst the scene of the first miracle at the wedding at Cana launches the events of Christ’s ministry as a direct result of Mary’s request to perform his first miracle by changing the water to wine.

S4 2d. Docebat eos dic(ens) beati pauperes sp(iri)tu ([He] taught them, saying, blessed are the poor in spirit) (Matthew 5:2–3).

The Sermon on the Mount.

S4 1d. Transfig(uratus) est ante eos et resplend(uit) facies ei(us) sic(ut) sol ([He] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun) (Matthew 17:2).

The Transfiguration. In the foreground are the disciples Peter, John and James. Above them are, on the left, Moses, carrying the tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments and, on the right, Elijah, holding a banner on which is written Exaudi me Domine (Hear me, O Lord) (1 Kings 18:37).

In the final light the Angel of the Annunciation stands above two scenes of revelation and teaching to the disciples, namely the Sermon on the Mount and the Transfiguration. Whilst these two scenes lead directly on to the Gospel narrative of the Passion sequence in the lower East window (e1 centre and right lancets in Chapter 6) they also echo the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary and the words of the Magnificat (e1 left).

Thus, what is portrayed in the upper section of each light is the key to understanding the selection of the Gospel events in the predellas and their theological significance. The ways in which the scenes in the lower east window (e1) frame these eight Gospel scenes is yet another example of the ways in which Benson and Mason created an integrated scheme that linked all of these large-scale windows in the retro-quire, quire and sanctuary.

N4. The northeast quire transept.

Projected scheme for the upper lights of N4. Larger version (2543 × 2577). The subjects are listed in Appendix 1D.
Projected scheme for the lower lights of N4. Larger version (2564 × 2083). The subects are listed in Appendix 1D.

Such a complex interrelation between the iconography of the southeast transept window of is intensified when the projected typological design for the Old Testament northeast transept window N4 (see also Chapter 5 and Appendix 1D) opposite is added. According to the 1887 Master Scheme the subjects of N4 were to include in the upper lights typological scenes from the Old Testament illustrating types of the Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection and Ascension; whilst the lower lights were to be scenes illustrating types of the Church in the two outer lights framing types of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist in the inner lights. The coloured sketch of the projected design for the North Transept of the Choir dated circa 1905 and signed by Clayton and Bell192 showed that this iconography remained completely unaltered eighteen years after the 1887 Master Scheme and seven years after the insertion of S4 in 1897.

All twenty-eight Old Testament projected scenes for the northeast transept window were direct types for the Gospel scenes in the predellas of the southeast transept window directly opposite. For example, the scenes of the Types of Holy Baptism (Noah’s Ark, the Coming up from the Red Sea, Naaman in Jordan) were planned to be directly opposite the scene of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Similarly the scenes of the Types of Resurrection (Daniel coming out of the den of lions, Jonah and the whale, the rescue of Joseph, and Samson and the Gates of Gaza) were to be placed directly opposite Christ rejecting Satan’s temptations in the desert.

One can only deeply regret that no donors ever came forward for the northeast transept window. Its twenty-eight Old Testament Typological scenes, as well as commenting on the nine Gospel scenes of the south window opposite, would have resonated with much of the iconography in Nathaniel Hitch’s reredos193. The impact of viewing these three enormous windows and the reredos from the rail of the sanctuary would have been overwhelming. It would have been a triumph of liturgical, theological and artistic vision that sadly remains only partially complete today.

As a footnote, it is necessary at this point to comment on Benson’s role in this vision. When one considers the scope, complexity and ambition of the Master Scheme it is reasonable to ask whether Benson had the experience and ability to be its instigator. Whilst he was an assistant master at Rugby School in 1857, Benson was entrusted with the commissioning of four new windows for the school chapel from Antoine Lusson of Paris.194 Later, as the first Headmaster of Wellington College, Benson not only drew up the typological scheme for the College’s new Chapel, but also submitted his own window designs to John Hardman of Birmingham195. Indeed, there proves to be a considerable overlap in Benson’s selection of the Old Testament subjects in both the Wellington and Truro schemes196. The degree of Benson’s involvement in the minute details of the Wellington scheme is remarkable. Later, whilst Benson was Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, a major scheme to glaze the Chapter House under the supervision of John Loughborough Pearson was nearing completion. Co-incidentally, this scheme was a history of the Christian Church.

Perhaps the most outrageous example of Benson’s micro-management of the Wellington School Chapel scheme is the existence of a letter from John Hardman to Benson about his design for one of the Chapel lights with Benson’s own rough sketches for the design. This, in itself, is one of many, but the date was November 1877 (four years after Benson’s departure from Wellington) and it was addressed to Benson as the Bishop of Truro197. So, only a few months before Pearson was about to start his Truro cathedral designs, Benson was still deeply involved in managing an early typological scheme for the stained glass windows of his old school chapel! There can now be no doubt that when he and Mason started preparing the Truro Master Scheme, Benson had twenty years of experience in designing window schemes and individual windows, as well as dealing with and dictating to some of the best architects and glass studios of the day.


  1. Recent discussion of medieval stained glass typology is to be found in Painton Cowen English stained glass, (London, ), p 9; and Carola Hicks The King’s Glass (London, ), pp. 94–95. A most comprehensive treatment of medieval typology, involving stained glass, statuary, architecture, liturgy and music, is contained in Margot Fassler The Virgin at Chartres (London, ).
  2. Canon PR Gay. Truro Cathedral Reredos—a Theological Approach . Truro Cathedral occasional monograph No 2. .
  3. TCM/1134 Residentiary Chapter Minute Book : Arrange insertion of Truscott memorial in SE Choir by Clayton and Bell either before or after .
  4. Dean and Chapter of Truro, The Cornish See & Cathedral, Historical & Architectural Notes, p 46–7. Truro, Heard & Sons, .
  5. TCM/1134 Residentiary Chapter Minute Book : . It should be noted that Mason was so closely involved with Truro’s windows only a few weeks after the death of Archbishop Benson.
  6. TCM/1134 Residentiary Chapter Minute Book : Sketch of Truscott window approved with slight modification.
  7. A wheel forms part of the imagery of angels in the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:15–21) and was a common feature in the depiction of angels in medieval stained glass.
  8. The property of the Truro Cathedral Office, and currently in the Canon Missioner’s office.
  9. The connection between the iconography of the quire transept windows, the reredos and the great east window, and its relationship to liturgy and worship is beyond the scope of this study, and is still work in progress.
  10. WCA The Benson scrapbook, 60: letter from A. Lusson, Paris to Benson (in French)—please send me your designs as before with Rugby Chapel. These windows still exist in the original narthex of Butterfield’s chapel of .
  11. WCA The Benson scrapbook, 59: letters between Benson and A. Lusson of Paris on the content of the west rose window, . This is the first of many letters on the Chapel windows between Benson, the architect Gilbert Scott, and mainly John Hardman’s studio in Birmingham.
  12. WCA—document dated . Practically all the original windows in Wellington College Chapel were destroyed by enemy action on . This twelve-page document records in detail the content and donors of all the original windows.
  13. WCA The Benson scrapbook, 67. Letter from John Hardman to the Bishop of Truro dated including rough sketches of design done by Benson.