About Us

Mission

The Mission of St. Peter’s Parish is to love our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and all our minds; to love our neighbors as ourselves, and welcome ALL to the table.

 

History

St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Paris, KY was founded in 1832 and has been ministering in the name of Jesus Christ to Paris and the greater Bourbon County.

Windows

THE WINDOWS OF SAINT PETER’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

notes on an episode of Gothic Revival Anglicanism

in Paris, Kentucky

prepared by Estill Curtis Pennington, art historian and congregant

August 20, 2009

words in italics are referenced at the end of these notes

 

The stained glass windows in our church tell the wondrous story of Christ the King, who reigns in heaven, and the redeeming gifts he bestowed upon his chosen disciple, Peter. The best way to learn the story encrypted in these windows is to approach the high altar with respect and prayer. Looking up you will see, contained within a six sided star, a white dove, image of the Holy Spirit. A six sided star represents permanency and the equal nature of all things born under Heaven. A white dove in stained glass also hovers over the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome. Note that the window is organized into three parts, left, center, right, and these three parts represent the eternal trilogy known and spoken through the Nicean Creed.

Below this Holy Dove two quatrefoil panels left, and right, containing red roses, embrace the three scenes below. These red roses are presented in a design style recalling the badge of the House of Lancaster, a cadet branch of the ancient English Plantagenet dynasty. This is our first glimpse of the suggestive Anglican symbolism which enlivens all these windows. Below them center we see St. Peter standing beneath a large Bishop’s mitre aloft, symbolizing his role as the first Bishop of Rome. In his hands he holds the Keys of the Kingdom promised to him by Jesus Christ who called him the rock upon which the church would be founded. St. Peter stands before the curtain of the kingdom, rent at the crucifixion, and now closed til Christ shall come again.

He is flanked on both sides by images of two blessed sacraments, that of Baptism, on the left, and the Holy Communion, on his right. The Baptismal font, left, is in the Norman style, much like that found in rural English parish churches, and it stands beneath the keys of the Kingdom. To the right stands a Holy Grail, the cup of salvation from which we drink in remembrance of Him who died for us. It sits beneath a discrete gathering of grapes and wheat shafts, symbols of the bread and wine which furnish the Eucharistic Feast. The entire window setting is emblazoned with medieval coiling vine motifs which incorporate the acorn seed of the Royal Oak and the grape. From this first viewing we can see the formative message that the Episcopal Church is indeed a cadet branch of the Holy Catholic Church, one which baptizes its followers in Apostolic Succession and celebrates the Eucharistic Feast as proscribed from days of old. For further study of this association you can read the opening remarks to an 1795 edition of the Book of Common Prayer which acknowledges the “English Church” as the source for orders of worship. This book is to be found in our church archives.

Stepping down from the high altar and looking right we see, behind the organ, a window organized in bilateral parts, symbol of the mystic duality of human creation, part man, part spirit. All the windows along the sides of this church are bilateral, and all depict profound dualities. This window contains, in the order read in the New Testament, the symbolic badges of the Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. St. Matthew, top left, is represented by an angel. St, Mark, next right, by a lion. St. Luke, lower left, by a winged ox. St. John, lower right, by an eagle. Students of iconography have suggested that these symbols are derived from the vision the Prophet Ezekiel relates in his first book, Chapters 1-14. These symbolic representations of the canonic gospellers have been present in Christian art since the earliest days of The Church. Their presence here suggests that the congregants of this parish were well aware of historical precedent and sought to do it justice, even in those days when civil war loomed, and then befell, this nation, this Commonwealth, and, quite sadly, this County.

Stepping through and then down from the low chancel rail from which we receive the Holy Eucharist look left and right. On the left the first window sets the tone of allegiance for this church. In the roundel atop the window there is a Red Cross thrust through a golden crown. The Red Cross is the symbol of St. George, a Roman solider who was martyred for his faith in the third century and is venerated as the patron saint of England and the English Church. From medieval times he has been known as the Red Cross Knight, a designation represented below, left, by the sword and red shield. To the right is a gathered sheaf of wheat, symbol of the strength of united communion in Christ, which we may call the Commonwealth and by which name many of the colonies on the eastern shore of this nation were called. Above both these symbols a three sided leaf containing a keyhole presides, symbol of the sure knowledge that the Kingdom of heaven is open to those who hold the keys first given to Peter but then to each of us who accepts the cross and affirms the sacraments. In this window we see the duality of personal commitment and community strength. Though individually challenged we are strong in communion. This window was dedicated to the memory of the Hopson family, March 28, 1866.

