Church History

churchhistoryLeft Window Pane

The picture moves from the Early Church into the post Apostolic period in the history of Christianity. This also brings us to the time when the confession of faith became increasingly costly and resulted in frequent martyrdoms.

Polycarp was chosen to represent these martyrs who gave their lives in the age of persecution. This was the era before the Church was officially recognized by the government. Polycarp was a bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of John the Evangelist. He was a victim of persecution under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius ordered for him to be burned at the stake but the flames arched over him and did not touch him. Instead he was stabbed.

The medallion below shows a martyr’s palm crossed with a sword. The secondary symbol of a crown encircling the sword also stands for martyrdom. The crown is eternal life. The doves at the top of these three windows show the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the Ongoing Church and its members.

Center Window Pane

In 325 A.D. the first great Church Council was called at Nicea by Emperor Constantine. Constantine had been converted to Christianity and desired to make it the official religion. In order to do this he felt Christianity needed defining. Important Church leaders from all Christendom attended this council.

Athanasius came as secretary to bishop Alexander of Alexandria with whom he is shown in the window. Constantine and another bishop are seen behind them. Athanasius contributed to Church history by defining the doctrine of Trinity in the face of the Arian heresy. A small symbol in the upper left corner, three entwined circles superimposed on a triangle, stands for the Trinity.

The Church fathers of the period are called the Greek and Latin doctors because of the language of their liturgies and writings. Athanasius was the best known of the Greek school. Jerome, whose symbol is the Bible with the lion, appears at the bottom medallion and typifies the Latin persuasion. Jerome lived a portion of his life as a hermit in the desert. His multi-year labors of translating the Bible from the original languages into Latin resulted in the Vulgate. After this time, Latin became the official language of the Church.

Right Window Pane

The Venerable Bede spent his entire life in a monastery. His Ecclesiastical History of the English people is one of the most important pieces of writing from the early middle ages. It is the source of all that is known about the early Saxon period. He was an untiring scholar and a great teacher. His translations and commentaries of the early Fathers were available to the Church of his day and later. Beneath his figure is a shield shape that serves as a background for a pitcher of water illuminated by a light from heaven. The light from heaven is symbolic of the spread of knowledge. The water is more difficult to explain. Perhaps it refers to the simplicity of his monastic life.

Chartres Cathedral is one of the great structures of the medieval period. Its construction began in 1200 A.D. after a fire destroyed an earlier church on the site. It was completed in 1513 with the rebuilding of the second tower. The stained glass windows are some of the greatest masterpieces in all the world. It is included here to exemplify the flourishing of art and letters under the auspices of the Church.