The Windows of St. John's Church in Gouda
A Free Guide
Question: Why visit the stained glass windows in Gouda?
Answer: Because they are an important cultural and historical monument of the Netherlands.
Question: So what does it mean to me, the tourist, if I am not well versed in history or theology?
Answer: There’s always the artistic beauty of the windows to contemplate and discover.
Contents of this Page
(The topics are color-coordinated so that you can keep track of where you are as you scroll.)
(The topics are color-coordinated so that you can keep track of where you are as you scroll.)
The Story of Jesus, "The Anointed"
The Story of John the Baptist
Women in the Windows
Old Testament Windows
New Testament Windows
The Liberation Pane
The Story of Jesus, “The Anointed”
Although St. John the Baptist’s Church in Gouda is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, most of the panes in the windows have a great deal to do with the story of Jesus Christ, who was baptized by John and recognized by John as God’s grace and truth.
Leaving whatever our religious beliefs are behind, let’s examine the life of Jesus, who was very much expected as a special, gifted male to save mankind, being able to overcome banality even cruelty, and reveal to the waiting world the real truth of mortal and, indeed, unseen and eternal existence or existences. The anticipation of this personification, representing the special, untouchable talents that could only be conceived as divine, and the rising of grace and truth above the turmoil of the average is the acknowledgement that such a person could possibly exist within the realm of possibilities. The philosopher Bertrand Russell acknowledged such, but he also stated that Jesus was "not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.”
The Annunciation of the Birth of Christ – Window 10
This is not the original window, the original window having been damaged and replaced in 1655. But the scene was recognized by the commission panel in charge at that time of the new window, as being quite similar to the original, and it carries all the characteristics expected in an artistic representation of the Annunciation; the lilies, the rose of Mary, the angel Gabriel, Mary in blue and the dove, or divine spirit.
The Savior of the World cannot emerge out of nothing or blackness; he must come from some place, a place without form and without end, the unknown, and yet still he must exist out of a preconceived notion or hint of otherworldly, in other words he blooms from the idea that preys often upon minds “what awaits us and who can tell us, who has been there?” When considering the grace of God descending to earth in human form, this grace in the human experience becomes that of an infant, a miracle. Children are considered miracles themselves, given, formed and born in a delicate balance at best and at worst a bane, weight and anguish. The value of human life has always been negotiated and even pre-negotiated.
Mary must name her child Jesus, and believe in his destiny, a courted theme in the life of a gifted person, ridding smoothly on obliged purity or intellect. A person , touched by God, able to see, explain and expected to come back, is to return and bestow in kind the gift, so mysterious, showing that, yes vainly, God must be surely watching us and his vision can be transferred to all.
The Nativity of Christ - Window 12
With birth comes status, and Christ is born lowly yet with great expectations. Three kings, and some shepherds, all come to honour the arrival, a new born cohabitating with the ox, a symbol of purity, and the ass, the impure. Christ, even when a baby, the new born sage and magi, rubs shoulders with various layers of society. Here is the fairy tale, the intention, just wait for it, of good overcoming evil. This knowledge that has been just born is not haughty, it’s humble and meant for all in between folk sayings and lofty poetry, between the innocent shut your eyes and a beautiful smile theme, that a mere basic baby can lead the way to wisdom, “I am the truth the light the way.”
Twelve-year old Christ in the Temple – Window 13
Here we jump a number of years from the childhood to the adolescence of Christ, who on a pilgrimage with his parents, takes advantage of a new learning experience by interacting with some scribes. This scene is often described as that of Jesus disputing with the doctors in the temple. Although the inscription on Gouda’s window reads ‘Virtue through Hard Work,” Christ is already exhibiting typical signs of precocity: an early interest in surroundings, perhaps less need for sleep (he’s been in the temple for three days already before his parents locate him), a thirst for knowledge about the most unlikely subjects, unusual powers of concentration, insatiable curiosity, and a critical attitude, especially self-criticism. What questions did he ask? It is a pity that dull Luke doesn’t mention the specific questions that Jesus posed to the learned old men, note all the white beards, while in the temple. In this episode of his life Jesus’ famous reply that he came to his “father’s house/business” is in answer to his mother’s query about why he left without notifying his parents in which direction he and, secondly his career, was headed. Even though his path was predestined, Christ was made to voice his interests.
The Baptism of Christ - Window 15
This is the raison d'être. It’s multi-fold being: it’s God’s presence, Christ’s cleansing, John’s receiving, the great flowing river, the river Jordan, and the glowing of this window in St. John’s placed behind what was once the main altar of Gouda’s church before it became Protestant.
