March 4th 2023


Tom Denny’s  Transfiguration Window,, Durham Cathedral, dedicated 28th September 2010. 

Assigned to the south quire aisle, you might miss this beautiful window on a cathedral visit. It reminds me of a flow of molten lava!  It has layers of amber, gold and flaming orange.  At its centre it becomes pure white as if heaven outpoured to the world below. When you first see this window you might not guess that the subject is the transfiguration.   In the upper area of the central band of white, you might make out the burning bush to the left and see a barefoot Moses to the right. with a pattern of rocks extending downwards like a paved road. But when you look again, to either side you see the two figures caught in golden amber glory. .Surely these are Moses and Elijah and it is  not Moses but the transfigured Christ who stands before us; his garments as white as light.   Below  you can clearly see three men: Peter, James and John.  One of them carries a staff, the emblem of the journey we must all make in this life. To the right stands St Cuthbert, in front of a cliff upon which stands an ancient stone cross.  Directly opposite you can just make out Durham Cathedral itself, but shown in amber glory, with a road leading up to it through a deep wooded valley. At the entrance to this valley/orchard/garden a man speaks to two figures.  Are they pilgrims on their way to the shrine of the saint?    Or are these Adam and Eve, no longer in Eden, but longing to return?   Is the transfigured Durham Cathedral the symbol of the the new and heavenly Jerusalem, among whose citizens we hope to be numbered one day.  Something of the world we actually live in is shown at the very bottom of the window. To the right a mother leans over a young miner who seems to writhe in pain on the ground.  This surely recalls the scene in the gospels which follows the transfiguration.  After their descent from the mountain, they encountered a boy who was convulsed by a demon ,which the other disciples could not cast out.  A figure in silhouette in the window leans over the mother and looks like the earthly Jesus. But  the reality of suffering and tragedy below is matched by another figure at the very top of the window. There, held between the great up-stretched arms of white and glorious light, is the tiny Christ on the cross, his head lowered in death.  This window is as complex in detail as the title page from an insular gospel book, and merits a journey there, or at least a visit online.   But even if you can’t see everything,  the message of this window is a clear and simple one. 

Dear Lord Jesus, you have  made us part of a a world which is ailing and wounded ,and yet cannot but show forth its beauty and your glory.  Help us to see your light in the world and the people around us and may we place all our hope in you.  Amen. 


Edinburgh Catholic Chaplaincy

The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.

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