The Ascension window depicts Jesus parting with his followers and ascending into heaven forty days after Easter. It was installed in 1885 and was intended to be the only stained-glass window in the Cathedral. Inspired by it’s beauty, Burne-Jones subsequently decided to design two more shortly afterwards.
The top half of the window displays Christ surrounded by the heavenly host. Six angels stand around Christ, with three on each side of him. They have their hands clasped, as if in prayer. Long flowing fabric in various pastel shades drapes over them, which in certain strong lights, can appear almost neon.
Halos are visible among a mass of feathers above the heads of Christ and the angels. These feathers flood the top of the window with vibrant red. Like many of Burne-Jones’ figures, the angels which surround Christ have proportionally small heads and long bodies, which heightens the impression of the angels as other worldly beings. They have serene and placid expressions and appear two-dimensional.
Bold, vibrant tones depict the disciples and followers of Jesus. The deep blues of the sky which divide the two halves of the window emphasise this contrast, and symbolise the separation between the earthly and spiritual realms.
The disciples display evident emotion in their expressions and gestures as they look up to Christ. Gazing up at him, they surrounded by the angels in heaven. Christ extends his left hand towards them – but his right hand points towards his heavenly destination.
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Christ ascends into heaven
The top half of the window shows Christ, with three angels on each side of him; their hands clasped in prayer
They are draped in long flowing fabric in various pastel shades which, in certain strong lights, can appear almost neon.
Above the heads of Christ and the angels, the tops of many halos are just evident through the mass of feathers which flood the top of the window with vibrant red. If you look closely, you will see that one of the angels has blue wings.
Like many of Burne-Jones’ figures, the angels have proportionally small heads and long bodies which heightens the impression of the angels as other worldly beings.
They have serene and placid expressions Barefoot and clothed in red and blue, Christ stands on the clouds and looks tenderly towards the people below. Wearing sandals, angels hold their hands in gestures of prayer.
Jesus is reaching out his hand to those below in a blessing. This gesture can also be seen in the Last Judgement window. The open hand is also a sign of welcome.
Some observers often ask about what looks like an England flag in Christ’s halo, which could symbolise Christ’s victory over death.
Burne-Jones said that he wanted to depict heaven starting six inches above our heads ‘as it really does’.
The space between heaven and earth
The deep blues of the sky which divide the two halves of the window emphasise this contrast and symbolise the separation between the earthly and spiritual realms. The Ascension window is divided horizontally by a dark blue band of sky with oval- shaped clouds in pale blue. Above the clouds, Christ ascends into Heaven surrounded by angels. Below, a crowd of onlookers gaze upwards.
Ascension – blue circles – could be sky or water – oval shapes are a link / easy to pass through
The disciples watch on
The lower half of the window depicts the disciples and followers of Jesus, watching him ascend into heaven.
They are painted in bold, vibrant tones. These emotional onlookers contrast with the placid expressions of the angels in the upper half of the window.
Christ extends his left hand towards them – but his right hand points towards his heavenly destination.
The scene includes Mary, mother of Jesus and two disciples clad in white and two wearing blue. Their garments provide a visual link with the blue of Christ’s tunic in the upper portion of the window.
It is thought that the disciple St Philip is in the centre of crowd – shown as a clean-shaven young man.