The connection between Christ and God is central in this window. This is why Jesus decided to be baptized, when as a Jew he did not have to be ritually cleansed as did unbelievers or non Jews. Thinking outside the box, yet becoming the lamb, being both innovative and following direct instructions combined to distract and motivate, side-tracking established power and providing activity for the masses. Christ, presented by John not as a concept but as manifest at 30 years of age emerging from the water, is humble and gathers admirers.
Christ Bearing Witness of Himself - Window 16
Christ preaching, but then Christ has always spoken. That is, at least, during his lifetime should you happen to believe that Jesus once walked the earth about two thousand years ago. This window is not about Christ himself but the comparison of Christ with John the Baptist. How could Christ exist without the average mortal? If Jesus was to rise above mankind, and represent the glory of God by washing the sins of the rest of humanity away, he must gain status as is expected from him as a gifted person, touched by God. Jesus has chosen the path his talents enable him to take, and as genius must prove himself, intellect must be exercised whether successful or not.
The Cleansing of the Temple – Window 22
Jesus sets about spring cleaning. But why? Maybe it’s not really spring, but Jesus himself embodies the hoped for promise that life can get better, that the corrupt and unholy can change, that salvation shall come to those that believe in him. Snapping a whip to drive out the merchants like livestock and overturning tables in an energetic appeal, who is to stop him? Not the Romans, and not the Jews, and it is here that Jesus comes across as above the rabble and righteous despite his base rage. Jesus objects to the selling of animals, changing of money in the temple market, seeing that the practice mundane and therefore contemptible. Where are higher aims to be contemplated, prayers for sound judgment granting eternal rest if not in a location of sacred learning? Maybe Jesus muttered this question to himself while eating breakfast in the morning.
The Washing of the Feet -- Window 23
No matter how you look at it, the practice of foot washing enables people to feel comfortable with each other. After a dusty day walking about in sandals in the Middle East, what better way to relax than to wash your odorous feet? And after everyone has washed their own feet or those particular appendages of their social circle, they all can enjoy each other’s company more. For such a whacky ice-breaker at a party with people accustomed to servants washing the feet of superiors, this basic hygiene game that rattles one’s pride, and gives a little slack to slaves, might make for a riotous and memorable evening. But things are not this simple, or are they? Shake up the pecking order, see who’s more willing to serve than another, who’s guilty, who’s not guilty, who will serve and scramble to the top? Say have things become too entrenched?
Jesus and the Adulteress – Window 28
This story is not about the woman, the adulteress, however centrally she stands handsomely clad in desirability. It’s about Jesus conforming as a Jew and the Ten Commandments. Remember: “Thou shall not commit adultery.” It’s a bit of a chess game, the rules have been laid out, and sadly ignored. So what happens next? For the adulteress, true to tradition, she has been condemned to death by stoning. For Jesus, he’s being tested. How clever is he in this situation to defend the woman? His reply: “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Is he defending the woman? Or is he negotiating between two evils? He is being asked to choose between upholding the Law of Moses as a Jew or upholding the Roman sanctity of Pontius Pilate, either choice would lead to his downfall. Note the two dogs at the bottom of the glass, one looking forward and one looking back.
The Last Supper – Window 7
It must have been quite an eventful evening, the reported foot washing, and/or the moment when Jesus took a piece of bread and a glass of wine and said, “This is my body and blood. Take, eat, drink in remembrance of me.” Well, he couldn’t have very well said something along the lines of drink milk and grow up strong, sayonara or maybe he could have said that, but, no, it’s a fairly gruesome masculine image that he presents made to make everyone feel the weight of his presence even after death. Christ’s words and deeds were an echo of the already established Eucharist, or thanksgiving ritual. It’s a sacrifice he makes, himself the lamb, the lamb of God no less sitting in the center of the table dining with a king, in this instance Philip of Spain who desired to be the next Solomon. The halo above Jesus’ head tells that he is “greater than Solomon,” for Christ was heralded as the sequel, even better, to Solomon’s great store of wisdom. Here Christ sits before his arrest, trial and execution, in his element surrounded by his admirers or those that seek to gain from being associated with him. He is alive and yet he predicts he will not be allowed to live. The expectation that he should, gifted soul that he is, save the earth from evil, and that he should transfer his godliness into eternal flesh, liquid and hearty, is delivered at the table. Christ is already fading, the promise unfulfilled, and it was inevitable.
The Arrest of Jesus - Window 58
Jesus was arrested while, as his habit after dinner, strolling in the gardens of Gethsemane. He was seized by the guards of the rabbinical court, the Sanhedrin, who even were bestowed with the power try a king. Jesus had tried to avoid confrontation with the Sanhedrin during the episode with the adulteress. “Before you kissed me only winds of heaven had kissed me” from “The Kiss” by Sara Teasdale. But she wasn’t talking about Judas’ betrayal, the down to earth, down to matters of life and death kiss.
