Thursday, June 20, 2019

3 and Other Numbers in the York Minster East Window

With this being the first week in Trinity season, I thought this a good time to point out something medieval, fun, and slightly nerdy at York Minster.
The main theme of the Great East Window of York Minster is the beginning and the end as indicated by the very tip top where God the Father holds a book with “I am the alpha and the omega” in abbreviated Latin.  At the same time, there is also a strong Trinitarian undercurrent to the window particularly in how it is organized using – you guessed it – the number 3.

The tracery as a whole is, as is common, in a dome shape – one dome.  At the bottom of the tracery is three domes.  Hmmm.  Under that is the bulk of the window, and there are lots of threes and multiples of three.  First, it is organized in three vertical rows dividing each horizontal row of panels in three. Each of these divisions in turn contains three panels.  So 3 x 3 is 9, of course, which is the number of panels in each horizontal row.
At the bottom is one row of worthy bishops and kings – nine panels. Multiply that by 3 and you get 27, which happens to the number of panels dedicated to Creation and the Old Testament. These are the top three rows of the rectangular bulk of the window.  Now multiply by 3 again, and you get 81.  And there are 81 panels dedicated to the Apocalypse of St. John (i. e. the Book of Revelation).
Now here’s where it really gets weird. Multiply 9 x 27 x 81.  You get 19,683.  That points back to the main theme of the window, the beginning and the end, as it is the number of years that some medieval calculations had between Creation and The End.
That is a bit of Trinitarian end-of-the-world fun, is it not?

By the way, if you find the East Window of York Minster the least bit interesting, then I highly recommend The Great East Window of York Minsterby Sarah Brown.  This book is scholarly yet pleasant reading and very well illustrated.  Most of the recently restored window may be viewed in the catalogue which takes up about two-thirds of the book.  Amazingly, it is very affordable as well.
If your church or group would enjoy a presentation of the East Window and its history, taking about an hour, my presentation has been well received, and I may be available.  Feel free to message me in the comments.  (You will need a Google identity.  I do moderate all comments, so I can keep your communication private if you express that wish.) Or you may message my twitter account.

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