from the Dean of Hereford
The oldest stained glass in Hereford Cathedral dates from the late 13th century. It has a remarkable history. We think it was made in a Munich workshop and was first in St Peter’s church in Hereford, though how this beautiful German glass came to be in Hereford at all is uncertain. In the 1820s the glass was removed from St Peter’s and was bought for £5 by Robert Biddulph Phillips of Longworth. He presented it to the cathedral in 1849 and the energetic Dean Merewether immediately suggested placing the ancient panels in the cathedral’s south transept but he died before this could be done. In the event, the glass was placed in the Lady chapel (but not until 1898) where it remains today.
The part of the glass I love most is the image of the crucifixion showing Jesus carrying his cross, but we should note that the cross is green in colour. This was often done in medieval times as a way of telling people in pictorial form that the cross of Jesus was not about death, but about life. That what seemed the end of Jesus’ life was really only the beginning.
This is a message not only for the 13th century, when the glass was made, but for us in the 21st century. Jesus Christ speaks of courage and sacrifice and hope and new life, all these things our world so needs to hear today. I also think that the strange history of our glass tells us something important; that it has been moved around. From Germany to St Peter’s Hereford, then to a Birmingham workshop and eventually to the cathedral. The message of Christ is not one to be hugged and protected and kept by any one group or movement, but is rather a message for all the world. Because those qualities for which Jesus Christ stands; love, self-giving, courage and hope, are messages of hope for all the world today. Each of us can play his or her part in bringing about a world where these qualities find a real place in human lives.