The Mocking of Jesus - Window 59
For whom was Christ mocked? Why torment him when he was sentenced to death? Anticipation of decomposition? Prolongation of the spectator’s delight? Jesus had undergone what his followers felt was transfiguration, when his body became radiant while on a mountaintop gathering, thus nearer to God who called out from the heavens audibly to his son during this episode. It was the Sanhedrin priests who tortured Jesus through the night after arresting him during the evening, and who mocked and condemned Christ asking him “Are you calling yourself the anointed?” before turning him over to Pontius Pilate after Jesus’ affirmation, requesting the Roman ruler to put Jesus to death. Pontius Pilate defers the task to Herod, who had ordered John the Baptist to be put to death and who had jurisdiction over the area where Jesus had residence. After being tormented and questioned more by Herod’s soldiers, Jesus is returned to Pontius Pilate.
Pilate Shows Christ to the People -- Window 60
Pontius Pilate by many accounts tried to avoid condemning Jesus Christ to death. It is unknown how many times the two may have run into each other, or perhaps once respectfully played some cards. Whatever happened or didn’t happen, Pilate pulls one more trick out of the bag to avoid signing the order for Christ’s death. He brings from of the prison cells forth both Jesus and Barrabas, a notorious criminal, and asks a crowd which of the two should be crucified; the deal being that the one let off the hook will be free to roam. But as this was an uncommon move and not on record elsewhere than the Bible, it remains questionable if this choice was really handed over to the people. What is certain is that here is a question of evil over good, and Jesus must lose in order to make a grand come back.
The Bearing of the Cross - Window 61
This is the way to Calvary, this is the end. Did Christ actually carry the cross? Or had he been burdened all his life by a figurative cross? In any event there was no soft recovery possible for Jesus, no reprise, no hope; it was all a downward trail. Or rather upward trail. Ill-favoured on earth, his best bet was elsewhere. A woman, Veronica, hands him her veil so he may mop his face, the last memento of his worldly endeavours as a rebellious, misunderstood icon.
The Resurrection - Window 62
Christ escapes embalming by climbing out of the tomb before the three women who have reportedly come to embalm him get their hands on his body. There’s no body. The soul has fled to a heavenly witness protection facility. Death has been thwarted, the spirit is whole.
The Ascension -- Window 63
After the resurrection of his mortal body, Christ ascends into heaven. Here comes the old saying: What goes up, must come down. Thus the promise of a second coming, the fulfilment of the promise of The Anointed One who cleansed the sins of mankind from the slates of believers. The future is the end of the world as we know it.
The Story of John the Baptist
The Annunciation of the Birth of John - Window 9
All the hopes were pinned on a son, a late arrival, a lucky boy, and oh the angel said he’d come. And he did arrive, shame, shame Father Zacharias for doubting, and, by the by, your son will surpass you; he will be an ascetic, carrying your name as God's grace into the annals of history. John became himself, in essence, an angel of God, taking over Gabriel’s task of announcing the coming and presenting of Christ, the one everyone was waiting for to lend a wondrous hand to the people. Neither John nor Jesus was an orphan, and the contrast between the homes is evident. John's family is established in a patrician home while Jesus, the promise and the man, lodges outside the community. John was born, unlike Jesus, out of original sin, note the tumbling couple in the foreground, the woman's breasts bared, ready to give suckle.
The Birth of St. John the Baptist – Window 11
Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, gives birth to the perfectionist of a man who’ll announce the importance of Christ, his love, to the world. Mary sits at the foot of the childbed. The women, bathing John the Baptist, his toes happy to enter the water, prepare to wrap him in clothes of white and red, the colours of purity and suffering, and the colours of Gouda. The father gives the baby’s name, writing it down, for he cannot talk; he has lost the power to speak as he doubted God’s gift to his wife Elizabeth in whose barren womb stirred the son of Zacharias. In the donor panel we see Mary and the baby Jesus seated next to John holding his innocent pure lamb, who loved him well.
The Preaching of John the Baptist – Window 14
Having lived the life of a recluse until he was past thirty, until it was time for John the Baptist to wander and tell people of the coming of Christ. John was well known to prefer wearing a camel hair garment, camel hair being the ideal natural fibre as it offers excellent temperature regulation in any climate. A camel can produce five pounds of hair a year when sheared and combed, certainly making the fabric a specialty item. He survived on honey and locusts, perhaps a tall order for any inn keeper, but getting more specific, John dined on date honey and bread made from grinding the beans of the locust tree, a substance otherwise known as carob. John, promising the coming of the Saviour of the world, had a sweet tooth.