Looking left we see a roundel poised above the two parts below. In that roundel there is a Red Cross pierced by a golden square and set before a banner curling. This is the cross of St. Peter redeemed, the mark of his crucifixion redeemed, the position of his cross returned to an upright position. Below left we see the lilies of the field, waving in the sunshine, the lilies that sow not, nor reap, yet not even Solomon in his glory was arrayed as these. A hymn from the time of these windows sings out that in the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me. To the right an angel stands before an open tomb, the sure sign and knowledge of resurrection. Above both these scenes keyholes embedded in leaf forms are, again, poised. The entire window is emblazoned with the coiling vine and grape motif, constant symbols of growth and renewal. This window embodies the duality that Christ has died, and that Christ is risen. That he will come again in glory is known by the bright light which illuminates these windows. This window was dedicated to the memory of the Spears family, December 9, 1869.

Moving down the aisle we see, next right, a window in which a roundel holds the image of a mother bird plucking at her breast, drawing forth blood to feed her young. This is a medieval symbol for the sacrifice of Christ and it surmounts two windows which signify the dualities inherent in the parable of the tares. To the left we see the lambs of God, the agnus dei, gathered about the Cross. To the right a man is sowing wheat. Jesus said: “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Matthew 13, 36-43. Looking upon the image of a man sowing seed would have had great resonance for this community, a market town in the midst of agrarian abundance and prosperity, a town in which there was both slave and free, even as in this church there were both slave and free. Yet again, we see these symbols emblazoned by the coiling vine and grape. Yet again we experience the duality of body and spirit. God’s lambs are gathered beneath his Cross, but who shall feed them? The pioneer farmer sowing the crops next door?

Looking left we see a window in which a roundel containing a triangle inset with letters in Aramaic Hebrew poised above the two windows below. These letters are called the tetragammaton and they evoke Jahweh, the Lord God of Hosts, the Almighty one. This is a symbol for the inherent God, the Eternal One who has no name but was called “Eloi” by Christ from the Cross at His moment of gravest pain. Below left is a large brass thurible in the Byzantine style, an incense burner of the type used in the ancient church to give fragrance to foul air and bid off evil spirits even as the rising smoke bespoke the potent ecstasy of the Holy Spirit ascending, descending. To the right of this thurible rests an open Book of Common Prayer. The first Book of Common Prayer was prepared by His Grace Thomas Cramner, Archbishop of Canterbury, and was issued forth in 1549 during the reign of His Majesty King Edward VI, hereditary Duke of Lancaster, the Red Rose Knight. When the offices in this book were read forth to the congregants gathered they heard the celebratory words of Jesus Christ’s Holy Communion in their own language, the vernacular, for the first time. This window symbolizes the duality of the Holy Church, ancient and modern, the duality of time. We know that there have been many revisions to the vernacular because language, like man, changes and evolves. But we also know that the word of God speaks of that which was, is, and shall forever be. This window was dedicated to Thomas Kelly, March 28, 1862 and his wife Cordelia Kelly, October 31, 1864 in commemoration of their Holy Baptism.

Moving along we see, last, and on the right, A window in whose upper roundel is inscribed INRI which means, in the Latin vulgate, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, and in the English vulgate Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Issued in irony and mockery by Pontius Pilate in the hours before the crucifixion this title was redeemed by the body and blood of Jesus Christ who rose from the dead to become the eternal King of Heaven. In the window below left His Holy Sacrifice is commemorated by a green wreath of thorns within which hang the three nails which pierced his hands and feet upon the cross at Calvary. To the right a red badge roundel is divided into three parts whose inner roundels acknowledges the triune nature of God: Pater, Jesu, Spiritu Sancti. On the lower right of this inner circle the word “Ilius” reminds us that the three parts have a harmonic equality, even as the words ascribed around the outer circle “non est” inform us that the Father is not The Son, nor is The Holy Spirit either one. This is the mystic sweet reunion of which we sing in Hymns Ancient and Modern. And yet again, the entire window is emblazoned with the coiling vine and grape.

