Tuesday 2 December 2014

St. Thomas in India: glass window versus tapestry

When I looked up the painted glass window of the joiners guild in Chartres cathedral (France) on internet, I accidentally stumbled upon another stained glass window depicting the same legend of St. Thomas in India that is on the Thomas tapestry in Wienhausen, Germany. This glass window is in one of the bays of the aisles of Chartres cathedral (see the red arrow on the cathedral map). The window was made between 1205 and 1235. It has a lancet form and is roughly 8.1 m long and 2.2 m wide. In comparison, the Thomas tapestry dates from the late 14th century and measures roughly 4 by 2 m.



It is interesting to compare both legends of St. Thomas and note the similarities and differences. The photos of the windows were made by Dr. Stuart Whatling and taken from his website on medieval glass windows, which is well worth checking out. The legend of St. Thomas starts at the bottom of the window and moves more or less zigzag to the top. The specific details of the reading order are found on this web-page. The detailed images of the Thomas tapestry make use a scanned photo from a book. The original tapestry hangs in Kloster Wienhausen.

The incredulity of the unbelieving St. Thomas. This scene was later in the 13th century added to the window

 Christ sends St. Thomas on a mission to evangelise India ('Ga int lant India').

 St. Thomas is given to Abbanes, an envoy of an Indian king, who seeks an architect.

 St. Thomas and Abbanes travel by boat to India and disembark on the shore.

St. Thomas is welcomed to a marriage feast.

  At the wedding feast Thomas refuses to eat, and is struck by the cupbearer.

The cupbearer is killed by a lion or bear, and a dog brings back the hand that had struck St. Thomas (see previous images).

Abbanes presents St. Thomas to King Gundophorus as his new architect.

 King Gundophorus provides St. Thomas with gold to build his new palace.

  King Gundophorus leaves for a long journey.

 Thomas erects churches instead of building a palace.

 The remainder of the money is divided among the poor.

 The King returns and throws St. Thomas into prison in order to be executed.

The kings brother, Gad, becomes very ill.

 Gad dies and is welcomed into heaven.
Gad is shown the palace in heaven that St. Thomas has build for his brother.
 Gad is resurrected and reconciles his brother with St. Thomas. Thomas baptises King Gundophorus and his people.

(St. Thomas moves on to the realm of King Mydeus. He converts his wife and children.) 
St. Thomas is captured and thrown into an oven, but survives.

 St. Thomas is commanded by King Mygdeus to worship an heathen idol.

Thomas orders the demon inside the idol to destroy its own temple.

The angry high priest of the temple slays St. Thomas with a sword.

Followers of St. Thomas bury his body.

Pilgrims go to the shrine of St. Thomas.

Pilgrims succumb to sleep at the shrine. St. Thomas returns from the grave to give his blessing to the pilgrims. The last part is only found in the tapestry and not part of the official 'lives' of the Saint.

Angels watch from above.

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