St Monica's Cathedral Peace Windows
designed and made by Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn

See Also:  The St Monica's Creation Windows

Click here for an Audio Commentary - An Introduction to the Peace Windows

 

Peace Windows totalThe East windows of the cathedral celebrate the fifty years of peace in the Pacific region since the end of World War Two. The Cathedral itself was built as a war memorial commemorating the decisive Battle of the Coral Sea which was fought due east of Cairns between the 4th and 8th of May in 1942.

The Battle of the Coral Sea

The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first in naval history in which ships did not fire at each other. It was a battle of aircraft carriers and aircraft. As such it became the precursor to modern-day missile warfare. Troops stationed in Cairns and on the Tablelands recall seeing the glowing flashes reflected over the horizon at night during this fierce battle.

The Meanings

The windows incorporate layers of meaning: natural, historical and spiritual.

 

Peace Window - Chaos - Crucifixion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio Commentary
Click here to listen to a commentary about the three peace windows

 

Chaos - Crucifixion

With its tilted angles, destruction, chaos and confusion this is a window of aggression. The top wreck, the "Shoho", a Japanese submarine tender was hastily converted to a light aircraft carrier when the value of the aerial warfare was realised. She was repeatedly torpedoed and sank within fifteen minutes. Immediately below the "Shoho" is the rear portion of the USS "Sims" which was hit by three bombs amidships, split in two, and sank immediately.

In the foreground is an SMLE .303 rifle which completes the representations of the three branches of the armed forces within this window. To the left on the sand are three helmets representing the three forces, American, Japanese and Australian.

Above these protective helmets a triton shell tries to protect its body. Immediately above it a red emperor fish hides amid the wreckage. Small grey sea squirts in the depth-charge rack look like spent rounds of ammunition. The bright orange harp gorgonian and six surgeon fish are obvious puns.

From the Christian viewpoint this window represents the crucifixion with the three radio masts of the "Shoho" resembling the crosses on Calvary. The downward pointing barrel of the gun and rocky starkness recalls the terrain at Golgotha.

The broken anchor chain of the "Sims" takes us past a symbolic crown of thorns starfish to the three rusting nails in the sand symbolising the crucifixion. At the end of the barrel of the .303 rifle is a spurt of blood-red coral upon which is a prostrate starfish in human form!

On the end of the outward pointing barrel of the "Sims" is a clown fish, while on top of the turret are red, white and blue corals which warn that nationalism and militarism are close associates.

The focal point of the "Shoho" is the ship's wheel on the bridge where life and death decisions were made. Entangled in the wreck of the collapsed flight deck is a Zero fighter.

 

Peace Window - Rest - ResurrectionRest - Resurrection

In contrast to the mayhem of the right window, the left window presents more peaceful tranquil imagery. In the lower foreground is an Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bomber, accurate to 1/3 scale. This aircraft was specifically chosen. It was the first aircraft to drop bombs on Pearl Harbour and Darwin. At the end of the War none were left in flying condition. They had been used as kami-kaze aircraft!

Behind the Aichi is an American Grumman F4F "Wildcat" flown extensively from aircraft carriers. The only Australian killed in the Battle of the Coral Sea, Brisbane pilot Lex Knox, was flying a "Wildcat".

The gigantic aircraft carrier U.S.S. "Lexington" lies behind. The huge hole in its side is where stored warheads exploded after taking five direct hits.

At the lower left two emperor angel fish dawdle past. A stone fish shelters behind a brain coral: the shape of the human brain - an irony - reminding us that while we may be the most intelligent creatures on Earth we are also the only ones that wage savage war against each other!

A flame red coral symbolises the fire from the engine of the Aichi. Above it a rusting machine gun hosts a yellow crinoid on its telescopic sight. The closed canopy of the Aichi indicates that neither crewman escaped. The structure resembles the human rib cage - the empty tomb! The torn leading edge of the Aichi wing reveals the enormous amount of skilled labour that went into building a machine of destruction! In contrast, the "Wildcat" seems undamaged, yet is also a victim of war.

A school of bat fish swims past the huge funnel of the "Lexington" while the maori wrasse between the two aircraft has its mate sheltering in the "Lexington" giving perspective to this giant vessel. The many pairs of fish in this window take up again the Noah's Ark theme.

This window with its stable horizontal lines and air of repose and stillness represents Resurrection. The wrecks have lost their aggression. They are now home to fish.

 

Peace

The strange dense black wriggling clouds are the mingling of smoke from burning ships, aircraft carriers with their lethal combination of aviation gasoline and fuel oil burning fiercely. In the biblical sense these clouds recall the heavy water-laden clouds of the Deluge. (Genesis Ch 6-7)

A smudged dove - the Holy Spirit - struggles to emerge in the upper right window, while in the left is a rainbow with the clouds parting to reveal the sun - recalling Noah's story with God's renewed Covenant. (Genesis 9: 8-11)

Peace WindowThese gloomy battle clouds, including a dispersing Hiroshima nuclear cloud, have a "peace" message: the dove is also a universal symbol of peace, while the dawn sky offers hope of a new beginning.

Christ's Cross in the upper centre panel is filled with smaller playful white doves: the Holy Spirit at work and play.

Whales and dolphins frolic in a procession across the window. In a joyful freeing way they represent God's presence - as angels would have done in more traditional religious windows. They hint that they are the intelligent ones who do not go to War!

Below, to the left, is a school of innocent looking perch, with their flashing silver sides spelling "PAX": Latin for "peace". This is a fleeting message. For in the next instant the fish will have changed positions and that reflected word "PAX" will have disappeared forever: a reminder that we too may have brief flashes of inspired truth to grasp and hold in our lives.

"Peace" is also written in twenty-eight other languages around the border of the window. Whatever part of the world you are from, the word for "peace" may be recognised.

Every other word can be read from inside or outside, offering "peace" not only within the cathedral but to those passing by on the street.

 

 

CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF CAIRNS

183 Abbott Street, Cairns  QLD  4870    |   PO Box 625, Cairns  QLD  4870
Ph: 07 4046 5620      |       Email:    reception@cairns.catholic.org.au