At last we stand before the great front window, a short trip, but a long journey. The window above the high altar is the inner window that shines forth with the foundations and sacraments of the Church. The front window is the outer window through which a nearly constant southwestern light shines. Like the inner window it is organized into three parts, above which we see a roundel embedded with the image of the Lamb of God standing before a sacred banner often associated with the Baptismal Rite of St. John, the son of Elizabeth, sister of Mary, Holy Mother of Jesus Christ. Below there are four quatrefoil insets. The two above contain images of cherubs at peace, images created by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. A photolithographic representation of his painting The Sistine Madonna is in the possession of this ground floor of this church. Below the angels the two insets left and right contain the Red Rose we have seen before and will see again in the new Parish hall windows next door. Beneath these windows, the great promise of Heaven is laid out in three panels. To the left a bunch of roses represents the blood shed for us. To the right a gathering of lilies represents the transfiguration of death into life. In the center an enormous golden crown, spiked by brilliants set atop, shines. This is the Crown of Heaven. Below that Crown left, the Holy Bible is open for us to read, for therein lies the pathway to salvation. To the right a large Maltese Cross reminds us to be ever vigilante on our journey. On the lower left the initials MKW and the date August 26, 1869 may celebrate the congregant Margaret K. Wood of this church. Last: read well these words:

Write blessed are the dead

Lord take me to dwell with thee

in life everlasting

for Jesus Christ sake

Amen

 

Some closing notes: “Stained glass” is a reference to the process of coloring clear glass with tinted transparent glazes compounded from linseed oil and shellac pellets, colored with organic pigments, and applied with a brush. To my eye these windows all seem to have been done by the same hand as the brush stroke is consistent and personal. These words were written by me after long reflection upon these windows. I am mindful of the sin of idolatry and of the Puritan destruction of stained glass windows in English parish churches before, during and after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1536. But I believe that these windows were not installed to distract, but to teach, and, more importantly, to perpetuate an Anglo-Catholic identity. Consider that many stained glass windows are episodic, depicting people and events. These windows contain the many signs and symbols of the ancient English Church. They are clear manifestations of the 19th century Gothic Revival movement in this country and in England, a movement nurtured by the Oxford and Cambridge groups. Their presence in this church also signifies a very High Church minded congregation apparently guided by well informed Rectors of the same persuasion. It is wondrous that these windows continue to be gloriously enshrined in a Church whose Eucharistic tradition is the oldest in the Commonwealth of Kentucky!

Estill Curtis Pennington, August 23, 2009, the 176th year of the Church

Terminology:

a: one way of seeing history, as opposed to the way of seeing history, a subtle distinction between history as a social construct embodying many variables and history as a distant, easily definable episode with didactic meanings.

Cadet branch: Heraldic term referring to younger sons in a system of primogeniture; in the event the oldest son does not have issue the properties and titles can descend through his brother, a younger son’s, issue, including those in the female line. Thus the descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, became Kings of England through their mother, his daughter. In the Hebraic tradition legitimate descent is always through the female line. Thus Jesus was born of the Royal House of David through his mother, Mary. For an interesting read on this subject see: Graves, Robert. King Jesus.

Christian Art: see Ferguson, George, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art.

Emblazoned: Heraldic term meaning an overall pattern covering the surface of a rendered image.

Gothic Revival: A term which describes the reintroduction of medieval forms as applications for architecture secular and modern. For a specific reference to the relationship between this style and the Episcopal Church see Stanton, Phoebe B. The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste, 1840-1956.

Holy Grail: the cup from which Christ drank at The Last Supper and which gained attention as a mystic object of veneration during the Medieval Era through the publication of Thomas Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur in 1469. For further readings on this subject consider: Girouard, Mark. The Age of Chivalry. White, T. H. The Once and Future King.

