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Stained Glass Symbolism

In early October 2021, I spent a few days in North Norfolk and photographed the churches between Wells Next The Sea and Fakenham. One of the churches visited on that day was the church of All Saints, Wighton. I aim to write up that days churchcrawl on another page, including some general comments about my visit there.

    There is a series of stained glass windows at the church here though that I really liked. There is no great age to them, or historic importance but I really enjoyed looking at them and I thought that it would be an idea to separate these panels out and put a page together looking at each of the Saints portrayed and the symbolism that is included in the panels.

    Okay, it is not the most inspiring or ornate glass but the symbolism on them is clear and this page is intended to pass a few basic thoughts over so that the interested church visitor not familiar with symbolism might know a little detail if they see similar in the future.



St Simon was known as Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were a revolutionary political party, whose aim was to plot against the Romans who occupied Jewish lands.

St Simon was one of the 12 Disciples; and like the others, with the exception of St John (and Judas Iscariot who was to betray Jesus) he was martyred for his belief.

Here, St Simon is depicted with a saw, this portraying the manner of his death; legend stating that he was sawn in half.

St Simon is the patron saints of couriers, tanners and sawyers


St James, who along with his brother John were called sons of thunder by Jesus, and who were also part of the 12. He is the patron saint of pilgrims, and fishermen. He is portrayed here with a scallop shell hanging from his belt. 

The scallop shell is an often used Christian symbol. This shell has many grooves on the outside which all meet at specific point on the inside of the shell. This symbolises the many paths that a life can take; all of which finally converge on Christ!

St James was beheaded for his belief and close look at this panel shows the straps of his travelling bag being wrapped around the hilt of a sword. He was the first of the 12 disciples to be martyred for his faith.



St Thomas, another of the 12 disciples, is famously known as 'Doubting Thomas' due to his refusal to accept that Christ had risen until he had personally touched His wounds. 

He is portrayed here holding a spear; which again is the manner of his martyrdom. Sometimes the symbolism is different; being portrayed with a ruler as it was said that he once built a church by hand.

It is said that Thomas was killed by a spear by Jealous Hindu priests and he is still seen as the Patron Saint of India.


St Bartholomew, another of the 12, is thought to be also known as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John. He is said to have been martyred for having converted Polymius, King of Armenia, to Christianity.

Again here, the manner of his martyrdom is indicated by what he is holding. He holds a knife, with him being skinned alive for his faith. Other reports suggest that he was crucified upside down.

Some depictions of St Bartholomew show him carrying his own skin.

Due to the nature of his death, St Bartholomew is the Patron Saint of, amongst other, tanners, leatherworkers and bookbinders,



St Philip, also one of the 12. is depicted holding a basket of loaves. This is a reference to the feeding of the 5,000 when Jesus asks Philip where they would be able to find bread to feed the assembled crowd. 

There are two suggestions as to his death. One is that he was beheaded, the other is that he was crucified upside down; preaching from the cross, from which he refused to be taken down when the crowd wanted him to be released

His name means lover of horses, and so he is regraded as the patron saint of horseback riders and horse breeders.


St Jude, also one of the 12 disciples,  who is also known as Thaddeus and sometimes Judas Thaddeus, is depicted here holding a boat. This is in reference to the number of boat trips he took when undertaking his missionary work.

Sometimes he id depicted holding an image of Christ close to his heart; on other occasions he is depicted with a club or an axe, the latter detailing the manner of his execution.

In the catholic church he is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes



There are 14 panels here and only 11 disciples, allowing that there is no panel for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. So that leaves three who are not of the original 12.

Barnabas is one of these. He appears in Acts and his name means 'son of encouragement'. He was a firm supporter of the early church and made several missionary journeys with Paul.

Tradition states that he was dragged out of a synagogue whilst preaching and stoned to death.

His symbolism on this panel is interesting, as it does not symbolise his death but his evangelism. He holds a Bible, but with the pages looking outwards towards the onlooker. 


