Familiar Faces?



At the bottom of the page, I invite your corrections and comments concerning my speculations in this article.



Two of Four Windows Depicting Gospel Writers left, John; right, Matthew


With the exception of the Tiffany Nativity window, the pictorial stained glass in Shadyside's sanctuary was furnished by Gorham Company, during the late 1910s and early 1920s.  It is unsurprising, therefore, that they have a consistency of style and even depiction of individuals.  They portray scenes from the life and ministry of Christ as well as the faces of the Evangelists who recorded those scenes in the Gospels.  Of the four Evangelists, two (John and Matthew) were disciples of Christ and we might expect to find them within some of the scenes illustrated.


Left, Garden of Gethsemene  Right Detail from window


In the window showing the Garden of Gethsemene, the Gospels tell us we should find Peter, James and John, who were invited by Christ to pray with him there.  Among the three sleeping men in the window, we see one who bears a close resemblance to the depiction of the Evangelist John.  We may assume that the older, white-haired figure is Peter, so the man between the others is James, the brother of John.  We note that the Gorham windows follow the custom of depicting holy individuals with a halo-like feature known as a nimbus.  In the Gethsemene window we see a nimbus with the three disciples and the angel.  Christ has a tri-radiant nimbus (with three rays, reserved for the Trinity).


The Great Commission


Across the sanctuary, in the Great Commission window, it seems that the same three disciples appear.  We note that the disciple with long brown hair and beard (farthest left) does resemble the depiction of the Evangelist Matthew.  However, the part of his hair is closer to that of James in the Gethsemene window.  It is apparent that the two figures uppermost in the foreground of the left-hand pane are Peter and John.  Also seen are four other foreground figures with Christ and two in far background.  The two in the background appear to be shown with a nimbus, as are all in the foreground.  Can the other windows in the sanctuary give clues to the identities?  The Bible does not specifically state which individuals were present for the Great Commission.


Feeding the Multitude


The Gospels tell of two occasions when Christ miraculously fed the multitudes.  One of these is the subject of a Shadyside window.  Only John's Gospel identifies who presents the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus:  Andrew.  We may take the individual with the boy shown in the window to be Andrew. This likeness is similar to the person standing between James and Peter in the Great Commission.  This identification may be reinforced by the fact that Andrew is Peter's brother.   Interestingly, in the background above is a person resembling the other depictions of John.




There do not appear to be clues to the identity to other men in Shadyside's Gorham windows, so the remaining male observers in the Great Commission are not readily known.  As for the woman with a nimbus at the lower left, we may look to two other depictions of identifiable women in our windows.  The Resurrection Window shows Jesus speaking to a woman near the empty tomb, with her head bowed.  This would point to Mary Magdalene, based on the various Gospel accounts.  In the Wedding at Cana window, we recognize that the woman behind the server (with the stone jar) is Mary the Mother of Jesus.


Wedding at Cana


And so, if we look at the three women identified as holy by the presence of a nimbus,  the identity of the one in the Great Commission remains unclear.  Mary Magdalene's blonde hair shows that she is not the one depicted there.  However there are enough dissimilarities with the portrayal of the Mother of Jesus, that the woman in the Great Commission is not an unquestionable match.  Or, am I putting too much emphasis on the shape of the nose?


(left to right)  Mary Magdalene, Mary Mother of Jesus, Woman at Great Commission


And so, in the Great Commission window (below), do you concur with my identification of the four men in line, left to right, as James, Andrew, Peter and John?  Who is the man below them in the left-hand pane?  Who is the woman near the bottom of that pane?  And, who is the man in the right-hand panel seen over the shoulder of Jesus?


I welcome your corrections and comments at contact@shadysidelantern.com



PS:  There is a non-canonical clue to the older man behind Christ in the Great Commission window.  Legend has it that Simon, one of the disciples, was a shepherd who came to adore the Christ Child at the nativity.  There is a young shepherd in the Tiffany Nativity window who is looking upward (see below).  Is this Simon?  If so, Simon would be relatively old at the time of the Great Commission.  Could he be the older man looking over the Lord's shoulder?


Is this Simon (center) at the Nativity?