The Wycliffe Window
A window to celebrate 150 years, St. James The Less Church, Nutley, East Sussex
Background: The theme of the design is the story of John Wycliffe. Wyclifffe (d.1384) was a lecturer at Oxford University and held the living of Lutterworth in Leicestershire.
He protested against the exactions of the Pope and the ecclesiastical hierarchy and their claims to override civil law. He denounced transubstantiation and practically every medieval doctrine.
His great positive contribution to the progress of the Gospel was his teaching that the supreme authority lay in the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone.
His greatest work was the translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English.
Description: “Stella Matutina”. Wycliffe has been called the “Morning Star of the Reformation”.
From the base of the reversed and interlocking shields a view of Oxford appears through the gloom.
The dates above refer to 150 years of the present church building. Above the medieval murk a bright moment in our history – the translation of the Bible into everyday English, quite possibly in Nutley. Edward 11's third son, John of Gaunt, owned the land which included the Free Chapel of Notlye. There is evidence that Wycliffe officiated in the chapel until he was compelled to withdraw from active ministry and shelter under Gaunt's protection. Nutley Chapel is represented by a cross, surrounded by leaves. The design defers to the Wilton Diptych.
Bordering the flowering central pattern are the blue and red shapes taken from John of Gaunt's coat of arms. From Nutley the central theme becomes a cross section of Europe – from Britain to Bohemia. In 1398 Richard 11 married Anne of Bohemia. The closer ties between the two countries meant that Wycliffe's writings and ideas reached the attention of John Huss. The Reformation may be said to have begun with the attacks of Lollards and Hussites upon the hierarchical and legalistic structure of the church as a whole.
The shield bears the emblems of Richard 11 (a white hart), the royal arms (fleur-de-lys, Edward 111 and subsequent kings claimed the French throne) and the Lion of Bohemia.
The brown sections represent the areas of influence of the Lollards and Hussites.
Throughout the European section are the words of the 23rd Psalm translated by Wycliffe.
“The Lord governeth me, and no thing schal faile to me; in the place of pasture there he hath set me.
He nurschide me on the watir of refrischyng”.
The flow of words and events end at the head of the window in a burst of golden light (behind a 14th century view of Prague) representing the Reformation. In the outer border Wycliffe's questioning of transubstantiation is referred to with vine leaves and wheat semicircles (he believed that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist remained bread and wine rather than actually changing into Christ's body and blood).The semicircles enclose stars rising from above the Oxford scene to the head of the design.
Peter Berry February 1997
Location: St.James the Less Church, Nutley, East Sussex