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South nave wall of St. Paul's Cathedral displays two out of four Tiffany windows: "The Raising of Jairus' Daughter" (1918) and "Christ Standing at the Door" (1923).

By C. Cody Barteet

From artists like Yvonne Williams, Peter Howarth, Christopher Wallis, Stuart Reid, James and William Meikle to the firms of Michael Farrar-Bell, G. Maile & Son Studios, Hobbs Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Robert McCausland Limited, Luxfer Studios, N.T. Lyon, and Sunrise Stained Glass, the churches of the Diocese of Huron house some of the most specular stained glass produced over the past 150-years in North America.

The scope and diversity of artists is remarkable and a testament to the faith and stewardship of our parishes and parishioners.

Among this diverse collection of glassworks are four windows produced by the famed Tiffany Glass & Co. that populate the north and south nave walls of the St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The four monumental lancet-windows, roughly 19 feet (5.7 meters) tall and 4 feet 7 inches (1.3 meters) wide, while weighing in around 1,800 pounds each of favrile glass, are memorial windows to the Meredith family of London.

The windows honour the memories of five individuals: John Walsingham Cooke Meredith (1809-1881) and Sarah Pegler (1819-1900), and three of their children, Ada Walsingham Meredith (1851-1916), Anne Cooke Meredith (1838-1920), and John Stanley Meredith (1888-1920). 

Like the world-renowned Tiffany & Co., the Merediths were widely known throughout Ontario and Quebec at the turn of the twentieth century. The children of John and Sarah held important positions within the Canada’s judiciary and financial institutions, shaping the Canadian legal systems and economy for generations.

The Merediths’ influence is also felt within the Canadian artworld. John and Sarah’s seventh child, Sir Henry Vincent Meredith (1850-1929), along with his wife, Isobel “Brenda” Allan (1867-1959), were avid art patrons in Montreal, and facilitated the establishment of the Art Gallery of the Art of Association of Montreal. More locally, The Honourable Justice Richard Martin Meredith (1847-1934) was an active patron too and a member of the Cathedral’s worshipping community. Among Justice Meredith’s more notable contributions to the Cathedral, was the set chimes he donated in 1901. 

In more recent times, the various contributions of the Meredith family to St. Paul’s have become muddled. The opaqueness is in part connected to the unfortunate ending of Sarah and John’s family tree with the death of Justice William Ralph Meredith on 20 May 1934.

Over the past ninety years collective memory has given way to speculation and assumptions concerning the Merediths most significant contributions to the Cathedral, the four Tiffany windows. For decades the memories of when the windows were installed, and which family members commissioned the memorials has slowly dissipated about the windows that depict four distinct scenes: The Good Shepherd (1897) and Blessed are the Pure of Heart (1923) along the nave’s north wall, and to the south, The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter (1918) and Christ Standing at the Door (1923). 

Despite their importance to Canadian artistic culture, as one of only five locations housing Tiffany windows in Canada, the windows have received little attention in today’s popular culture or academic scholarship.  Some long-time members of the parish and diocesan staff may recall the interest of the former curator of glass at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The curator’s inquiry was connected to a traveling exhibit in 2009-2010 that focused on the art of Tiffany & Co.  The Meredith windows factored into the discussion of Tiffany glass in Canada that also promoted the seventeen windows which made of the Museum’s collection. No mentioned was made to other locations that possibly house single Tiffany windows including Murray Bay Protestant Church (Quebec) and St. George’s Anglican Cathedral (Kingston). 

To return to the St. Paul’s windows. During the lifetime of the firm, Tiffany windows were far from economical means of honoring deceased relatives, with windows costing between $1,000 to $5,000 USD. To put that into today’s rates, the pricing scale is equivalent to $17,000 to $184,000! And it seems that at least one of the Meredith family’s windows was priced in at the higher end of the scale.

On Saturday 11 September 1897 The London Advertiser ran an editorial tilted, “A Costly Memorial.” The editorial notes the windows dedication to John W.C. Meredith while noting its cost as “one of the richest works of the kind ever turned out by . . . Tiffany & Co.” Likely commissioned by his wife and children, the window would go on to serve as a double memorial after Sarah’s death in 1900. 

It would be almost another twenty years before another Tiffany window was installed. On Wednesday 24 July 1918, The London Advertiser published a lengthy discussion and large picture of what we know call the Ada Meredith Memorial window.  Commissioned by the Honorable Richard Meredith, the window was dedicated to his sister.

Of the four windows, the Ada Memorial depicts one of the more unusual subjects produced by the Tiffany firm: The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter. The story recounted in the Gospels of Matthew (9:18-26), Mark (5:21-43), and Luke (8:40-56) was depicted by Tiffany & Co. only a handful of times. The subject, connected to the bat mitzah coming-of-age ceremony, at first thought is seemingly out of place in the larger Anglican cathedral. However, in Christian practices the story corresponds to the acts of conversion of the gentiles through the acceptance of Christ as the Messiah that facilitated a new spiritual life and the assurance of salvation. Such a narrative of spiritual salvation is more than appropriate considering the historical moment the window was created at the end of the Great War and the catastrophic loss of life it precipitated. 

The final two windows, both designed by Louis C. Tiffany during his retirement, were commissioned by the Honorable William Ralph Meredith. Dedicated to his sibling Anne Cooke Meredith and John Stanley Meredith, the windows illustrate scenes of “Blessed Are the Pure of Heart” and “Christ Standing at the Door.” Derived from the Beatitudes and William Holman Hunt’s painting, respectively, the works were announced to the public in the Thursday 26 April 1923 issue of The Free Press. 

Although none of the windows at St. Paul’s are dedicated to the cathedral’s patron saint, the four windows do adhere to Paul’s ministry. Through their didactic messaging each window, necessitates parishioners and visitors to consider their actions and their commitment to opening the door to God and embarking on a path to salvation. 

Cody Barteet is an Associate Professor, Art History Department of Visual Arts, Western University, and Senior Rector’s Warden at St. John the Evangelist, London.