News Detail

Judas window installed at Dorset church 14 years after artist's death

On the side of a Dorset church shaded by the graveyard trees, a window as dark and mysterious as a bog pool has just been installed. Visitors peer at the black glass – until suddenly, in shock, they see the sinister image: a man hanging from the branch of a tree, coins spilling from his hand and turning into flowers as they hit the ground.

The space is blocked on the inside by a wall monument, so the window is visible only from outside the church. It depicts Judas, the betrayer of Christ, the disciple who the gospels relate hanged himself in shame after throwing away the 30 pieces of silver he was paid for his treachery.

It is the creation of the glass artist Laurence Whistler, and it has finally been installed 14 years after Whistler's death and almost 30 years after the parishioners, appalled at the subject and the strangeness of the image, rejected his valuable gift.

The rector, Jacqueline Birdseye, who led the move to bring Judas back to the church, believes it has become a symbol of reconciliation in the parish as well as in the wider context intended by the artist.

"The parochial church council had 20 years to get used to the idea, and the gift of hindsight, so we were able to wait until the right time to make an unhurried decision about introducing the window," she said. "It was important for us that the decision was unanimous, so that we could move forward with confidence and without dissention. We have had nothing but positive comments made by visitors since the installation."

The window will be formally dedicated next month at a service attended by villagers and members of Whistler's family, when it will be blessed by the bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam.