*  Of interest to Family Historians - Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers from 1538 are now available online - only most recent registers are held at the church   *

A hidden gem - the Nunc Dimittis window A HIDDEN GEM - THE NUNC DIMITTIS WINDOW

In St Mary’s church there is very little medieval glass, apart from remnants in St Catherine’s Chapel, but a variety of Victorian glass. Much Victorian glass is, to our eyes, either garish, sentimental or even ugly, although some really good glass can be found. However we do possess a wonderful example of very early 20C glass, dated 1904. This of course means that it is not actually Victorian!

The Nunc Dimittis (or Song of Simeon) window in the east end of the north wall of the nave, (between the door to St Michael’s Room and St. Catherine’s chapel) is a very unusual subject for stained glass, and is of excellent workmanship and design. This depicts the story of Simeon, the aged prophet who recognised Jesus as the Messiah, when the infant was brought to the temple by his parents. Simeon’s prayer, which is part of the Evensong liturgy, tells of his delight at this recognition, and his plea to God ‘Now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen my salvation’.

The window is in a very unusual style for English stained glass. The artist is unknown, but it may well be William Heasman, who was responsible for a window in Liverpool, and also an earlier one in Holt in Norfolk, both of which show similarities in design. He may have been influenced by continental work, as it resembles some windows in France and Germany.

Simeon is seen at the centre, holding the child Jesus, and various figures from the nativity are shown at the sides. A King holding a gift, and below this a shepherd with his head bowed in prayer. Above Simeon, is the ‘Lamb with the Seven Seals’, a very rare depiction in English glass, but common in France. The figures of the shepherds and the kings are beautifully drawn, and the whole window is a masterpiece. Do look at it!

View slideshow of stained glass at St Mary's


Some years ago, Patricia Cook, a former Churchwarden at St. Mary's, wrote a series of informative articles on interesting aspects of the fabric of St. Mary's for the Parish Magazine. These are reproduced here, together with line drawings by Jean Atkinson, a well known local artist, who has been closely involved with St. Mary's for many years, including serving on the PCC.

The Amber Tankard Holy Water Stoup The Mass Dial
Seating over the years A hidden gem Gargoyles, Corbels or Label-stops?
Decalogue Board A rare tomb Elephants and Royal Arms
Pulpit Kesteven Brass The Somers Memorial
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