John Rebukes Herod – Window 18
If John the Baptist is going to be the precursor of Christ, he might as well show his mettle as being a prophet who, in any case, is slightly critical in his selection of the messiah. Better yet, John should clearly indicate the dregs of society seated, in this case, on the throne. Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, had a daughter from her first marriage to Herod the second, Herodias’ half uncle. It’s no coincidence that the name Herodias is similar to Herod. It’s all in the family and it’s no coincidence that John’s hands are mirrored in the hands of Herodias. The bear chained to the podium symbolizes lust. John challenges Herodias, she is a sinner, having not lawfully divorced her first husband. Herodias is a Jewish princess and, along with her lover Herod Antipas, has disobeyed the laws of Moses.
John’s Question to Christ - Window 18
John, languishing in prison, asks Jesus if he is “the one” but this is not the first time that John asks Jesus a pertinent question. Posed to baptize Jesus, John asks, “Why should I baptize you, not born of original sin like me?” Here in this window the expectations of John and Jesus come to light. John is not the Son of God, he is interned in a mortal prison, and Jesus walks free. Jesus proves his position, making the blind see and the lame walk, the dog rising to follow as the faithful, stumble towards the Messiah.
The Beheading of John – Window 19
Salome, her name means peace, has demanded, upon the advice of her mother, Herodias, the head of John the Baptist as a reward for her dancing skills as a means to put an end to the trouble making prophet’s accusations. There’s not much more John could say when his head was on a plate in a pool of blood, served up, his name smeared unlike the name of Lamb of God, who would be sacrificed; Jesus accepting his innocence as burden. A controversy surrounds the fate of the severed head. It was supposedly buried apart from the body, dug up secretly by John’s followers, and carted away which, when discovered, further lead to the rumour that John had been resurrected.
The Women in the Windows
The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon – Window 5
This is a story of riddles and gold, the power of curiosity or intrigue and reward. Solomon is rumoured to be terribly wise, thus the Queen of Sheba travels from what is either present day Ethiopia or Yemen to test the good king’s wisdom. What is worth gold? Information, unfathomable brilliance. The Queen has so many riches, she can afford to honour wit and good articulation with wealth. She asks Solomon three riddles, one of which being: "What is that which comes from the earth as dust, the food of which is dust, which is poured out like water, and which looketh toward the house?" Solomon answered, "Naphtha," (petroleum or crude oil). The Queen of Sheba, as she publicly acknowledges the true and one God of wise Solomon, is associated as the forerunner of the Virgin Mary. Note the angel Gabriel, holding the lily in the donor panel, standing just under the figure of the Queen.
Judith beheading Holofernes – Window 6
Against the mayhem of the ongoing siege and battle in the background, an intimate, quiet setting is depicted. At the foot of the table lies a headless body. Judith, a young widow, has been given the strength by God to cut off the enemy’s general’s head with his own heavy sword that she’s slung over her shoulder because, despite entering his tent to entertain the general, she remains a virtuous woman. Holofernes’ naked body has not met its end in the bed, but on the floor. His glorious armor, empty, hangs on the side of the bed. His lust for power, his evilness has been exposed and punished by God. Outside while the world clamors, inside the luxurious tent a curious silence reigns; the two women, Judith and her handmaiden place the severed head in a bag and return to the city to place it on a spike for all to see God’s judgment.
The Maid of Dordrecht - Window 3
Christian churches have held a tradition once known as “A Mary Garden,” a long standing habit of planting an actual garden, or depicting a garden in a painting, with shrubs, flowers and statues or portraits of the sweet lady herself. A Mary Garden is hanging in St. John’s Church, once Catholic but subsequently Protestant, so the representation is not called Mary but “The Maid of Dordrecht.” Certain flowers are presented: lilies, irises, peonies, violets, roses, cowslips, and daisies for instance. These all have symbolic meanings:
Lily - Chastity, virtue and fertility, a cocktail often depicted in annunciation scenes
Iris - Faith, wisdom, friendship, hope, the blade-shaped foliage = sorrows that pierced Mary's heart
Peony -Felicitous marriage, compassion, most often shown along with Mother Mary
Violet - Modesty, watchfulness, affection, Mary’s constancy and innocence
Rose - Love, remembrance, passion, Mary was known as the “Mystic Rose”
Cowslip flower once called “Our Lady’s Keys” in medieval times, also known as marsh marigold
Daisy - Purity, loyal love, patience, also known as “flowery mead”
Why is the fair young fertile maid there since as a Protestant church a Mary Garden was no longer very popular? The inscription reads: “To the sacred friendship with the city council and the people of Gouda, so far well maintained and to be well maintained in the future, the city council and the people of Dordrecht have dedicated this pane.” This was a very expensive present, and a call to remember virtue, friendship, watchfulness, loyalty and the benefits reaped from patience, affection, compassion, hope etc. The theme of the window (1597) is the motto “Union is Strength”. Dordrecht was the place of the “First Assembly of the Free States” in 1572 after the break with the Catholic Church (exit Mary Garden costume change and enter Maid of Dordrecht) and Spain’s domination of Holland. By the by a representation of an enclosed garden setting signifies the human soul enclosed in a body or the faithful enclosed in the body of the church or new born republic.
