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John Piper stained glass

John Egerton Christmas Piper CH (1903 – 1992) was an English painter, printmaker and designer of stained-glass windows and both opera and theatre sets. His work often focused on the British landscape, especially churches and monuments, and included tapestry designs, book jackets, screen-prints, photography, fabrics and ceramics. From 1950 Piper began working in stained glassin partnership with Patrick Reyntiens, whom he had met through John Betjeman. Their first completed commission, for the chapel at Oundle School, led to Basil Spence commissioning them to design the stained-glass baptistry window for the new Coventry Cathedral. He lived many years at Fawley Bottom near Henley. 

The first image overleaf is of the Tree of Life, designed by Piper in 1976 for his own parish church at Fawley. The Tree of Life is a common theme in Piper’s stained glass. The main source for this is in the book of Ezekiel ch 47 vv7-9, 12 and in the last book of the bible, the Relevation of St John (vv1-2): ‘And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.’ It is thus an emblem of transcendence, renewal and peace. There are seven images of the separate panels.

The ninth image is of the window designed by Piper in 1975 for St Mary’s church, Turville, commemorating a nearby church in Turville Heath which was deconsecrated in 1972. It shows a hand holding an Easter Lily, the words underneath from the Magnificat ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’, expressing the annunciation. 

The tenth image is of a commission in 1969 to design a lancet for St Paul’s church in Pishill also near Henley. The lancet is intended to depict St Paul. The usual emblems of St Paul are a sword and a book: he was said to have been beheaded with a sword and was a great writer of epistles. The window shows both but the book is shown open by two hands in front of the sword signifying the pen to be greater than the sword.

The final image is at St Paul, Bledlow Ridge, the largest window in Buckinghamshire to be designed by John Piper and made by Patrick Reyntiens.

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