Samson was an Old Testament hero and one of the judges of Israel. He governed the country for 20 years, at a time when it was being terrorised by the Philistines (Judges 15:20). The story of this maverick character – his confrontations with the Philistines, his fatal love affair with Delilah and his eventual death in the temple of the Philistines is found within the book of Judges.
His birth and role in life were announced by an angel, who told his mother: “You shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5)
A Nazirite was someone who made a special vow to God to abstain from wine, avoid contact with dead bodies and not to cut their hair. Samson’s long hair – which was a result of this vow – was also the source of supernatural strength. This strength enabled him to kill a lion with his bare hands and to slay a thousand Philistines using the jawbone of an ass.
Understandably, this made him their bitter enemy. The Philistines discovered that he was staying overnight in the city of Gaza, in the house of a prostitute. So they waited for him by the city gate, planning to kill him at dawn. But Samson got one over on them. He rose instead in the middle of the night and in another feat of strength, removed the huge city gates from the wall and carried them away, up to a hill near Hebron.
The image of Samson removing the gates of Gaza later became a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ. This is because like Samson, he rose in the middle of the night and cheated death. The gates of Gaza were also considered symbols of the gates of hell, which Christ had conquered by rising from the dead.
This stained glass scene reflects that symbolic understanding, since it’s found beneath an image of the Resurrection within the east window of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, in Aldershot. The window dates to 1902 and is the work of the stained glass studio Heaton, Butler and Bayne, who were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite tradition.
See the full image:
Heaton, Butler & Bayne / Samson takes the gates of Gaza / Stained glass / 1902
Where to find this work of art
The Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Aldershot
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
From the Old Testament: The story of David defeating Goliath is another example of the Israelites overcoming the Philistines.
From the New Testament: The window features Samson cheating death as a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ.