Left: The whole window. Right: Closer view of the upper row of figures in the main part of the window.
The Jane Austen Memorial Window, by Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907), in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral, Cathedral Close, Hampshire. Designed by Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907), and installed in 1890. The window was funded by public subscription, a mark of Jane Austen's widespread following by this time, and donations were sent from all over the country, and also from America — although they did not reach the sum needed to fill the larger space in the Lady Chapel (see Johnson 41).
At the top centre of the clerestory lights is St Augustine, his name reminding us of Austen's own, and no doubt deemed especially appropriate for that very reason; the Austen family's coat of arms can be seen either side of him, just below him in the smaller tracery lights. Immediately beneath St Augustine is King David, holding his harp high as he plays it. He is flanked by sons of Korah bearing texts from the Psalms. Beneath King David is the memorial inscription to Jane Austen in Latin.
Left: Detail of King David at the centre of the upper part. Right: Closer view of the lower row, with St John at the centre.
Immediately below the very splendidly robed King David is St John, holding his gospel, with two more sons of Korah either side. Apart from the obvious reference to creative inspiration in David, and the importance of the Word in St John, the window is hard to appreciate, since it is high above the brass memorial plaque to Austen on the wall (which in turn is above her gravestone in this aisle). It is also hard to interpret: Samuel in the Old Testament came from the line of Korah, but the sons of Korah are not commonly featured in stained glass windows. As a whole, the window has been thought a little too pious and obscure for its subject: Claudia L. Johnson points out that there is no record of any dedication ceremony, and suggests that this might imply a measure of disappointment in it (42). Certainly it gets no mention in Bell's history of the Cathedral, though another memorial window by Kempe is described there in detail, followed by a reference to its dedication (Sargent 93). The Jane Austen window does, however, appropriately complete the tribute to the novelist here, where she is buried and where she died at 8, College Street, just a short walk away.
St Augustine in the largest tracery light.
Johnson, Claudia L. Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Sergeant, Philip W. The Cathedral Church of Winchester: A Description of Its Fabric and a Brief History of the Episcopal See. London: George Bell, 1903. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Web. 21 August 2016.
Created 21 August 2016