Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life of C.S. Lewis, Part III, St. Mark's Church, Holywood Road - page3

 


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From the Fall 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life
of C.S. Lewis, Part III, St. Mark's Church, Holywood Road

by Sandy Smith
Author of C.S. Lewis and the Island of His Birth

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  The relative positions of some of the icons in the window are also unusual. At the top of the central panel, there is an image of the church itself. While it seems logical that an image of the church itself should occupy a central and topmost position, if the same logic is applied to the male figures, one might expect the image of St. Mark to be beneath the icon of the church, in the center. Something seems odd with the selection of St. James as the centerpiece. If St. Matthew, for example, had been included in place of St. James, some rationale might have been found in having the images of the writers of the Synoptic Gospels. But the inclusion of St. James leaves the need for some other explanation. There is a yet another puzzle. The Latin inscription at the bottom of the central panel indicates that the window is in memory of Lewis’s father and mother, and it gives their names and dates. This raises the question as to what has been included specifically in the window that serves as a memorial to either of them other than the inscription itself.
  Some answers to these puzzles have been suggested. The first is that Lewis’s father was Albert James Lewis; the St. James image is therefore included to his father’s memory. This suggestion may be supported by details of the depiction: St. James is holding a silver chalice in his left hand. The communion silver used in St. Mark’s was gifted to the church by the Lewis family; the Lewis silver is used on occasion for communion services. In Lewis’s own life, an element of estrangement existed in the common and family communion between him and his father. The symbolism might be that of a restored communion and of a restored Christian communion, given that Lewis himself had by 1933 been restored to the Christian tradition in which he grew up.
  It is almost as if in the window Lewis wanted to place his father center stage and holding the symbol of a restored communion. There is also the suggestion that St. James is included as the patron saint of the pilgrim. As if to emphasize this, there is an image of a ship above the left shoulder of St. James. The ship is reminiscent not only of a voyage/journey but also of life’s pilgrimage and the patronage of St. James, who is still associated with the European pilgrimages to northern Spain and the veneration of his final resting place at Santiago de Compostela. I previously mentioned one of Lewis’s Narnian Chronicles titled The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a story of a ship sailing to the utter east with the character of Reepicheep as the image of the ultimate pilgrim.
  This notion of pilgrimage is emphasized in the window by the three icons in the royal blue glass beneath the feet of St. James that depict three of the accessories of the pilgrim: the pilgrim’s staff, the pilgrim’s purse, and the scalloped shell, the badge of the pilgrim. All of this seems to serve the theme of pilgrimage associated with his father’s name, and it is important to remember the date of the window’s installation. It was 1933, just months after the publication of Lewis’s first successful book, The Pilgrim’s Regress, written in Belfast and dedicated to one of Lewis’s closest Belfast friends.

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