Through a Stained Glass Window

The artist John Petts created some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen. He once told me how one of his windows, depicting St Francis, came to be made.

He was asked to visit a very handsome and energetic woman who questioned him as to how long it would take to make a stained window for the local church. When he told her it would take several months she answered, ‘Oh dear: I shall be gone by then.’ She then told him that she was dying of cancer.

So he offered to put aside his other commissions and forge ahead, at which her face broke into a wonderful smile. ‘I have had such a blessed life,’ she said, ‘and this is just one way in which I can say thank you.’

John Petts offered to design a window of St Francis preaching to the birds. She did not want the usual inscription ‘in memory of’ but simply the words ‘A Thanksgiving – Margaret Griffiths’.

As the window grew, she shrank and became bed-ridden. Eventually it was completed but she was already near her end and, knowing she would never be able to get to see it in his workshop, John Petts had colour transferences made which were then projected onto the wall at the end of her bed.

In the window St Francis is dancing for joy; a salmon is leaping out of the river, a butterfly hovers overhead, and a hare is dancing on its hind legs, while birds of every description swoop and perch.

How did she respond? Her husband told him. ‘Such a smile! Such a smile as I have never seen!’


5 thoughts on “Through a Stained Glass Window”

  1. What a beautiful story and so typical of a lovely man. He designed a window in memory of my uncle, Mostyn Cole, for All Saints Church in Penarth? Sadly, internal alterations have obliterated the view of it – I don’t think they knew how lucky they were to have it!
    I interviewed John for a Western Mail feature marking the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Birmingham church and the gift of the window from the people of Wales. It is a subject close to my heart since it was my father, David Cole, who John first approached at the Western Mail about replacing the windows destroyed in the bombing and showing the love and support of the people of Wales for the congregation and the wider community. I still have John’s original drawing of the head of the black Christ which he generously gave to my father and which has always been a treasured family possession.

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