Following the Great Flood, the book of Genesis says that one of the first things that Noah did on reaching dry land was to thank God by offering him sacrifices. This pleased God, who then made a covenant – a pact – with Noah and indeed with all of creation. This covenant involved a promise that never again would there be such a devastating Flood. As a reminder of this covenant, God appointed the rainbow as a visible sign.
Pope St John Paul II had this to say on the underlying message of the story: “From the words of the covenant God made with Noah we realize that now there is no sin that can bring God to destroy the world he himself created … It helps us to become aware of the world’s value in the eyes of God, who included the whole work of creation in the covenant made with Noah and committed himself to preserving it from destruction.”
This stained glass scene is by the Hardmans firm and dates to 1898. It’s found within the baptistery of Our Lady Help of Christians in Blackheath, London. This is because the salvation of Noah and his family through the waters of the flood has long been understood by the Church as a symbol of the saving waters of baptism (cf 1 Peter 3:20- 21).
Noah appears here raising his hands in worship, as he burns various animals in sacrifice, such as the sheep and goat. The docked Ark – and the rainbow as the symbol of the covenant – are seen above his head, while the altar he had built is seen to the right.
See the full image:
Where to see this work of art
Our Lady Help of Christians, Blackheath
Read the relevant passage
Genesis 8:20 – 9:17
On a similar theme
From the Old Testament: Earlier in Genesis, we read how Noah built the Ark to save his family, as well as various animals.
From the New Testament: In the baptistery, this window features alongside other water-themed stories from Scripture, including The Baptism of Christ.