▪A saint called Margaret

Although Margaret Rope, unlike some of her contemporaries, very rarely affixed her signature to her windows, she did like playful references to her name. Marguerite flowers appear in her windows, and ropes too now and again, acting clearly as rebuses.

Given this playful attitude toward her own name, and her interest in church lore, it’s surprising that Marga did not choose to depict the whole roll-call of her name-saints (and there are quite a few!). However, there is only one Saint Margaret that Marga chose to depict.
Of all the saints called Margaret that she could have portrayed, she chose St Margaret of Scotland.

A window for cousin Margaret

Kesgrave Teresa of Avila windowSt Margaret of Scotland appears in Marga’s Teresa of Avila window (1929), pictured right, which is now in Kesgrave Catholic Church.
Kesgrave is the Rope family church, built by Lucy Doreen Rope in the 1930s.

Marga would probably have had relatively free rein to design the Teresa Of Avila window, which actually is dedicated to the memory of a fellow-nun – Sister Margaret Jolly, Marga’s cousin by marriage, who was a Carmelite nun most of her life (as was Marga).

The main figure is St Teresa of Avila (who founded the Carmelite order in the seventeenth century) but there are also marguerite flowers and a large M in the bottom section, presumably to mark this window as being a specific memorial to Margaret Jolly.

At the apex of the window, we see Margaret Of Scotland.

St Margaret of Scotland

The Rope enthusiast, Tatiana Schenk, has been interested in why this particular Saint Margaret appears in this window.
This is her account:
“…. Marga did depict two sixteenth century historical martyrs called Margaret, i.e. Margaret Ward and Margaret Pole (and in fact Margaret Ward was beatified as a saint in 1970).
However, our Marga, who died in 1953, only knowingly depicted one Saint Margaret in all her windows – Saint Margaret Of Scotland.

Margaret of Scotland was actually English by parentage – a proper Anglo-Saxon princess – but married the King of Scotland to become the country’s queen. She was known for her good works and extreme loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church.

She is usually depicted with a book of gospels. (Her actual pocket gospel was fortuitously discovered by chance (is there such a thing?) at auction in the 1980s, and is now in Oxford on display). This attribute is hers because she taught her husband the king to read & write using her precious illuminated pocket gospel. So the story goes.

St Margaret of Scotland in Avila window
The St Margaret panel, including the Scots lion. The saint holds her royal mace in her right hand.  (There is a ‘blemish’ on her cheek, which is caused by an issue in the glass).

In the panel by Marga (see above), on the cover of her book the saint is holding is the Holy Spirit as a dove; a similar depiction is seen in her Heckmondwike Church windows.  Now, Marga would have known that St Margaret is depicted with a gospel – but she probably also would have known that gospel books of that period would have on their covers either a cross, a Celtic cross or the four Evangelists – so is this slight deviation deliberate? A deliberate emphasis that this is a very Catholic saint, through this nod to the creative powers of the Holy Spirit…?

Though St Margaret of Scotland is on the Anglican Church’s list of saints too, she is indeed very, very Catholic – not at all a safely Anglican-English, pre-Reformation saint.
The Catholic Mary Queen of Scots asked for the reliquary of St Margaret’s head to be brought to her to ‘assist’ her in her childbirth. Mary later took the head with her on her flight to England.
After Mary’s death, loyal Scottish Catholics smuggled the head to the Scottish branch of the Douai seminary in France where it was venerated. However the French Revolution put an end to all that, and now it is lost.
A very Catholic St Margaret indeed…

If the choice of dedicatory saint in the Avila window was indeed Marga’s (and it probably was), we see once again how Marga slips in significant, if sometimes obscure, ‘statements’ about her world-view into her windows…”      TS



A footnote to this account is that Marga’s cousin, MEA Rope, also a stained-glass artist, also paid tribute to a Saint Margaret – but a different one.

Tatiana takes up the story again:
“…In 1934 Tor (MEA’s nickname) completed a seventeen-strong series of windows for St Augustine’s Anglican church in the East End of London, one of which shows St Margaret of Antioch, a fourth-century Christian saint. The window also makes reference to the Sisters of St Margaret, an order of Anglican nuns who arrived in the East End of London to help the poor in the late 19th century, especially during cholera outbreaks. (MEA, unlike Marga, was an Anglican, at least until the last period of her life).

Margaret of Antioch is the St Margaret of choice for Anglicans – she has always been very popular in England, especially in the Middle Ages, and is a patron saint of women at childbirth. St Margaret of Antioch, Haggerston by MEA Rope
The window is a fun little visual collage on its own, and shows a very English, Anglican (albeit Anglo-Catholic), safe St Margaret, seen with the Rev John Mason Neale in the background offering a convent to Christ. We also see the nuns of the order of St Margaret. (See pic above).

As usual, many thanks to Arthur Rope for dates & times and photographs. For more on both Marga’s and MEA’s glass, see his definitive website.

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