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Loire Glass - a Detailed Guide

On 13th November 2007 St Richard's was listed as a Grade II building by English Heritage, advised by the Catholic Church's Historic Churches Commission. The principal reason was the church's possession of one of the largest collections of Loire glass panels in Britain. These were commissioned from Gabriel Loire by the parish priest of 1962, Fr Langton Fox, who had close links with Chartres, which is twinned with Chichester.

Chartres is the home of Loire glass and this studio produced the 62 composite and single panels which are set in the walls of St Richard's.

The late Gabriel Loire is third from the left, shown with his family.

The panels have three large wall panels in the nave, north and south transepts with smaller panels depicting biblical scenes and also civic pictures reflecting the creative and recreational life of the City. It is likely that listing will encourage many more visitors to view the panels. For the future, we plan to instal new facilities to interpret the glass to visitors, with a tactile and audio visual display when the new Narthex is constructed.

The panels are of a technique known as dalle de verre, pioneered by the French stained glass designer Pierre Fourmaintraux, and adopted by Gabriel Loire. An open evening describing the glass for parishioners was conducted by Majella Taylor, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, who knows the Loire family well.

Majella explains:

"The panels to provide the glass segments are about one inch (22mm) thick - individually coloured. The figures are made of small pieces produced by the glassmaker hitting the blocks with a tungsten hammer."

The chips are used to make up the image which is set in concrete.

"The panels reflect and refract light in spectacular ways, which change as the sun's rays move round the church."

"St Richard is depicted in the North transept. He is the patron saint of Chichester, who was Bishop from 1244 to 1253. It is remarkable how skilled the craftspeople were in creating facial details - because each piece of glass had to be cut and then chipped to make the light and shade - instead of painting it like traditional glass, which is very skilled anyway."

"They had to chip it so that the lighter parts are thin glass and the dark thick glass."

"Another striking window is in the south transept - the Baptismal window, which is in two sections. "

In the top of the window we have the Holy Spirit descending in baptism. Above there are several stars which represent light and also the ancient symbol in the christian church of lighted candles - so here are several candles and a big candle which was given to the child in baptism."

"At the bottom there are the two fish which are very ancient Christian symbols of the early church - the early Christians would draw them in sand if they wanted other Christians to recognise them - because they couldn't recognise them unless they had been to church! The anchor has always been a symbol of stablility. "

"Over the Nave, on the West side, and facing the main road, is a window devoted to Mary, surrounded by angels, in heaven - the Queen of heaven. She is beautiful!. This is my favourite panel."

The remaining window panels are set in the walls facing the sanctuary. They begin with early biblical scenes, and progress through the age of saints, miracles,everyday life in the community and celebrate the gift to mankind of the Eucharist.

The burning bush - Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac - note hand of Lord stopping him - ram for sacrifice; on right - Adam and Eve expelled from Garden (note snake, apple, small animal in silhouette) Burning Bush, from which voice of God was heard.

Elijah with white raven; David with harp - founder of house of David, to which Joseph belonged.; Parting of Red Sea (note spear tops of drowned army in silhouette); Moses receives the Commandments.

Jonah, being swallowed by whale; Prophets Job, Ezechiel, Jeremiah, Amos; Solomon - note staff of wisdom and two small children.

St John Baptist, Herald to Jesus, Spirit descending, represents Immaculate Conception, Joseph and Mary, Joachim and Anne, with two doves (offered to God to make them fertile).

St Peter leading Apostles

Martyrs, with green palm branches

Artists, painters, sculptors, writers, musicians

Soldiers, airmen and mariners

Medicine and sport

Our ancestors, who have borne illness and those suffering and mourning.

A family group of our ancestors

Religion and nursing

The Sacraments

Religious people - the gift of the Eucharist

"This small window, in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, was the gift of Chartres Cathedral to Chichester"

And Majella's own contribution is the engraving on the altar lamp.

Notably, Majella designed the windows formerly in Nutbourne Chapel, now removed to Bosham, (see Our Lady of the Assumption).

A printed guide for visitors can be found by the main entrance.

For a virtual tour of the Chartres factory, see their website , in French or English.