This stained glass scene is of Hannah encouraging her son Samuel – who was to later become a great prophet – to read the Scriptures.
Hannah was married to Elkanah but had been unable to have children, which was something that caused her great pain. During the yearly family pilgrimage to the Temple, in tears she made a vow that if she conceived, she would dedicate her boy to God’s service.
God heard her prayer and she later gave birth to a son, who she named Samuel. After he was weaned (probably at aged three), Hannah took him to the Temple and committed him to God’s service there. Samuel stayed there with the priest Eli, while his mother visited him once a year and made clothes for him. This scene probably depicts one of her regular visits.
The window dates to 1895 and is by Lavers, Barraud & Westlake. Its Latin title, ‘Melior est enim obedientia quam victimae’, is taken from 1 Samuel 15:22 and means ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’. This is the message the prophet Samuel later gave to King Saul, who had disobeyed God. It was also a theme that Christ was to emphasise (Mark 12:33).
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
St James Spanish Place, London
Read the relevant passage
1 Samuel 1:1-28; 2:18-21
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: Samuel grew up to the a judge of Israel.
- From the New Testament: Like Samuel, St John the Baptist was also a ‘Nazirite’ (a consecrated person).