Freedom of Conscious – Window 1
This stained glass window about the freedom of thought has nothing to directly do with the Bible. This is the representation of Dirck Volkertszoon Coornhert’s work, “Synod of the Freedom of Conscience.” The synod is historically a church council and this concept is then combined to promote the freedom to tolerate different beliefs and religions (thoughts), a hot topic leading to the break from the Vatican and the development of Protestantism in the Netherlands in 1571. Here we see Freedom of Conscience, hiding nothing, in her glorious heavy wheeled chariot rolling over the scarlet shame of tyranny, being pulled by the cardinal virtues of love, justice, unity loyalty, and perseverance. Angels clap their wings, holding up banners of support, the whole image conjures up wealth and influence in a luxurious setting.
Other Female Images
Saint Catherine, holding a wheel and sword, is depicted in two of the donor panels (window number 6 and window number 17). Catharine was a convert to Christianity and died a virgin for her beliefs. She is one of the most popular saints in the medieval ages and the hospice (now museum) across from the church was called the Catharina Convent. Saint Catherine was believed to be mystically married with Christ.
Saint Margaret, reputedly a powerful saint, holding a cross and standing on a dragon is represented in window number 23. She was swallowed by Satan, appearing to her in the form of a dragon, but the cross that she was holding irritated his innards and so he expelled her from his power. Here Saint Margaret, no temptress she, protects Margaret, Duchess of Parma. (For more about the struggle between the Netherlands and Spain, Philip II and Margaret of Parma, please see “The Bee’s Tour of Gouda, Buzzing Through Vinita’s Lens.")
Old Testament Windows
Solomon’s Consecration of the Temple - Window 7
Above the panel of the Last Supper the golden realm of the Temple of Solomon, the former national center of Jewish religious cultural and intellectual life, is shown. Golden flames, golden rays, golden Ark of the Covenant, gold, gold and more gold. Solomon was a popular king by association for Philip II. A really wise ruler is a rarity and that’s why Solomon is incredibly popular among high level officials in the 16th century. It’s even said that Philip based his stately Escorial, north of Madrid, on the descriptions of the Temple of Solomon. The Escorial is the Spanish center of culture and art. That King Philip II of Spain, then the ruler of the Dutch, is featured in the window in Gouda is no mere coincidence. That he is included in the scene of the Last Supper is to be taken for granted. Of course he was there, he’s the next Solomon, a man who asked God for wisdom to govern and serve his people(s).
And God apparently replied to Solomon’s request by reportedly saying, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days." Well Philip thought otherwise obviously. Let’s drop the second part of the quote, and even the first part is a little suspect since Philip supported the Inquisition which cost of a lot of (enemy) lives. Frankly the King of Spain (and Holland) wanted to duplicate the whole grace of the Solomon affair.
The Scourging of Heliodorus – Window 8
Cast a spell or two and see what comes: a horseman with two angel helpers to rid the premises of Heliodorus, the treasurer sent upon the orders of the king to collect the treasures from the temple. Interestingly enough the faces of the onlookers do not show surprise or alarm. Both sides of the story are driven by high energy and emotion; the intent of evil to rob the sacred of its worthiness and the panicky defence of the temple to safeguard its treasures. Mirroring Heliodorus, cowering in a corner, below in the donor panel is St. Lawrence who was commanded to overhand the treasures of the church where he was deacon. He resisted, pointing to the poor and sick, saying, “These are my treasures.” This phrase did not meet with much favour and Lawrence was tortured, ending up on a gridiron over a fire. Legend has it that at one point he murmured, “Turn me over. I am already roasted on one side.”
The Sacrifice of Elijah – Window 23
The prophet Elijah proves his point by producing a big fire, and what a fire it is, the smoke billows are teeming with angels blowing trumpets, fanning the flames, Satan in chains tumbling through the soot and God born solidly above, and who has shown himself to the people as being the strongest, the true God. In the heat of the strife and competition the fire that was offered by 450 prophets to Baal (often depicted as a haughty, half naked man with a sword) didn’t alight, and better yet, the cherry on the cake, even after little lone Elijah ordered the wood for his fire to be drenched with water, his offering to Yahweh did take flame. This is one of those basic male supremacy games that involve adding up numbers and shooting off fireworks. God apparently put Elijah, in other traditions, in charge of storms, hail, rain, thunder and….dew.
Jonah and the Whale – Window 30
Procrastination is a terrible thing, it can lead to depression. Take Jonah, for instance, who decided to not do God’s will, and eventually was persuaded to get on the job after confined three days in a whale’s stomach. Have you ever realized that some people have spent time contemplating which type of whale Jonah encountered? Someone even sighed it was such a pity that sperm whales did not reside in the Mediterranean.
Balaam and the She-ass – Window 31
The donkey in the stained glass window in Gouda looks back towards Balaam who is encouraging the donkey’s motor skills with a stick, while the donkey asks to his rider, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” In the donkey’s path the angel of God stands brandishing a sword. You’d think that the donkey would say something else such as “Stop hitting me,” or “I prefer the stick to the sword,” but what the donkey means by his question is that he’s saved Balaam’s life as the angel was intending to kill Balaam. The donkey’s question is rhetorical. You have no idea how many sermons have been written about “Balaam and Mr Ed” until you google this idea, due to gratitude no doubt.
King David and the Christian Knight – Window 29
Here the famed King of the United Kingdom of Israel, David, stands across from an anonymous Christian Knight. The weight in the pictures leans toward David, crowned, and away from the knight over which an angel is hovering, crown in hand. The Knight represents the unity of the recently formed country of the United States of Holland. David, despite his little slip-up when he seduced another man’s wife, is favoured by God. Bathsheba ultimately conceives Solomon by David, the union of the two gives birth the fabled wise king. This window was given by the northern States of Holland, part of the new united nation which had been seduced by Protestantism casting off Catholicism, and in a pr campaign set about featuring the new Dutch unity as a rejuvenation of the Old Testament, hoping justice would crown them as righteous offspring. The northern Dutch states were allowed their own provincial council, but under the watchful eye of the governing southern council. David was known for his accomplishments on the lyre, composing psalms singing the glory of God. Psalm number 2 is accredited to David:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people devise a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds asunder, and cast away Their cords from us.” He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.”
The Rebuilding of the Temple – Window 28 c
A major restoration of St. John’s church was undertaken beginning in 1916 and, aside from using state funding, the work was financially supported by eight families as well, for whom this window was placed in commemoration. The window depicts the returning of the Jews to the site of the first temple in Jerusalem to rebuild, and my, aren’t they busy as bees? The windows in St. John’s church were altered after the reformation; many of the depictions of God were removed, and then restored in the 20th century. There were complaints that the style of this new (1926) window was not in keeping with the other windows and some panes had to be replaced. Interestingly enough, the temple in the window is far more ornate and “Persian” or “Egyptian” than the type of temple that appears online in models of the second temple of Jerusalem.
New Testament Windows
Philip Healing, Teaching and Baptizing - Window 24
The main difference between an apostle and an evangelist is that the apostle provides the foundation and walls of the church while the evangelist goes out and gathers people to come to the church. It is a pity that here in this elaborate window one of the most romantic and exotic of the Bible’s New Testament stories is not fully represented. Instead we are looking at a hospital, and a lovely looking one at that, full of the sick and diseased to whom the deacon, Philip the evangelist on his rounds, is preaching and, thankfully, healing. The donor of the window, also named Philip, was paralyzed during a battle in South Holland, and is therefore placed in the scene, seeking his own health and salvation. The Donor Philip’s motto is “I shall maintain.” All very well and done for, but let’s look back deeper into the frame of the picture. Philip is standing in water baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch that he came across while traveling across the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. “The eunuch was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah,” says the Bible. Imagine, you’re a wandering evangelist and you come across a dark skinned man in a chariot reading up on your specialty and, having formed a few questions in his mind, wants to know more about Christianity! It’s a golden opportunity to convert the first non Jewish person to Christianity (on record that is).
The Pharisee and the Publican - Window 27
Donated by the city of Amsterdam, both the old and new coats of arms to the city are shown at the bottom of the window, the theme of this window is a curious one. Publicans, Jewish tax collectors, were despised but here in the parable and scene, the publican in the foreground is granted mercy by God because he shows humility. The city of Amsterdam collected taxes upon the order of Philip II but they withheld the funds from the Spanish king, later using them to fund the struggle against the Spanish.
The Relief of Leiden - Window 25
Where: Leiden, the Netherlands, this window is a map of the area showing the tactics of the Dutch who flooded the landscape to repel the Spanish
Between whom: Dutch and Spanish (invaders)
Story in relation to St. John’s Church: The Dutch victors expulsed the Spanish, and ended Spanish rule in Holland. Willem of Orange, the leader of the Dutch can be seen in this window.
Donor: The City of Delft in 1604
The Relief of Samaria - Window 26
Where: West Bank, Middle East
When: 723-720 BCE
Between whom: Israelites and the Assyrians (invaders)
Story in relation to St. John’s Church: Legitimization by the newly formed Dutch nation to associate themselves with the nation of Israel, the chosen people.
Donor: The City of Leiden in 1601
The Taking of Damietta - Window 2
Between whom: Egyptians and the Crusaders (invaders)
Story in relation to Church: The city of Haarlem lost the battle of 1573 against the Spanish, but three centuries earlier the Dutch had taken part of the victory against the Muslim sultan in Egypt under the leadership of Count William of Holland. Therefore, Haarlem chose to represent themselves in a victorious setting despite their recent failure.
Donor: The City of Haarlem, in 1597
The Liberation Pane - Window 28a
This pane was set into the church in 1947 after the end of the Second World War. The scene is chaotic and conjures up the height of the despair, the panic, and the brutality of the experience of war in the upper scenes while to lower scenes give way to relief and emergence of human presence from under the horrors. The placement of this window is apt because of the other windows present which celebrated the victory over the Spanish rule in the Netherlands in the 16th century.
The saintly sailors from the Christian fleet are very tidily numbered up here in the choir of the church.
51. Christ, saviour of the world “I am the way, the Truth and the Life.”
50. Peter, two keys – one for the earthly church and one the heavenly church
52. Andrew, Andrew’s cross – it’s also used as the city symbol of Amsterdam
49. John (evangelist not namesake of the church), chalice he expunged of any poison
53. James of the Greater, pilgrim’s staff
48. Philip, holding wrong attribute (Thomas’ lance)
54. Thaddeus, club with which he was beaten to death
47. Thomas, crosier belonging to Philip
55. Bartholomew, knife with which he was skinned alive
46. James the Lesser, square rule, patron saint of hat makers, labourers
56. Simon, saw rumoured to be a carpenter and killed by saw
45. Matthew, axe with which he was beheaded
57. Matthias, lance with which he was martyred in Asia
As a rule of thumb, the donors seek to identify themselves with various aspects in depicted in the windows. Most people have a “Who am I” or “Where do I belong” moment or two in their lives and seek by association to cement their place in the earthly (political) and spiritual realms.
Window 5: The Abbess of Rijnsburg, Elburga van Boetselaer, entered the convent at ten years of age. She identifies herself with the Queen of Sheba paying homage to Philip II in the guise of Solomon. The Abby of Rijnsburg was abolished in 1574.
Window 6: Margaret van der Marck, Countess of Arenberg, widow (note husband’s empty helmet in front of husband’s image). The house of Arenberg (now Belgian based) is presently headed by His Serene Highness Prince Henry of Arenberg.
Window 7: The King’s Window, Philip II of Spain and Duke of Holland. For more over Philip and Gouda please see “The Bee’s Tour of Gouda, Buzzing Through Vinita’s Lens.”
Window 8: Eric II, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg, born Protestant in what is now Germany, converted to Catholicism, was a vassal to Philip II.
Window 9: Dirck Cornelisz, van Hensbeek, Burgomaster of Gouda. A burgomaster was a limb of the position of Mayor in a town. There could be three or four burgomasters that completed the office of mayor together. His wife and four children are also seen. Behind them line up orphans from the Holy Ghost Orphanage which the family supported financially.
Window 10: Theodorus Spiering van Weill, Abbot of the Norbertine Monastery near Berne. The Monastery in the south of the Netherlands still exists although for some time after 1579 it was closed. For more on this topic please see “The Bee’s Tour of Gouda, Buzzing Through Vinita’s Lens.”
Window 11: The heirs of Herman Lethmaet, Deacon of St. Marie in Utrecht and Vicar-General of the Bishop of Utrecht. Lethmaet was born in Gouda, and befriended with Erasmus. He was fundamental in getting commissions for the 16th century stained glass windows in St. John’s Church.
Window 12: The Canons of Oudmunster in Utrecht, Gouda was part of the Archdiocese of Oudmunster. Canons were clergy attached to a cathedral, this one in particular being the Utrecht Dom. They could be either secular canons who did not pool their resources or Canons Regular who collected their wealth under a group umbrella.
