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SAINT MARY OF EGYPT (MARY AEGYPTIACA) AS DEPICTED IN THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS OF THE CATHEDRAL OF AUXERRE, FRANCE

July 13, 2019

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 Auxerre Cathedral, in Auxerre, Burgundy, France. The River Yonne, a tributary of the Seine, appears at the forefront of the picture

 

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne d’Auxerre (Auxerre Cathedral) is a medieval Roman Catholic Church in France (in Auxerre, Burgundy). It is a magnificent cathedral that is frequented by many tourists, not the least to see its famous, beautiful large stained glass windows in the choir. They are considered among the finest in France. Window 20 (see the attached map) is located in the south choir area, and has 16 panels: nine of its panels (7-16) are dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt (Maria Aegyptiaca). I suspect the bottom panels (1-6) were originally also about St. Mary, representing her earlier life (life as a prostitute in Alexandria, her journey to the Holy Land and her miraculous conversion at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem), and that they were later replaced by other Christian subjects.

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Map of the Auxerre Cathedral choir with Window 20 shown on the southern side

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Window 20 in Auxerre Cathedral with a drawing to show the 16 numbered panels. The story of St. Mary of Egypt is shown in top panels 7-16

The professional photographer and art historian, Dr Stuart Whatling, has taken excellent pictures of the window panels (he says they are not very good as the window was covered with soot and the sun rays affected the photographs’ quality), and published them in his rich internet page, The Corpus of Medieval Narrative Art.

I will republish these panels, with full credit to Dr Stuart Whatling. As the reader will see, St. Mary of Egypt is again, as in the stained window images in the Cathedral of Chartres, Europeanised. Also, the reader will notice in Panel 9, the saint is made to adopt the Catholic position of prayer, kneeling on the ground and with the hands folded, the palms together and the fingers straight. The traditional and very old position of prayer within the Copts is the ‘orans’ position, where the worshiper, standing up, with arms stretched out, palms open and pointing towards the Diety.

The panels give a fuller narrative of St. Mary of Egypt’s story than we have seen in that in the Cathedral of Chartres.

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Panel 07 – Mary buys three loaves of bread

 

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Panel 08 – Mary travels into the desert

 

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Panel 09 – Mary praying in the wilderness

 

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Panel 10 – Zosimas instructs Mary in the faith

 

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Panel 11 – Zosimas gives Mary the sacraments

 

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Panel 12 – Death of Mary

 

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Panel 13 – A lion approaches Mary’s body

 

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Panel 14 – Zosimas and the lion bury Mary

 

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Panel 15 – Mary’s soul ascends to Heaven

 

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Panel 16 – Censing angel

 

 

 

 

 

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