After rising from the dead, the first person Christ appeared to was his close friend, St Mary Magdalene. Their meeting took place in a garden near where he was crucified, outside the tomb where Christ had been buried.
In her grief – and only half paying attention – Mary initially mistook Christ as the gardener of the graveyard. From the Middle Ages onwards, this detail often prompted artists to depict the Risen Christ in this scene as a gardener, holding a hoe or spade and sometimes wearing a hat. This window follows this artistic tradition by portraying Christ in a gardener’s hat, holding a spade.
St Mary Magdalene is shown here moving forward, raising her hands to touch Christ – perhaps to give him a hug. By contrast, Christ is gesturing with his right hand, refusing the physical contact. This because in the gospel he told her: “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” This meeting has often been pictured in art with the title Noli me tangere, the Latin translation of Christ’s request for Mary not to touch him.
This particular scene is from the East Window of the church of St Mary Magdalen in Mortlake, which features various scenes from the life of the saint. It dates to the 1850s and was made by the Wailes stained glass studio.
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Where to find this work of art
St Mary Magdalen, Mortlake
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