The Stained Glass Window
Over many years, people had remarked on the absence of any stained glass windows in the church of the Most Holy Name and St. Edward. Fr. Jeanneau had always felt that the ‘Mini-Cathedral of North Dorset’ just needed a stained glass window to complete it!
He was therefore delighted when at the time of his Golden Jubilee, a number of parishioners suggested that a window should be commissioned to mark the event which coincided with the centenary of the arrival of the FMI in Shaftesbury. The initial brief envisaged the concept of a spiritual journey from darkness into light and the hope that the final design would include some of the colours of the French stained glass in the cathedral at Nantes. Henry Haig, a well known artist in Fifehead Magdalen produced some designs and developed his original drawings, taking into account comments made by parishioners at several meetings and presentations, and reflecting a growing understanding by everyone of the place of stained glass in liturgical and spiritual experience.
The function of stained glass, as expressed by Henry Haig, is to make visible eternal truths through the energy of transmitted light. The glass artist's role is to explore and open pathways through and beyond earthly existence towards a deeper comprehension of the Christian Faith.
"As the glorious sun penetrates the glass without breaking it... ...so the word of God, the light of the Father, passes through the body of the Virgin and leaves it without any change." St Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153.
Henry Haig actually began work in his workshop in 1996. The window is constructed in the traditional manner using lead calmes. The mouth-blown glass came from France, from England and from Germany. Fired iron oxides for line and tone, together with fired silver stain for golds were used to achieve rhythms and values.
Meditation upon the Christian journey centred on the enduring paschal mystery of the Cross is the underlying concept of the window.
In contemplating the window, individuals are led to make their own interpretation. While some see the crucified Christ, others see in the colours, the dark earth and the brightness of heaven, others the blood of martyrs; some also a dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
As one parishioner has written: "Henry Haig has created a masterful statement of our Faith... ...In this window there is a great sense of joy and gratitude at being set free from the darkness, the weight and pain of sin: of delight at floating free in the glorious lightness of Heaven."
A window fund was setup and generous contributions from parishioners and others ensured that none of the cost would fall on normal parish funds. The window was completed and installed by Henry Haig in December 1998. It was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Christopher at the evening Mass on the feast of the Epiphany in January 1999.
Ernest Jeanneau - May 1999
Henry Haig ARCA
Henry Haig trained in painting and sculture at Wimbledon School of Art between 1945 and 1950 and in stained glass at the Royal College of Art between 1952 and 1955. After five years teaching in schools, he opened a full-time studio. Since then and up to the completion of the St Edward's window he had completed more than 200 commissions. He has been a visiting tutor at several art colleges and an external degree assessor for the Glasgow School of Art. His commissions have included a window for Clifton Cathedral; a rose window for St Mary's Swanage; an East window for St Stephen's York, for All Saints, "Cathedral of the Forest", Newlands, Gloucestershire and Christ the King, Amesbury. He also has work in the Joseph Weld Hospice Chapel, Dorchester and twelve windows in Douai Abbey.
Other examples of his work can be seen in Shaftesbury at the Westminster Memorial Hospital, Shaftesbury School http://www.shaftesburyschool.com/, The Shaftesbury Arts Centre http://www.shaftesburyartscentre.org.uk/ and the offices of Philip Proctor Associates http://www.philipproctor.co.uk/.
Henry Haig died in 2008.