The Four Evangelists’ windows by Morris & Co in Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge

Mark Charter

Introduction

Morris & Co made a series of windows for the chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge . Among them were four windows in the south transept, each showing one of the four Evangelists. The four Evangelist windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones, except for the predellas of the St Luke and St Mark windows, which were designed by Ford Madox Brown.1,2 The designs for the Evangelists themselves were subsequently re-used in many other places, including the east window of St Andrew, Stratton, in north Cornwall, while the designs for the Sibyls were re-used much less.

Each window shows an Evangelist with his symbol above his shoulders. He holds a pen and book, a reference to his gospel. On either side of the Evangelist is a Sibyl, and at the bottom there are three predellas. The twelve Sibyls were the seers of classical antiquity who were alleged to have foretold the coming of Christ, and were thus adopted by the Church as pagan equivalents of the Old Testament prophets.

The twelve predellas show scenes from the life of Jesus. The scenes, viewed clockwise round the transept starting from the northeast, fall into chronological order: Matthew (Nativity), Luke (events leading up to the Crucifixion), Mark (events following the Resurrection) and John (events following the Ascension). Many of the inscriptions below the predellas are taken from St Augustine’s De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23, and are translations into Latin of Sibylline prophecies that were originally in Greek.

South transept east 1: St Matthew.

This window was inserted in .2

Whole window.

Upper left. sibylla persica (The Persian Sibyl). The Sibyl has a long, coiling headdress and holds an open book. She is standing on a green snake.

Upper middle. s mattæus (St Matthew).

St Matthew holds a book and quill pen and his symbol, an angel, is above his shoulders. His right foot rests on a money box and there is a money bag on the ground in front of him, references to the fact that he was a tax collector. Burne-Jones made a drawing of this design.

Upper right. sibylla cumana (The Cumaean Sibyl). The Sibyl holds a branch in her left hand, and leaves in her raised right hand. This resembles the picture by Edward Burne-Jones of the Delphic Sibyl, and it is suggested that Morris & Co switched the Delphic and Cumaean sibyls.

Left-hand predella. e c[aelo] rex adveniet per sæcla futurus (The King shall come from Heaven through the ages) (from a Greek acrostic attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

The Annunciation. The archangel Gabriel, holding a lily, tells the Blessed Virgin Mary that she will conceive and become the mother of Jesus.

Middle predella. gloria in excelsis deo et in terra pax (Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace) (Luke 2:14).

The Nativity. Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus. Joseph is seated on the ground and the angel holds up a veil. Burne-Jones’ cartoon for this scene.

Right-hand predella. et coram hic domino reges sistentur ad u[n]um (Every king before God shall stand in that day to be judged) (from a Greek acrostic attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

The Adoration of the Magi. From left to right: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus, Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior.

South transept east 2: St Luke.

This window was inserted in .2

Whole window.

Upper left. sibylla delphica (The Delphic Sibyl). The Sibyl holds a scroll. This resembles the picture by Edward Burne-Jones of the Cumaean Sibyl, and it is suggested that Morris & Co switched the Delphic and Cumaean sibyls. The Sybilly Delphica was also later carried out as an oil painting, now in Manchester City Art Gallery.

Upper middle. sanctus lucas (St Luke).

St Luke holds a book and quill pen and his symbol, a winged ox, is above his shoulders. Burne-Jones’ cartoon for this is in the Tate Gallery (3426).

Upper right. sibylla cimmeria (The Cimmerean Sibyl). The Sibyl holds a large yellow volume. The relevant entry in Burne-Jones’ notebook names this as the Cumaean Sibyl, although it refers to the design used as the Cimmerean Sibyl.2 Burne-Jones’ cartoon for this is in the Tate Gallery (3427).

The predellas, designed by Ford Madox Brown,2 show events leading up to the Crucifixion.

Left-hand predella. dabunt [autem] deo alapas manibus incestis (And they will give God blows with profane hands) (from a Greek prophesy attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

The Agony in Gethsemane. Jesus prays O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done (Matthew 26:42), an angel holds the cup and the disciples Peter, John and James sleep.

