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After the Great Fire of London, when the church of St. Lawrence Jewry was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and reopened for worship in 1677, the windows were filled with white glass set in lead and supported by wrought iron saddle bars which conformed to the shape of the arched openings into which they were built. During the latter half of the nineteenth century all the windows were filled with stained glass designed by different artists and to different patterns. The original wrought-iron work was taken out, and that which replaced it was adapted to fit the Bible stories which were being illustrated. All these windows were destroyed when the church was burnt on December 29, 1940.
With the destruction of the 19th century glass the opportunity was taken to restore the pattern of the wrought-iron work to that which was extensively used by Wren and, within this pattern, to design the new windows. A large proportion of each window was filled with white glass, and the colour mainly restricted to the central panel, to enable sunlight and brightness in St. Lawrence to enhance the gold and colour of the decorations within. (The exception to this arrangement is in the East windows.)
With the exception of the two Roundels in the Sanctuary by Lawrence Lee, all the windows are the work of the one craftsman, Christopher Webb, whose immaculate draughtsmanship, sense of colour and spiritual awareness has greatly added to the atmosphere of peace and serenity within the Church. This opportunity of carrying out a comprehensive scheme to design and replace the windows by a single artist was almost unique. The scheme comprised a range of dignified standing figures, each with its own significance and related to the human scale.
The Windows in more detail:
The two windows on either side of the altar depict St Paul and St Catherine. In the past St Paul’s Cathedral and Balliol College, Oxford (whose patron is St Catherine), have had close links with the church, choosing the vicars at different stages in our history. In the windows there are also two small churches in the arms of the angels. The one on the left is damaged (the roof is missing) and the one on the right is restored. This is a reminder of the fact that the church has been extensively damaged and restored several times
On the South side there are five wonderful windows:
The window at the pulpit near the front depicts Thomas More (1478 – 1535). He was born in Milk Street, just a few yards from this church, and became the Chancellor of England in the reign of Henry VIII from 1529 to 1533. Around 1501 he delivered a series of lectures in this church about the relationship between Christianity and government. He further explored this theme in his book Utopia (1516). In 1535 he was executed.
St Mary Magdalene, St Michael & St Lawrence ⇒
The centre three windows represent
saints connected with the parish. In 1666 the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Milk Street was combined with St Lawrence Jewry. Mary Magdalene was the first person to meet Jesus on the day of his resurrection. In 1892 the parish of St Michael Bassishaw was also amalgamated with St Lawrence Jewry. St Michael is one of the Archangels of heaven – a messenger of God. The third window is of our patron saint, St Lawrence. He was Archdeacon of Rome in the second century and was martyred on a gridiron (which has become his symbol – you will see it on the wind vane on top of the church spire and on the window shown at the top of this page).
William Grocyn (1446 – 1519) was one of the foremost scholars of his day, celebrated by many including Erasmus and a tutor to Thomas More. He was Vicar here from 1496 – 1517.
The windows along the wall of the side (Commonwealth) Chapel represent the Commonwealth as it was in 1957. The window behind the altar shows the Lord Jesus Christ ascended in heaven, flaming in glory. After he died and rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven where he now rules as King.
One of the most popular windows in the church is tucked away at the back in the vestibule. In the centre is Christopher Wren, architect of the 1677 church. With him are his Master Carver, Grinling Gibbons, and his Master Mason, Edward Strong. The small cameo at the bottom shows the 1950’s architect, Cecil Brown, planning the restoration with the Vicar.