Hymns Ancient and Modern: First published in England by William Clowes and Sons in 1861 and incorporating many medieval settings for worship…notably those of Thomas Tallis whose songs inspired many participants in the Gothic Revival.

Iconography: the study of religious signs and symbols. See Christian Art above.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea is a line from the poem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe, first published in 1862 and quickly set to existing music by William Steffe. It became the anthem of Union forces during the Civil War and remained a contender for the title “national anthem” until that term was settled upon “The Star Spangled Banner” by an act of Congress on March 3, 1931. Other contenders for national anthem include “My Country Tis of Thee” which is sung to the tune of “God Save The King”.

Maltese Cross: A four sided cross with equally sized arms most often associated with the Knights of Malta, a branch of the Knights Hospitaler, founded in 1060 in Jerusalem to give nurture to Crusaders. Though the order has undergone many transformations several international organizations, including the English St. John’s Brigade, continue charitable ventures in the name of Jesus Christ.

Mitre: the pointed cap of office worn by a Bishop and derived from ancient near Eastern sources, notably the headgear of Jewish Rabbis and the turbans of Zoroastrian priests, indication of the Church’s ongoing absorption of other forms and traditions.

Nicean Creed: set forth by the first Council of Nicaea in 325 affirming the Divinity of Jesus Christ and also representing the first attempt to assemble his followers into one “holy and catholic apostolic” church.

Norman: a reference to a style of architecture based on the rural French Romanesque (like Roman) architecture introduced into England after the Norman Conquest by William, Duke of Normandy, in 1066 and whose murder of Harold ended the long line of Anglo-Saxon Kings. Norman Churches came to represent the colonial presence of Roman Catholicism on an island whose Christian practices had been more deeply influenced by Celtic sources upon the Isle of Sky as well as Anglo-Saxon sources in Salisbury and Glastonbury.

Our church: the early history and records of our church are to be found in the Church Archives housed in the Rector’s Office. Many of these documents have also been microfilmed by the University of Kentucky Library.

Oxford and Cambridge Groups: Inspired by the writings of Reverend Edward Bouverie Pusey, this movement sought to renew the Church of England by returning the Eucharist to a central place of worship as well as celebrating it on a regular, if not weekly, basis. Throughout the 18th century the Episcopal Church in England and America had evolved along more evangelic lines, favoring the sermon over the mass, despising “popism” and preaching salvation by works, not by the grace bestowed through the Eucharistic Feast…thus the Methodism of the Wesley Brothers, John and Charles, who, it should be remembered died as Episcopalians. Inspired by Pusey the English architect A. W. Pugin designed several of the most important Gothic Revival structures of the age, notably the Houses of Parliament, his tribute to “one true Christian architecture”. For further readings on the movement’s impact on the American Church see: Crockett, Larry. The Oxford Movement and the 19th Century Episcopal Church in America. See also: Lears, T. Jackson. No Place of Grace: Anti-modernism and the transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920.

Quatrefoil: an organic form, often in the shape of a leaf, with four sides…also trefoil: an organic form with three sides.

Royal Oak: Following the Battle of Worcester in 1651 King Charles II, then Prince of Wales, fled that field of the English Civil War and hid in an oak tree located near Boscobel House. That oak tree came to symbolize the belief in High Anglican tradition which Charles II upheld during his reign (1660-1685)…that tradition sought out the via media or middle way between the Puritan extreme, lead by Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads and the Roman Catholic extreme, upheld by the Duke of Norfolk. The position of the Anglican Church as a viable via media retains a venerable aura beheld by many high churchmen to this day.

The Sistine Madonna: painted by Raphael c. 1512-1514 and intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II, his patron as well as that of Michelangelo. It was never placed there, instead residing in the convent of St. Sixtus in Rome until they gave it in homage to Augustus the Strong of Saxony who placed it in the Old Masters Gallery in Dresden. It survived the horrible fire bombing of Dresden during World War II in a vault and hangs in that city to this day.

 

 
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St. Peter's Episcopal Church

  • 311 High Street
    Paris, Kentucky 40361
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    Paris, Kentucky 40362-0027
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  • Until further notice, St. Peter's is providing only videotaped Holy-Eucharist, Rite II services that will be posted to this website and on Facebook by 8:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

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