Middle predella. posuit dominus in eo iniquitate[m] omnium nostru[m] (and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all) (Isaiah 53:6).

Christ is scourged at the pillar. On the left is a soldier leaning on a spear, and on the right a gaoler with a whip.

Right-hand predella. et impurato ore expuent venenatos sputos (and with impure mouth will spit out envenomed spittle) (from a Greek prophesy attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

Christ bearing the Cross. Jesus, wearing the Crown of Thorns, carries the cross, while the Blessed Virgin Mary, St John and Mary Magdalene, all kneeling, look up at him. Mary Magdalene has tears on her face. This scene was originally designed in for a window at Haltwhistle.

South transept west 1: St Mark.

This window was inserted in .2

Whole window.

Upper left. sibylla phrygia (The Phrygian Sibyl). The Sibyl holds a banner in her left hand.

Upper middle. sanctus marcus (St Mark).

St Mark holds a book and quill pen and his symbol, a winged lion, is above his shoulders. The cartoon for this design is in the Birmingham City Art Gallery (423’27).

Upper right. sibylla libyssa (The Libyan Sibyl) The Sibyl holds a mirror in her right hand and an orb in her left.

The predellas, designed by Ford Madox Brown,2 depict scenes following the Resurrection. Christ’s five wounds (four stigmata on His hands and feet from the nails and the wound in His side from the lance) are visible in each scene.

Left-hand predella. tetri portas effringet averni (it destroyeth the terrible portals of hell) (from a Greek acrostic attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

Christ and Mary Magdalene in the Garden. After the Resurrection, Christ tells Mary Magdalene not to touch him (Noli me tangere) because He has not yet ascended to Heaven.

Middle predella. beati qui non viderunt et crediderunt (blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed) (John 20:29).

The Doubt of St Thomas. Thomas touches Christ’s wound from the Crucifixion.

Right-hand predella. ab inferis regrepus [sic] ad lucem veniet primus (Returning from Hell, he shall come unto the light) (Sibylline prophecy translated into Latin by St Prosper of Aquitaine, de Prom et Praed part 3 cap 29).

The Supper at Emmaus. The disciples recognise Jesus (who has stigmata on his hands and feet after the Crucifixion) when he breaks bread. The disciple on the right has knocked over his chair in surprise. This design was drawn in , probably for Jesus Church, Troutbeck.2

South transept west 2: St John.

This window was inserted in .2

Whole window.

Upper left. sibylla erythrea (The Erythraean Sibyl). She holds a rose in her left hand, and a flaming sword in her right hand.

Upper middle. sanctus ioannes (St John).

St John holds a book and quill pen and his symbol, an eagle, is above his shoulders.

Upper right. sibylla tiburtina (The Tiburtine Sibyl).

The sibyl has a lion’s skin draped over her, and holds her robe in her hands. In the top right is a representation of the Virgin and Child. Burne-Jones’ cartoon is in Birmingham City Art Gallery.

The predellas depict scenes in Heaven following the Ascension.

Left-hand predella. animæ cum carne aderunt quas judicet ipse (Seated before Him are souls in the flesh for His judgement) (from a Greek acrostic attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

The Ascension of Christ. Christ rises, in front of four angels in a row.

Middle predella. deum cernent celsum cum sanctis (O God, the believing and faithless alike shall behold Thee) (from a Greek acrostic attributed to a sibyl and translated into Latin by St Augustine of Hippo, De civitate Dei Book 18 Chapter 23).

Worship of the Lamb (Agnus Dei). The lamb stands on a mound, surrounded by angels.

Right-hand predella. ego sum in patre meo et vos in me et ego in vobis (I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you) (John 14:20).

The Vision of St Stephen (the Holy Trinity). God is on the left, with the Holy Spirit represented by a dove in the centre, and on the right Christ holds the orb (Acts 7:55–56).

Acknowledgment

I am grateful to the Dean and Domestic Bursar of Jesus College, Cambridge, for permission to photograph the windows.

References

  1. P Gardner-Smith, Chanticleer ⅭⅩⅩⅩⅧ Michaelmas , pp 14–16.
  2. AC Sewter, The stained glass of William Morris and his circle, pp 43–44. Yale University Press, .