In this stained glass scene, we see St John’s great vision of the Woman of the Apocalypse. As described in Revelation 12:1-6, she is seen in heaven, clothed with the sun, standing on the moon and with a crown of twelve stars on her head. The Church has always interpreted this passage to refer at least in part to the Virgin Mary. This is because Revelation describes the Woman as giving birth to a male child who would rule the nations – in other words, the mother of the Christ child.
The Woman and her Son are threatened in the vision by a great red dragon with seven heads, who is identified later in the chapter as the Devil, the “ancient serpent”. This links the vision with God’s original promise in Genesis 3:15 of a Woman and her Son who would eventually overcome the serpent. In this way, the Bible both begins and ends with the story of a Woman and her Son who would bring salvation.
This window, which was produced by Geoffrey Webb in 1953, is found within the Slipper Chapel of the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It pictures the Woman of the Apocalypse and links the vision, as does the liturgy, with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. Notice how the Virgin is standing on the moon, clothed with the sun and with a garland of stars upon her head, as in the text.
The Virgin is pictured in her traditional colour of blue, surrounded by the seven angels mentioned elsewhere in the book of Revelation (1:4; 8:2; 15:6). The angel at the base of the central pane is holding a banner that reads signum magnum paruit in caelo mulier amicta sole, which is a quotation in Latin from Revelation 12:1 (“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun”).
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Where to find this work of art
Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk
Read the relevant passage