The west windows at St Chad’s show St Chad, walking through his diocese, and, on left and right, the River of Life and the Fruit and Leaves of the Tree of Life. As the Book of Revelations says the trees stand by the river in the Holy City and have fruit and leaves for every month, and “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
The central window was designed by David Williams and made by Hardman’s of Birmingham in 2003, in memory of Father Leslie and Mrs Edith Warrington. The River and Tree windows have been designed by David Williams and made by Williams and Byrne, of Stanton Lacy, Shropshire, in memory of Austin and Sheila Baker and Veronica Baker.
The River of Life and the Tree of Life are ancient images. They bring life and healing from the Holy City, or the Garden of Paradise, into our world. Any river might shimmer with the light of the River of Life. Any tree might suddenly become the Tree of Life.
The River and Tree windows were suggested by the 14th century poem “Pearl” in which the poet is guided up the river to a vision of the Holy City by the soul of his dead child.
The “Pearl Poet”, or “Gawain Poet,” was also the author of “Gawain and the Green Knight”, its companion poem, and came from Staffordshire or Cheshire, perhaps even Stafford itself. The poems are full of real and visionary landscapes inspired by the world the poet knew.
Two centuries earlier St Chad’s was built at a time when Nature was being rediscovered and valued. Imagery of Nature, often bizarre, began to appear in churches, and new understanding of science led to the great gothic cathedrals.
In the 19th century
St Chad’s was restored to be a memorial to its most famous parishioner, Izaak Walton. Izaak Walton’s “Compleat Angler” is more than a book about fishing. It’s about giving time to contemplate Nature. It was quietly revolutionary.
Our exploitation of Nature is a disaster, but perhaps its cause is our separation from Nature. Imagination and love can help us become part of Nature, working together for Good rather than using it for our own ends.
River and Tree is an ongoing project designed to inspire people to have an imaginative relationship with their own real environment.
RIVER PAINTINGS BY LISA OAKLEY
Stafford artist Lisa Oakley specialises in “plein air” painting, pictures painted on location, recording her impressions of places as she sees them on that day. Lisa has explored the local River Sow and painted twelve pictures for the project.
The originals are for sale to raise money for St Chad’s Access Fund.
FILMS BY ANDREW BAKER
Composer and film maker Andrew Baker specialises in films exploring places with music. The music encourages us to see things from a different angle, or to look through the surface. He is producing a series of films which explore ideas suggested by the River and Tree windows.
He has made twelve four minute films which visit places circling Stafford, through the months of the year. The title comes from “Pearl” – “A Fruit for Each Moon.”
“River” follows the River Sow from its confluence with the Trent at Shugborough to its source at Fairoak. The river is entirely contained within the Borough of Stafford and passes through an extraordinary range of landscapes and stories.
“Silva” is suggested by the 12th century idea of the forest as a symbol of wild matter, searching for form.