▪Every picture tells a story

Roger Hall, who is an expert in the imagery of Marga’s windows, says he is constantly amazed by the depth of historical research that Margaret Rope undertook before she designed a window.
Here he gives us an outstanding example…

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The more you look at a Margaret Rope window the more you see, and the more you see, the more you can learn. Everything is there for a reason, though sometimes it can take a bit of research to decipher it.

Take, for example, the St Nicholas window at Newport RC Church, Shropshire.

In the background is a depiction of the town of Myra, a seaport in Asia Minor, where Nicholas was bishop in the 4th century; you can see the domes of the town’s Byzantine cathedral.

Myra, St Nicholas window in Newport

At first I thought that was all there was to it. Then I noticed that parts of the town’s wall had partially collapsed, and I wondered why.
I did some googling, and this history emerged.

During the 11th century Myra was besieged and captured by the Turks. That would explain the broken walls, and this interpretation is confirmed by the tall round tower behind the cathedral – a Turkish minaret.

And why the three ships?
The cathedral contained Nicholas’s tomb: in the year 1087 three merchant ships put in at Myra en route from Antioch to their home port of Bari, Italy, and the merchants opened the tomb and took away the saint’s remains.
Here we see the three ships leaving Myra, and on the deck of one of them is a chest containing the remains, which are radiating a holy aura. The Basilica di San Nicola was built in Bari to house these relics, and it is still an important pilgrimage destination.

Every time I make a discovery like this I marvel at the amount of research Marga must have done – without the aid of the internet! – and at how much of a story she could tell in an apparently simple window.

Roger Hall

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