Vines and Oaks

Grapes and Vine headstop on the arch between the South Aisle and South Transept
Oak tree sculpture on the opposite headstop

Pillars on either side of the point where the South Transept meets the South Aisle bear stone carvings of a grape laden vine and an oak, heavy with acorns.

In addition to providing food and drink, the vine itself represents the growth of the church. John’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying “I am the vine” before going on to explain how God tends Christ’s church to encourage growth.

Grapes symbolise abundance, prosperity and fertility, but above all Christ’s Blood, received during the Mass in the form of wine.

Oaks and acorns are also symbols of growth, again specifically the growth of the church.

Although acorns are not commonly seen as a food for human beings, they are packed with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds and are good sources of vitamins A and E.

Acorns also contain poisonous and bitter tannins, so they must be broken up and soaked to remove the poisons, after which they can be roasted and eaten, turned into a flour or meal that can be used to make a porridge or used to produce acorn milk and coffee.

Among the many windows in St Marie’s which have depictions of grapes, vines and vine leaves are the windows in the South Aisle depicting St William of York and Our Lady of Sorrows.

Of course, grapes can be eaten raw, turned into jams, jellies and sorbets and used to make wine.

Meanwhile, their leaves have long been used in Mediterranean countries as an edible packaging for rice, meat, fish, vegetables and cheeses.

He became Archbishop of York for the second time, following Eugene’s death in 1153, but died a year later, after, it was rumoured, someone slipped poison into the chalice with which he was celebrating Mass.

St William of York window

The William of York window features vines, leaves, a chalice and host and oak trees with acorns.

William of York lived in the twelfth century and is thought to be related to King Stephen, who helped to become Archbishop of York.

William was opposed by the Cistercian monastic order and was deposed as Archbishop following the election of the Cistercian Pope Eugene the Third in 1145.

Miracles began to be reported as taking place at William’s tomb in 1177 and he was canonised in 1226.

The window was erected in memory of Fr William Parsons, who succeeded Fr Charles Pratt, the priest who had launched the construction of St Marie’s, but died in 1849, the year before the church’s completion.

The neighbouring Our Lady of Sorrows window shows the Virgin Mary between St Teresa and St Helen and has a profusion of vines, bunches of grapes and vine leaves.

St William of York window
Our Lady of Sorrows Window. Our Lady (centre) with St Theresa of Avilla (left) and St Helen

This window was given to the church by William and Margaret Cadman in memory of their daughters, Helenor and Teresa. The twins were born in 1852, two years after St Marie’s was completed, and died at the age of seven from scarlatina maligna, a severe and usually fatal form of scarlet fever that was a leading cause of death among children before antibiotics were discovered.

Memorial Plaque , which reads: This Window is erected by William and Margaret Cadman of Handsworth Grange in this County in memory of their dear Children who died aged seven years: Helenor on the 13th and Teresa on the 15th of April 1859, the Feast of Dolours of our Blessed Lady.