The Transfiguration of Christ

The Transfiguration of Christ ~ Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1901

This window, which is over the chancel altar, was donated to St. John’s in 1901 by Miss Josephine Leeds in memory of her parents, John W. and Eliza Leeds. It was commissioned in the spring of 1901, but Miss Leeds rejected the first design, asking for different hands and more solid ground beneath the figure of Christ. The second design was approved and the window was installed in December, 1901. The window was made by the Tiffany Studios in New York from a design by Frederick Wilson, one of Tiffany’s most well-known artists.

The Transfiguration of Christ is told in the gospels of Matthew (17:1-9), Mark (9:2-8), and Luke (9:28-36). Here is Matthew’s version:

“Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And in their presence he was transfigured; his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became a brilliant white. And they saw Moses and Elijah appear, talking with him. Then Peter spoke: ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘it is good that we are here. Would you like me to make three shelters here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?’ While he was still speaking, a bright cloud suddenly cast its shadow over them, and a voice called from the cloud: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I take delight; listen to him.’ At the sound of the voice the disciples fell on their faces in terror. Then Jesus came up to them, touched them, and said, ‘Stand up; do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes there was no one but Jesus to be seen.

“On their way down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead. The disciples put a question to him: ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He replied, ‘Elijah is to come and set everything right. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they failed to recognize him, and did to him as they wanted; in the same way the Son of Man is to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he meant John the Baptist.”

The window has three lancets and tracery. Each lancet has a Gothic architectural canopy at the top of the panel and a smaller canopy at the bottom, framing a separate figure. The story of the Transfiguration is told in the upper parts of all three lancets; the figures in the lower canopies are not part of the Transfiguration scene and story.

The left lancet shows Moses with a book of the law. Beneath him, kneeling and looking at Christ, is one of the disciples. It is probably John because John was traditionally portrayed in art as a young man without a beard. In the bottom canopy of this lancet is St. John the Baptist holding a banner inscribed “Behold the Lamb of God.”

The central lancet shows the transfigured Christ standing in an aura of golden light, surrounded by clouds of purple and pink. In the small canopy at the bottom is Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. The right panel contains Elijah, also holding a book of law. At his feet are the other two disciples, probably Peter and James. In the small canopy at the bottom is St. John the Evangelist, shown writing his gospel on a scroll.

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Location: East wall, over the chancel altar
Inscription: None