Various sites were discussed with Father Barry Hughes and it was decided to make a window for the Mary Chapel that would include Madonna lilies – Lina’s favourite flower. As the window needed to fit in with the existing window above the altar, a modern decorative approach in blues and turquoise was suggested using the same curves and sense of movement as in the larger window but on a more intimate scale. In order to make the window contemplative and not just decorative it was eventually agreed that we would include the traditional Ave Maria symbol in the centre to relate the window directly to its space and context within the church.
The window is designed around a subtle use of geometry. The central Ave Maria symbol is the anchor for the larger circle that outlines the top and bottom of the window. This is to suggest the wider space of God’s creation existing outside the confines of the frame. Within the glass an oval mandorla shape holds the lilies in place but is not described fully – it can be followed in parts. The lilies are deliberately arranged asymmetrically as symmetry would make the design rigid. Similarly the curved and straight lines in the leading are also designed to create a sense of balance – a space between stillness and dynamism where prayer begins. The background is painted very freely with fluid forms and shadows to link it to the altar window that evokes imagery of the sea and the Celtic origins of St. Columba. Above the growing flowers the stars and the moon shine – like Mary they are symbols of light illuminating the darkness. Mary was known as the Madonna of the Stars. The coloured shafts throughout the design I see as symbols of the Holy Spirit animating our human world with inspiration through God’s love.
There are seven lilies to represent the seven signs of the perfected soul – of whom Mary is the exemplar. Seven has always been a number associated with the feminine. It cannot be multiplied or divided to make another number between 1 and 10 so in Platonic sacred symbolism it is known as the ‘virgin’ number. Seven is associated with many sacred symbols such as the seven pillars of wisdom. The Ave Maria symbol and lilies are acid-etched and sandblasted onto blue flash glass (clear glass with a thin layer of blue) then painted and stained yellow where needed. The lilies also have green enamel details.
I am very happy to have had a chance to make a lasting memorial to a woman whose long life and devotion to her faith was legendary. The window was completed in March 2009.