The War Memorial Window
This window of stained glass by the Melbourne artist, Napier Waller, was constructed as a memorial to those who served in the Second World War. The window was dedicated during High Mass on Sunday 6th February, 1949, by the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev'd Joseph Booth. The Order of Service for this dedication High Mass can be downloaded as a pdf from here.
The idea for this window preceeded its dedication by over two years. The first written mention of such a War Memorial window in St Peter's archives is in a letter from Fr Maynard to Napier Waller, dated December 12, 1946 — only about 6 weeks after Waller's New Guinea window had been dedicated (October 27, 1946). The idea was to follow the very successful New Guinea window with a matching window by the same artist, in the same style, in the south transept of the church over the Handfield Chapel. Maynard outlined his vision to Waller in the following words:
Not only because of the extraordinary variety of types of service rendered in the last war, but also because of the infinite variety of types of service needed in building the Kingdom of God, it is suggested that the theme of the window might be the utterance of Christ "Wisdom is justified of all her children." The occasion, you will remember, was that in which some sneered at Him because He ate and drank, and then they sneered at St John the Baptist because he did not. We should like the window to depict servants of God from different centuries, selected because of the different ways in which they served.
Then it seemed that the whole window should be treated in twelve panels, as before, and that each should not only show some saint or hero, but should show him in action of a characteristic kind. So the window would tell a story on the theme of the text. I was delighted to know that this thought appealed to you as a good one.
Given Waller's positive response to the proposal, the idea was discussed within the Parish, receiving approval before Easter, 1947, and Maynard wrote to Waller on April 7, 1947, asking him to undertake the work. Maynard reports on the general idea in his Vicar's Letter in the Parish Paper for Easter 1947:
I have a very definite idea of what it should contain; and think that it may teach those who come after, as useful a lesson as the New Guinea window teaches. I should like it to proclaim the truth of Our Lord's words, "Wisdom is justified of all her children," and this in relation to the service of Catholic Truth.
... I should like to see the window represent some of the soldier saints; for will it not commemorate those who fought and gave their lives in the war? And some of the scholar saints; for is not teaching one of the greatest services the Church can ever render? And some of the ascetic saints, for are we not indebted to many who have denied themselves the good things of life that we, and others, might be richly blessed? So I could go on, but I am only just outlining the idea.
This initial vision was carried through, essentially intact, to the finished window.
Waller agreed to undertake the commission, but indicated that there would necessarily be some delay, since he was committed to a major project in mosaics and stained glass for the decoration of the Hall of Memory in the National War Memorial in Canberra. It was agreed that the work for St Peter's would be delayed for one or two years until the Canberra commission was finished. Some design work was ongoing in the interim, with Maynard having substantial input into the selection of the "saints and heroes" for the various panels of the window. Although the details of the design were certainly Waller's, Maynard made suggestions, and had considerable influence (see Waller's letter to Maynard dated July 28, 1948). The work was well under way by the last quarter of 1948, with the installation and dedication possible early in 1949.
Maynard gave regular reports on the progress of the project in the quarterly Parish Paper. He gives some emphasis to the raising of the £740 that the window would cost — there is some evidence that after the initial rush, donations were harder to find.
The following is a list of the source documents used in compiling the text for this presentation of the War Memorial Window. These documents have been transcribed and are available from this website.
- Correspondence between Canon Maynard and Napier Waller .
- Canon Maynard writing in the St Peter's Parish Paper.
- Canon Maynard writing in the Australian Church Quarterly.
- Canon Maynard's sermon notes between July, 1947 and February, 1948.
- The Order of Service for the Dedication, February 6, 1949.
Short biographical details about
Canon Maynard and Napier Waller can be found at the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online.
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