The great East Window tells the life story of the Virgin Mary from her birth to her Assumption into Heaven in a series of panels that are ‘read’ from top to bottom and left to right.
The most representations of St Joseph in any one part of the Cathedral – eight in all – are to found in the Sanctuary.
The window was donated to the Cathedral by its architect, Matthew Hadfield, whose image, along with that of his wife can be seen in prayer below the central representation of the Virgin, above the inscription: “Of your charitie pray for the good estate of Matthew Hadfield Architect of this church and Sarah his wife who caused this window to be made.”
The window was designed by George Goldie and made by William Wailes, whose firm also made windows for Chichester and Gloucester Cathedrals.
Goldie trained as an architect with Hadfield on the suggestion of Augustus Pugin, who was working on the Chapel of St Cuthbert’s College, Ushaw, while Goldie was a pupil there.
He worked with Hadfield for more than 20 years, practicing in Sheffield and London before establishing his own practice in London and was awarded Cross and Order of St. Sylvester by Pope Pius IX for his work ‘as a Catholic architect’.
Joseph makes his first appearance at the top of the second column, which shows his betrothal to the Virgin Mary.
In Biblical times, betrothal preceded marriage and the bride would continue to live at her father’s house until the second ceremony when she would be brought to the groom’s house and the marriage would be consummated.
Joseph’s next appearance is at the top of the third column, in which he appears in all three panels, beginning with the Nativity of Christ, where he appears as Joseph the Worker, carrying the set square of a craftsman.
The next panel shows the Epiphany – the appearance of Christ to the Gentiles (non Jewish people) in the form of the Wise Men, or Magi – and is followed by the Presentation at the Temple, where Joseph holds a basket containing the offering prescribed by Jewish Law for a firstborn son, two doves.
Joseph’s final appearances in the East Window is in the two panels at the top of the fifth column.
The topmost panel shows the Flight into Egypt, when the Holy Family became refugees to escape Herod the Great, King of Judea’s order to execute all the male children two years old and under in a bid to kill Jesus, who he believed had come to supplant him.
The second panel shows Mary and Joseph finding Jesus talking with teachers in the Temple in Jerusalem after finding him missing on their journey back to Nazareth from their visit to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.