East Chinnock

A small friendly village in Somerset, set halfway between Crewkerne and Yeovil, south facing on the side of East Chinnock Hill.

The Stained Glass Windows

The-Stained-Glass-Windows
21 September 2020

Apart from the east window which is Victorian, given in memory of Albert Young a churchwarden from 1870-77, all the windows in this church have been made and installed between 1962 and 1988 by Herr Gunther Anton, Master Glazier of Leonberg, Stuttgart, Germany, to designs by Herr Sepp Vees of the twin communities of Flacht & Weissach, Germany.

Gunther was a rear gunner in the German Luftwaffe who was shot down over Southampton in 1944 and sent to the Prisoner of War Camp at Houndstone near Yeovil. Like many other prisoners he was allowed to live and work on a local farm and came to East Chinnock in 1945. He was 18 at the time and anxious about his parents in East Germany, so he would come into the church to pray and find comfort and help. As he looked at the church from the farm where he worked the thought of making a stained glass window began to form in his mind.

On his return to Germany in 1948 Gunther built up a business with his father in West Germany making stained glass windows. Before he died Gunther's father reminded him, "Do not forget about the window for East Chinnock." So in 1962 he returned bringing his gift of the beautiful window in the south wall of the nave, near the chancel, showing scenes of Christ's life and ascension. Then in 1967 he gave the north sanctuary window, showing Mary with the infant Jesus and Christ the King.

In 1969 Gunther again came to put in more windows but this time sent the glass ahead, only to have it impounded by HM Customs & Excise who could not believe it to be a gift ! It was released and the south chancel windows were installed showing the four Archangels: Gabriel, the messenger; Michael, the helper of the chosen people; Raphael, the angel of mercy; and Uriel, the angel of judgement and mercy.  He also installed the window on the north side of the nave, by the vestry, showing the healing of the lame beggar; the woman who touched the hem of Christ's robe and the raising of Jairus' daughter.   

Gunther returned in July, 1982, to complete his windows. The small centre window in the south wall, shows the annunciation, the 'overshadowing' and Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth. The large rear window shows the crucifixion and scenes of the life of Christ. The small window over the west door depicts the slaughter of the Holy Innocents and the Flight in Egypt. Lastly there is, in the north wall, Gunther's "Anna Window", where we see the Blessed Virgin Mary as a baby in the arms of her mother, surrounded by scenes in the life of Anna and Joachim.

Finally Gunther built the glass screen with the superimposed "Agnus Dei" in June, 1988. This completed twenty-six years of Gunther's most generous gifts, given as a thanksgiving to God for the kindness shown to him by the people of East Chinnock, for a safe return from the war and as an act of reconciliation. It was, as he said, his own little bit of peace in the world today. He lived only six months after seeing the windows dedicated in 1989 and, as his friends in Germany said, it seemed that his life's work was done.

Richard Terrell

Apart from the east window which is Victorian, given in memory of Albert Young a churchwarden from 1870-77, all the windows in this church have been made and installed between 1962 and 1988 by Herr Gunther Anton, Master Glazier of Leonberg, Stuttgart, Germany, to designs by Herr Sepp Vees of the twin communities of Flacht & Weissach, Germany.

Gunther was a rear gunner in the German Luftwaffe who was shot down over Southampton in 1944 and sent to the Prisoner of War Camp at Houndstone near Yeovil. Like many other prisoners he was allowed to live and work on a local farm and came to East Chinnock in 1945. He was 18 at the time and anxious about his parents in East Germany, so he would come into the church to pray and find comfort and help. As he looked at the church from the farm where he worked the thought of making a stained glass window began to form in his mind.

On his return to Germany in 1948 Gunther built up a business with his father in West Germany making stained glass windows. Before he died Gunther's father reminded him, "Do not forget about the window for East Chinnock." So in 1962 he returned bringing his gift of the beautiful window in the south wall of the nave, near the chancel, showing scenes of Christ's life and ascension. Then in 1967 he gave the north sanctuary window, showing Mary with the infant Jesus and Christ the King.

In 1969 Gunther again came to put in more windows but this time sent the glass ahead, only to have it impounded by HM Customs & Excise who could not believe it to be a gift ! It was released and the south chancel windows were installed showing the four Archangels: Gabriel, the messenger; Michael, the helper of the chosen people; Raphael, the angel of mercy; and Uriel, the angel of judgement and mercy.  He also installed the window on the north side of the nave, by the vestry, showing the healing of the lame beggar; the woman who touched the hem of Christ's robe and the raising of Jairus' daughter.   

Gunther returned in July, 1982, to complete his windows. The small centre window in the south wall, shows the annunciation, the 'overshadowing' and Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth. The large rear window shows the crucifixion and scenes of the life of Christ. The small window over the west door depicts the slaughter of the Holy Innocents and the Flight in Egypt. Lastly there is, in the north wall, Gunther's "Anna Window", where we see the Blessed Virgin Mary as a baby in the arms of her mother, surrounded by scenes in the life of Anna and Joachim.

Finally Gunther built the glass screen with the superimposed "Agnus Dei" in June, 1988. This completed twenty-six years of Gunther's most generous gifts, given as a thanksgiving to God for the kindness shown to him by the people of East Chinnock, for a safe return from the war and as an act of reconciliation. It was, as he said, his own little bit of peace in the world today. He lived only six months after seeing the windows dedicated in 1989 and, as his friends in Germany said, it seemed that his life's work was done.

Richard Terrell

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