Fishing for Faith
Our tour begins with ‘fishy’ stories – not least because you encounter them as you enter the Cathedral by the West Door, the closest entrance to Fargate, coming through the glass covered passageway, known as a ‘Narthex.’
Come in past the baptismal font and turn to look up at the great West Window.
The window is a traditional “Teaching Window,” designed to show how events in Christ’s life were ‘prefigured’ – predicted or paralleled, if you like – by events recorded in the Old Testament.
The window has three rows of images arranged in two pairs of columns. Each pair of columns has a story from the Old Testament – before Christ’s birth – in the left hand window and an event from his life in the right.
Starting with the bottom row, look at the images to the right In the column on the left you see Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, emerging unscathed from the belly of a whale.
JONAH AND THE WHALE
Jonah was swallowed by a whale while trying to avoid God’s commandment to go warn the people of the ancient city of Nineveh that they would face divine anger if they didn’t stop doing wrong.
Instead of escaping, the whale delivered him to the destination God had told him to go to.
The panel on the right is from the New Testament and shows Christ emerging alive from the tomb, three days after being killed by crucifixion.
Now look at the two columns on the right of the top row you can see the triumphal entry of the future King David – Jesus’ human ancestor – into Jerusalem after killing the Philistine’s champion, Goliath, whose head he carries on his sword.
Next to that panel, we see a depiction of the New Testament story of Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph, riding on a donkey.
BREAD AND WINE
The first panel in the middle row, meanwhile, shows Old Testament priest Melchizedek offering bread and wine beneath a vine, while the second shows Christ, also offering bread and wine to institute the Eucharist – the ‘thanksgiving’ that commemorates his crucifixion and resurrection to bring eternal life to humankind.
LIONS AND CHRIST’S BAPTISM
Turn towards the Cathedral bookshop and look up. At the top of the stonework supporting the bell tower and see the row of lions’ heads, symbolising kingly power and resurrection.
The bookshop itself has two stained glass windows, one showing the Baptism of Christ.
THE LAMB OF GOD
Look at the lunette, the arched part of the window. At the top you will see the first of many representations of Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God.’
In the main part of the window, you can see the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descending on Jesus.
The left hand panel shows St Simon the Zealot, one of the lesser known of Jesus’ twelve Apostles, holding a fish. According to tradition, Simon and another apostle, Jude, who is shown in the right hand panel, introduced Christianity to Persia, now Iran, and other parts of the region.
The fish symbolises Simon’s role as a “Fisher of men,” or gatherer of believers, taken from the Gospel of Luke.
However, Simon the Zealot should not be confused with his fellow Apostle Simon Peter, whose occupation, before he followed Christ, was, coincidentally, as a fisherman.
And, indeed it was Simon Peter, rather than Simon the Zealot, who Christ originally urged to follow him and become a “fisher of men.”