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Great Chancel Window


John Hardman & Co., Birmingham



The Exquisite Hardman Studio Window

Amongst the treasures of St Mary’s Cathedral is the glorious stained glass window depicting five great New Testament events, namely, the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.

With the great Augustus Pugin’s pioneering work as their foundation, and continuing with his only pupil John Hardman Powell as their second chief designer from 1852, Hardmans were the leading English stained glass makers of the period. Their products, as exemplified by our window, excelled in the brilliance and luminosity of the glass as well as in the outstanding quality of the designs in both composition and detail.

Art critic Patrick Comerford’s assessment of Powell’s Irish designs is equally applicable to our window, noting that they ‘are original innovations in the Gothic style. His stained glass recreates the elegance, the refinement, the brevity that is seen in some of the finest examples of glass, sculpture and illumination of the 13th and 14th centuries. He utilises the flowing, curving lines, the flourish of drapery, the calligraphic brush-strokes and pure colour.’

The window came about as a result of a desire on the part of the Tasmanian Catholic community in 1867 to erect a suitable joint memorial to the late Bishop Willson and his Vicar-General William Hall.

At the time of its installation, the then Tasmanian Catholic Standard praised its ‘great architectural beauty’, adding a particularly significant piece of information: ‘An additional interest is attached to the window from the fact of the various subjects having been originally suggested by the late Bishop Willson; for amongst His Lordship’s papers was found a sketch of the window, with the names written by his own hand, of the sacred mysteries he wished to see represented.’ Given the Cathedral’s dedication in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is notable that her image, identified by a gold halo, appears in all five of the window’s main lights.

It is deserving of notice that the chief portion of the proposed memorial window comprises precisely the same emblems as those suggested several years since by the late lamented Bishop, whose plan for the chancel window of the cathedral, adopted by himself, is still in existence.

With reference to the joint memorial, the window consists of five lights, the centre one being filled with a representation of the “Crucifixion of Our Saviour.” The subjects occupying the side lights are the “Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin,” the “Nativity of Our Lord,” the “Resurrection,” and the “Ascension,” each surmounted by an elaborately enriched canopy.

The beautiful tracery of the window head is treated symbolically, each trefoil being filled by an angel bearing various emblems of the Passion. The centre bears the type of the Holy Ghost. At the bottom of the centre light is a shield on which are the arms of the late Bishop Wilson. Along the whole lower part of the window on the glass will be a Latin inscription containing the dedication of the memorial. The contrasts and combinations of the colours are chaste and highly effective.

The window underwent extensive restoration in 2004-05 to bring it back to life.

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