The stained glass windows in St Mary's represent three periods in the life of the church. The East window was made by A.L. Moore and Son of London in the early years of the church. Mr John Rowland of Thwaitefield, Goathland, died in the church just before Morning Prayer on September 5th 1899. The window was part of a memorial gift from his widow to the then new church. The church bells and clock were part of the same bequest.
The South-east and South-west windows represent the period 'between the wars'. They were made by the stained glass artist and member of the Arts and Crafts Movement: J. C. N. Bewsey of London. These windows were given by Captain R. Smailes in memory of his eldest son George, who was killed in the First World War; and his youngest daughter, Kathleen, who died when still a young girl. Captain Smailes was Managing Director of a shipping firm called Thos Smailes and Son, whose offices were in Victoria Square, Whitby.
The West windows offer a complete contrast in style but are no less beautiful. They were made by Anne Sotheran fbsmgp, the nationally-renowned stained glass artist of York. and were given by the people of Goathland to commemorate the Millennium.
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The window depicts milestones in the life of Christ and in the Christian Year: his birth, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. The Nativity scene in the first light includes domestic animals looking on, an angel carrying a banner bearing the words Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the Highest), and, above the angel, a star (or comet) in the sky.
The second light shows the baptism of Jesus ― the start of his ministry. Above his head a dove representing the Holy Spirit is descending from a golden heavenly cloud. St John carries a staff with a cross and banner with the words Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the Lamb of God).
The Crucifixion is shown with Saint Mary and St John the Evangelist in attendance. Above the head of Jesus is the sign INRI standing for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews). In the background is the city of Jerusalem under a darkening sky. The sun and eclipsed moon are probably symbolic of Luke 23:44-45: and it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
In the fourth light Jesus is shown rising from the open tomb, carrying the resurrection banner with its red cross. The banner symbolises victory ― the triumph of Christ over sin and death. Below, one guard still sleeps, the other looks on in awe.
In the fifth light the Ascension is witnessed by four Apostles. Light streams down from heaven around the head of Jesus as he ascends.
The South windows depict St Mary, the patron saint of our church, and five other saints with connections to our local area. In the south-east window, to the left of St Mary as you look at her, is St Boniface, and to the right St Nicholas.
St Boniface was Archbishop of Germany in the 8th century and a great missionary and voyager (symbolised by his staff, which bears a crucifix, and by the ship he carries). He is regarded as a major unifier of Christian Europe. He is the patron saint of Germany, of the Netherlands and of brewers. But he was English: born at or near Crediton in Devon and christened Wynfrith. He was given the epithet 'Boniface' by Pope Gregory III. He died on his travels when his party were attacked by robbers who found only sacred books in their luggage. It is said that St Boniface held up a gospel to protect himself. He holds a book in our stained glass image.The depiction of St Mary shows her carrying Jesus as a young child. She wears a crown and carries her sceptre as 'Queen of Heaven'. The Fleur-de-Lys at the top of the sceptre signifies purity and royalty and is her personal symbol.
St Nicholas was Greek and Bishop of Myra (in present-day Turkey) in the fourth century. He is the patron saint of Greece and of sailors, fisherman and children. He had a reputation for secretly giving presents, which led to his becoming the origin of Santa Claus. A famous story is told that Nicholas heard of a father who could not afford dowries for his three daughters. Unable to marry they would face ruin and possible descent into streetwalking. Nicholas went to the house at night and secretly threw three purses full of gold into the house. He is shown holding these in the depiction.
The three saints in the south-west window are (from left to right in the picture) St Aidan, St Hilda, and St Cuthbert, all associated with the north of England. St Aidan is the patron saint of Northumbria and fire-fighters. He was born in Ireland and was a monk at the monastery of Iona in 634 when the Christian King Oswald regained control of Northumbria and of Bamburgh Castle. King Oswald asked Iona for missionary help and Aidan was sent to Bamburgh. He established a monastery on the nearby island of Lindisfarne, from where he went out to do great missionary work.
In 651 a pagan Anglo-Saxon army attacked Bamburgh and tried to set its walls on fire. The story goes that Aidan prayed for the city and the wind changed direction and blew fire and smoke over the enemy. Thus he is often shown carrying a burning torch as he does in our window.
According to the Venerable Bede, St Hilda was born in 614 to Breguswith, daughter in law of King Edwin of Northumberland. Her father was murdered while she was still an infant and she was brought up at court — she is wearing a royal crown in our window. Just before her twentieth birthday she answered the call of St Aidan to live as a nun, and was involved in his establishment of the monastery at Lindisfarne. She moved on from there to become second Abbess of Hartlepool Abbey, and in 657, Abbess of the new Abbey at Whitby.
In 664 she hosted the General Synod of the church at which the date of Easter was fixed. Bede described St Hilda as a woman of great energy, a skilled administrator and teacher. She was famous for her learned love of the Scriptures and her encouragement of its study — she is holding a book on a tasselled cloth in the window. Bede wrote: "All who knew her called her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace."
St Cuthbert was born around 634 near Melrose Abbey, an offshoot of Lindisfarne. As a boy, tending sheep at night, he had a vision of "a long stream of light breaking through the darkness". The next morning he found that St Aidan had died and felt that he had been called to train as a monk. He became a great missionary, famous for his piety, diligence, and obedience, and towards the end of his life was Bishop of Lindisfarne. Over the centuries he became "perhaps the most popular saint in England prior to the death of Thomas Becket in 1170." He is another patron saint of Northumbria and is buried in Durham cathedral with a relic said to be the head of King Oswald, though the two were not associated in life. He is shown carrying the King's head in our window.
Ann Sotheran, the stained glass artist who created the windows, has described them as follows:
The left-hand light depicts part of the history of the area, whereby a group of monks were permitted to establish a small community if, in return, they provided hospitality for any passing traveller. Various travellers are shown traversing the steep moorland paths leading to the chapel and the monk awaiting them with light and refreshment. The sky is a late evening sky and the landscape rather bare and bleak, as the moors tend to be.
The high waterfall is meant to represent the Mallyan Spout, and also the stream of living water that is Christ (St John 4:14). In the tracery light is a stylised lily recalling the dedication of the church to St Mary.
The right-hand light shows the "Good Shepherd" (Luke 15:4-5) and also refers to Psalm 23: "The Lord is my Shepherd". It has a warm summer sky and a verdant landscape, with the same stream running through. As you can see there is not much to say about the Good Shepherd window, it simply illustrates the text.
The right hand tracery light contains the Greek letters alpha and omega, recalling: "I am the alpha and the omega", an appellation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13). The right window panels also show "AMDG 2000". The letters AMDG stand for "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam", the literal translation of which is: "For The Greater Glory Of God".