Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ely Cathedral and the Parables (#3)


Ely Cathedral definitely is one of the cathedrals in England that should be on any tour of churches/ cathedrals in England. The cathedrals/churches/abbeys in London are the most famous (Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, Southwark [famous starting point for pilgrims to Canterbury], Westminster Cathedral), but there are many cathedrals/churches outside of London that are well worth visits: Salisbury, York Minster, Canterbury, Durham, Chichester, Ely, and others (and don't miss King's College Chapel in Cambridge). I have not yet visited others that I have heard great things about: Gloucester, Winchester, Lincoln, Exeter, etc. 

Here are some thoughts about one more stained-glass window in Ely Cathedral that portrays New Testament parables.

This window depicts three parables, and it appears in the South aisle of the Choir and Nave (picture above). It is the first window by Bishop West's Chapel in the Southeast corner of the cathedral. This window was created by Clayton and Bell in memory of Ashley Sparke, "who was killed in the celebrated cavalry charge at Balaclava in 1854 (Ely Cathedral Handbook 1904: 183). 

Below is a close-up of the two parables found at the bottom of the window. The story of each parable is found in four scenes from left to right. I will discuss the window below the photo:



The four scenes at the bottom of the window represent (as in another window discussed in the previous post) the parable of the Wheat at the Tares (Matt 13:24-30). Working from left to right at the bottom: (1) the "good seed" (wheat) is sown in the field (13:24); (2) the slaves discuss with the master what to do (13:27-28); (3 & 4); the master gives his orders about what to do, and the eventual harvest is shown as well.

The middle set of four images portray the parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30). Once again, the story is told from left to right: (1) the three slaves receive their talents (Matt 25:14-15); (2) when the master returns, the three slaves have to give their accounting--on the right you can see the slave who dug a hole and buried the master's money (25:19); (3) we see the master commending one of the first two slaves (probably the second), while the third slave waits on the left (25:20-23); (4) the master condemns the third "wicked and lazy" slave to "the outer darkness" (25:24-30).

Here is a photo of the middle section and the top section, which I will discuss below the photo:   



The four scenes at the top of the window seem to me to be a different parable than some of the labels I have seen published elsewhere. It obviously tells the story in the parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12; Matt 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19; Thomas 65-66). I will cite the Matthean version: (1) the landowner planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, and built a tower the tower (21:33); (2) he then leased it out to tenants when he went to another country (21:34); (3) when the harvest was ready he sent slaves to collect "his" produce, but the tenants beat one, killed another, and stoned another (this is repeated in verse 36). In the window, we can see one being beaten with a stick, the second being killed with an axe, and the third one already appears to be dead from stoning (21:35-36); (4) The landowner then sends his son, but the tenants "seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him." In the window, the son is tied to a tree, and he is being attacked by two men, one with a knife and the other with an axe (21:37-39).

Conclusion: There are some other windows in the cathedral that portray some parables, but I will stop here. I will leave you instead with a photo of another window. Try to see if you can guess which Hebrew Bible story it represents:




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