South Aisle Window (first from the East) by J W Knowles, 1876

Faith, Charity and Hope

The dedication at the bottom reads:

‘To the glory of God and in memory of Mary Jane the wife of J.R.Jennings of Wilsden and daughter of Henry Burton of this parish who died July 30th 1875 aged 22 years. Also of her infant son Robert Burton who died Aug 1st 1875 aged 6 weeks.’

This window features the physical embodiment of the theological virtues highlighted in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in 1:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and charity. But the greatest of these is charity."

This last sentence is the reason that Charity occupies the centre light rather than following the order given in the first line. There are early Roman writings about three martyred female saints bearing these names (Fides, Spes and Caritas in Latin). Whether or not there is historical truth in this history it led to the production of icons featuring them and in turn their depiction in works of art in various media.

The left hand light shows Faith with her eyes lifted up to heaven and a calm expression on her face. She holds an empty cross and the Bible. From these symbols it can be inferred that to have faith is to accept the teachings of Jesus set out in the Bible and to accept the truth of his resurrection shown by the empty cross. To have faith is to trust in God and to accept His will.

In the centre light stands Charity with an infant in her arms. The portrayal of this virtue as a woman nurturing children was first developed in 14th Century Italy and became a common image.

Hope stands in the right hand light and is recognisable by the anchor she holds. This is seen as a Christian symbol of hope because early Christians used it as a disguised cross when they placed markers to guide the way to meeting places. Christians who saw the anchor knew that there others who shared their faith nearby. The anchor can also be seen as a symbol of Christ from a teaching in the Bible that he was "hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sincere and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19).

John Ward Knowles (1838-1931)

‘Faith, Charity and Hope’ as well as ‘The Ascension’ are the work of York glazier John Ward Knowles.

After leaving school at the age of 12 he enrolled at the newly opened School of Design in York in 1851, winning several prizes for his stained glass work.

In 1858 he moved to London for a year to work for Heaton and Butler, where he developed an interest in photography and architecture. He returned to York in 1863 and set up his own business.

Marriage to Jane Annakin in 1874 produced two sons and four daughters. The sons, John Alder and Milward followed him into the family business of J W Knowles & Sons. Whilst his sons worked alongside him to produce stained glass the workshops produced all kinds of ecclesiastical decoration including embroideries and tapestries produced by his daughters.

Knowles was based in York in Stonegate at the old ‘Sign of the Bible.’ Even after it ceased to function as a workshop for the business in 1953 the property remained the Knowles family home for one hundred and twenty years.