Eastern Hill St. Peter's Anglican Church Memorial Window 2 Back to Search

Normal war00


Location 15 Gisborne Street, East Melbourne, Melbourne - Victoria, Australia
Type stained_glass_window

This window of stained glass by the Melbourne artist, Napier Waller, was constructed as a memorial to those who served in the Second World War. The window was dedicated during High Mass on Sunday 6th February, 1949, by the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev'd Joseph Booth.

The bottom row of three panels depicts members of the armed services. In this scene at the bottom of the left light we see the Navy at work. A rating in protective clothing is directing a jet of water, presumably at a fire, while the seaman behind him holds the hose. The officer in the rear oversees the operation. In the tradition of the unknown soldier, these are generic figures rather than portraits of identifiable individuals. A large naval gun can be seen in the background, while a naval badge is depicted in the foreground, over the date 1939. This date is paired with 1945 in the bottom left of the corresponding panel in the right light to denote the period of the Second World War. We also see the leftmost portions of the captions across the bottom of the window, which are discussed elsewhere in the context of the window as a whole.

To the left of the picture stands the figure of St Stephen. Stephen is first mentioned in Acts chapter 6 as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit", and he was one of seven deacons appointed by the disciples to oversee the distribution of food in the community. "Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people." (Acts 6:8) Opposition arose however, and he was taken before the Sanhedrin where many false accusations were made against him. In answer, Stephen gave a long account of God's goodness to the people of Israel throughout their history, and of their poor record of keeping the law. "They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him." (7:54). Stephen is depicted in this window looking up with hands open, palms upward: "Stephen, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God'" (7:55). This defiant statement was sufficient to have Stephen condemned, and he was stoned to death, becoming the first recorded Christian martyr.

The bottom panel of the middle light depicts an airman in his flying suit. A wounded man is lying on the ground, with a nurse kneeling at his side tending to him. Behind these two, a priest or padre is standing with his prayer book in his hands. The dramatic background depicts St Paul's Cathedral against a sky turned red by the billowing flames and smoke coming from the burning of East London during the Blitz. In his sermon on November 7, 1948, the Sunday before Armistice Day, Maynard spoke of the many different kinds of service rendered by so many different types of men and women during the war. These were all 'wisdom's children' in that "within an evil situation there was redeeming good: ... there was a place for the fruits of faithfulness, self-sacrifice, self-control; devotion to a noble cause; tenderness to the wounded; the courage of the soldier and the courage of the saint."

On the left side of this scene we have the figure of St Peter holding a staff. St Peter is one of the major figures of the New Testament story—from his calling from the life of a fisherman to his leading the Church in Rome, and his martyrdom there. Following Peter's identification of Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" and Jesus' response: "thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 16:16-19), Peter has always been seen as a leader among the disciples and, following the resurrection, as a leader of the church. He preached a significant open-air sermon at Pentecost, twice defied the Sanhedrin, and undertook missionary journeys. He was instrumental in the decision to evangelize the Gentiles, and was present at the Council of Jerusalem where Paul further argued the case for accepting Gentiles into the Christian community without the need for circumcision and other trappings of the Mosaic Law (Acts 4-15). Peter's appointment as the first Bishop of Rome, and his subsequent martyrdom there, is well-attested in non-scriptural writings from the first and second centuries. Peter is the Patron Saint of many churches, including this church on the Eastern Hill of the city of Melbourne.

The bottom panel of the right light depicts the third of the three armed services, the army. This scene is set in New Guinea, with two armed soldiers and a native Papuan, who is indicating the way forward through the jungle. Setting the scene in New Guinea provides a link with the New Guinea Memorial window in the opposite transept of the church, and pays tribute to the sacrifices of Australian troops and the people of New Guinea on the Kokoda Track, where the advance of the Japanese forces on Port Moresby was vigorously opposed, and ultimately halted.

At the right of this scene a third soldier is depicted, in the dress of a Roman legionaire of the third century, with spear, short sword and plumed helmet. This is St Alban, whose story is told by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English. Bede does not explicitly say that Alban was a Roman soldier, but tells us that he lived in the Roman city of Verulamium. Although he was a pagan, Alban gave shelter to a Christian priest who was fleeing from persecution. Influenced by the priest's prayer and teaching, Alban became a Christian.

When the priest's hiding place was discovered, Alban exchanged clothes with him, allowing the priest to escape. Alban was bound and taken before the judges, who were furious at the deception, and ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest. Despite a flogging, Alban re-affirmed his Christian faith and refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. As a consequence, he was condemned to death, taken across the river to the top of a hill, and his head was cut off.

Legend tells that on the hill-top a spring of water miraculously appeared to give the martyr a drink. Moved by his witness, the first executioner refused to carry out the deed. The legend also tells that, after he had killed Alban, the replacement executioner's eyes fell out. St Alban is venerated as the first English martyr at the Cathedral and Abbey Church that bears his name.

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