Window 13: Petrus van Suyren, Abbot of the Norbertine Monastery Marienwaerd near Beesd. Van Suyren was an keen collector and promoter of art works, but reportedly had trouble making his bills.
Window 14: Robert van Bergen, Provost of Oudmunster in Utrecht and Prince-Bishop of Liege. The Prince-Bishop of Liege was an area of land, here pertaining to a large area of what is now southern in the Netherlands and mainly Belgium, that was part of the Holy Roman Empire (spread over Europe) and ruled by a territorial prince (bishop). The Prince-Bishop was dissolved in 1801.
Window 15: Joris van Egmond, Bishop of Utrecht. The post of Bishop of Utrecht remained emptry between 1580 and 1853 due to the Protestant hold in the Netherlands.
Window 16: Cornelis van Mierop, Cathedral Provost and Deacon of Oudmunster in Utrecht. Van Mierop came from an established family, studied law in Padua worked in for the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in his Secret Council as an advisor for matters concerning the administration and duties of territorial lords.
Window 17: Wouter van Bylaer, Commander of St. Catherine’s Convent and of all places of worship of the Knights of St. John in the diocese of Utrecht. Note the Maltese cross on van Bylaer’s arm signifying Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, an order of chivalry.
Window 18: Burgomaster of Gouda Gerrit Heye depicted along with his wife, his brother-in-law and daughter.
Window 19: Henry of Zwolle, Commander of the Order of St. John in Haarlem. Again, a member of the Knights of Malta choosing a righteous and bloody scene.
Window 22: Prince William of Orange and his second wife, Anna of Saxony. For more on William of Orange and Gouda, please see “The Bee’s Tour of Gouda, Buzzing Through Vinita’s Lens.”
Window 23: Margaret Duchess of Parma, half sister to Philip II, King of Spain and Duke of Holland.
Window 24: Philip, Duke of Ligne, Lord of Wassenaer, Viscount of Leiden, Knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece. Philip owned the tollage of the Gouda locks and the revenue. The Knights of the Golden Fleece is a chivalric order founded in 1430, now split into two orders, one being Spanish and the other Austrian. The Austrian branch includes the current Duke of Ligne, Michel the Prince d’Epinoy and d’Amblise. Nicolas Sarkozy was a member of the Spanish branch. There is still a Lord of Wassenaer in the Netherlands, one of the few noble families remaining in the country.
Window 31: The Butcher’s Guild of Gouda
Window 50: The Fishmongers Guild of Gouda
Window 58: Jan-Gerritsz. Heye, Burgomaster of Gouda. The Heyes were established in Gouda, one of the earlier members of the family was a supporter of Erasmus. Heye himself had at one point to flee Gouda as he was a follower of Philip II.
Window 59: Dirck Cornelisz. Van Reynegom, a rich beer brewer, toll administrator, follower of Philip II was forced to move to Delft in 1574.
Window 60: Nicolas Ruysch, Canon and Treasurer of Oudmunster in Utrecht. He knew Lethmaet (11), Robert van Bergen (14). Oudmunster means chapter church, or oudminster. The Oudmunster in Utrecht was founded in the 11th century as a part of Utrecht’s cross of churches, four churches set to form the figure of a cross.
Window 61: Nicolas van Nieuwland, Suffragan, Deacon of St. Marie in Utrecht and Provost of the St. Bavo Church in Haarlem, Bishop of Hebron in the Holy Lands (crusade). He was dismissed from his posts in 1568. His nickname was “Drunk Nick.”
Window 62: Father Robert Jansz, Prior of St. Margarets Convent in Gouda. The Convent was burnt and ravaged in 1572. Jansz. Jansz was the last prior. Note is tonsured haircut and clothing, a white choir shirt and the black cape, which indicates that he was a living in the community of the Canons Regulier, a group of priests following the Augustinian rule.
Window 63: Father Willem Jacobsz. Superior of the St. Marie Monastery of Poor Clares. Again this donor is wearing the habit of the Augustinian rule which meant that he 1. was not bound to one place to live 2. was engaged in apostolic (community interactive) activities 3. was committed to corporate poverty, not individual.
Window 64: Father Thomas Hermansz. Superior of Marienpoel Monastery near Leiden. He was also a canon in Stein, the monastery outside Gouda where Erasmus once lived. In 1572, because the Catholic Church and the monasteries were unfavored, Hermansz. fled to Amsterdam. For more on this matter in Gouda, please see "The Bee's Tour of Gouda, Buzzing Through Vinita's Lens."
Thank you for visiting!
Completed June 12, 2013
Copyright Persephone Abbott