The Brazen serpent & the risen Christ

Designer: George Hedgeland

West Window

Norwich Cathedral


Like Hedgeland’s windows for Jesus College, Oxford, this one has multiple typological anticipations of Christ. The center bottom panel depicts the brazen serpent and its antitype or fulfillment in the risen Christ. The bottom left window presents Pharaoh’s daughter finding Moses in the bulrushes as the type or prefiguration of the Adoration, when the three wise men or Magi find the newborn Jesus. The bottom right window depicts Moses giving the Old Testament’s Old (or moral) Law to the Israelites and one above shows Christ pronouncing His New Law.

The Book of Numbers relates that after the Lord sent a plague of serpents to punish the Jews for their lack of faith, Moses interceded with God and was instructed: “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). Although Hedgeland’s depiction of the brazen serpent is a standard type, his choice of this particular part of the gospels as an antitype is not, since the expected antitype —  fulfillment of the type — is the Crucifixion. In John 3:14 Christ proclaims "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wildemess, even so must the Son of man be lifted up," these words taught Christians to see the brazen serpent as a divinely authenticated type of the Crucifixion. Commentators also emphasize that it is an image of saving faith. According to the usual reading of this type, the brazen serpent in the wilderness, which God gave to the people when they repented of their lack of faith, teaches man that he can be saved only by faith in Christ crucified. — George P. Landow

Related material

  • Complete window
  • Finding Moses & the Adoration of Jesus
  • Proclaiming Old Law & New
  • The Jesus College windows
  • Biblical types — an introduction
  • By kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral

    Photographer: Colin Price

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