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Judas window allowed into church

02 May 2014

phil yeomans/bnps

AN ENGRAVED glass window has finally been installed in a Dorset village church, almost 30 years after the artist first offered it to the parish.

It depicts Judas Iscariot at the moment he hanged himself in remorse for betraying Jesus, with his 30 pieces of silver trickling though his fingers to the ground. But even though its creator, Sir Laurence Whistler, dubbed it the "forgiveness window", and showed the silver coins turning into flowers before they touched the soil (below), church authorities at the time deemed the subject of suicide unfitting.

The piece was originally intended as the final part of the restoration of St Nicholas's, Moreton, near Dorchester, which was devastated by a bomb in 1940.

Whistler, who knew Moreton well, worked for more than 30 years creating new glass for all its windows, offering his final stark design in 1987 as a gift. The PCC was split: the Rector opposed it, and the Diocesan Chancellor, who would have granted the necessary faculty, appeared indifferent; so the idea was withdrawn.

Two years ago, the Rector, the Revd Jacqueline Birdseye, and her parishioners re-examined the issue. She said on Tuesday: "It seemed that everybody wanted it to go ahead; we had a PCC meeting, and the vote was unanimous. We spent a long time just making sure that we got the procedure right.

"Back then, many people regarded suicide as an unforgivable sin; but people's attitudes have changed. I have known several families who have been touched by suicide, and we felt that it was the right thing to have in church. Churches are not just about angels and Easter happiness.

"We felt it was a comfort for people who thought that their loved ones were beyond redemption."

The glass, which was installed in July last year, will be dedicated by the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, during a service of evensong attended by members of the Whistler family on 11 May.

Unlike the other windows, it cannot be seen from inside the church. The view of the window is blocked by a memorial tablet.

"Whistler conceived it as a shadowy figure, deliberately confined to the exterior because of its theme of redemption and forgiveness," Miss Birdseye said. "It can only just be made out, depending on the angle of the light."

In his original offer to the church, Whistler, who died in 2002, said: "To my mind, a church is one place where the conflict of good and evil, life and death should be felt at its sharpest."

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