Paul, previously known as Saul, is another who was not of the original 12. He was the arch persecutor of the early Christians, being present at the stoning of Stephen the first Christian martyr.

After being converted, after meeting with the risen Christ whilst on the road to Damascus, he devoted his life to preaching the word of Christ; going on to write 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, some of which were written whilst being imprisoned by the Romans.

He is shown holding an axe, which signifies the manner of his martyrdom.

St. Paul is the patron saint of missionaries, evangelists, writers, journalists, authors, public workers, rope and saddle makers, and tent makers. The latter was his occupation before devoting his life to missionary work.



St Andrew was another of the original 12 disciples, along with his brother Peter. Andrew was the first disciple to be called by Jesus, and he and his brother were to be among Jesus' closest disciples.

Here, Andrew is depicted carrying an X shaped cross; a saltire cross or cross of St Andrew, on which he was crucified. It is said that he believed himself to be unworthy of being crucified in the same way as Christ, so asked to be crucified on the X shaped cross instead. I was to see the same symbol a couple of miles away at Great Walsingham, on a carved 15th century bench end.

Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland as many will already know, but also of Russia.


As mentioned earlier, along with his brother James, John was one of the 'sons of thunder'. He was the only one of the disciples not to be martyred. He is generally thought to be the youngest of the disciples and is always portrayed as looking young and clean shaven. John is the only male figure to be found at the foot of the cross after Jesus ' crucifixion.

    Along with Peter, John would become one of the closest disciples to Jesus, this being reflected by him having the place of honour next to Jesus at the Last Supper, where John is normally depicted leaning against Jesus.

Here he is depicted with a serpent rising up out of a chalice.  The story is said that, while in Ephesus, John was offered a glass of poisoned wine. Before drinking, he blessed the drink and the poison came out of the cup in the form of a serpent.

He is the patron saint of of love, loyalty, friendships, and authors



Peter was another of the original 12 disciples, who came to Jesus with his brother Simon. He was rash and outspoken but very loyal despite denying Christ three times on the night of the crucifixion.

Peter is one of the easiest disciples to identify. Normally he is depicted as being bald on top and holds a key or keys. This is a Biblical reference to Matthew chapter 16 verse 19 where Jesus says  "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 

As a former fisherman, he is the patron saint of netmakers, shipbuilders, and fishermen, and, because he holds the “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” he is also the patron saint of locksmiths.


Mathias wasn't an original member of the 12 disciples. He was the replacement for Judas Iscariot after Judas had betrayed Jesus on the night of His crucifixion. 

There is no mention of Mathias in any of the Gospels but according to Acts he had been a follower of Jesus for the whole length of His ministry.

Here, St Mathias is depicted holding a halberd, which fits in again with the manner of his martyrdom. History tells that he was crucified with his body then being chopped in to pieces. He is also sometimes depicted with a cross.

St Mathias is the patron saint of Alcoholics.



Matthew was an interesting choice of disciple for Jesus. He was a tax collector which would have made him unpopular with many other Jews as he would have been seen as collaborating with the occupying Roman forces. He would have been particularly unpopular with Simon the Zealot, with the Zealots as mentioned earlier wanting the removal by force of the occupying Romans.

Of all of the disciples, Matthew is one that is hard to pick out symbolically, as there is dispute as to to how he died. 

In this panel Matthew is seen carrying a pike, bit there is disagreement  about the manner of his death, which is variously reported as being by burning, stoning, stabbing, or beheading.

Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors and accountants.


There are a few James' here; with James The Les snot to be confused with James The Great who was one of the 12 or James the brother of Jesus who was not.

This James looks to have been the the son of Alphaeus, and his mother might have been one of the women at the foot of the cross when Christ was crucified. Lots of maybes here on this one.

Here James is seen holding a club. There is some debate as to the manner of his death. What I have seen is that he was thrown off of the wall of the temple in Jerusalem, and then stoned. He was finally clubbed to death after neither of the former worked.

He is the patron saint of, amongst others, pharmacies and dying people.

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