The transept of really big Catholic churches are miniature chapels, with their altars on the end wall of the transept. This is the arrangement at Arnprior, for example. Here at Pakenham, the transepts are tall and imposing but not deep enough to take an altar on the end wall, so the side altars are set instead on either side of the sanctuary. In addition, they are set at a twenty degree angle toward the centre of the church, which gives a warmer, more intimate feeling than they would if they set flat against a square wall. This arrangement leaves the actual transepts free for other uses. The images shown are disproportionate to the real panels for clarity.
The north transept, dedicated to St. Joseph, is occupied by the choir during regular Masses. It also contains the Mission Cross and the statue of our patron, St. Peter Celestine. The windows of the transept are generally similar to those of the nave, but the decoration is more detailed.
The transept windows have yellow and green borders around grey-blue panes. These windows also have circular medallions containing symbols. In the right-hand window, the lowest symbol on the left again portrays the pelican and her young, a figure representing Christ’s sacrifice. On the right, a beehive is backed by an axe, a square, a ruler, a chain, and a candle crossed behind. There is a cross above, and a scroll below reading ORATIO LABOR, “To work is to pray”. This medallion is a small tribute to themselves by the builders of the church. Interestingly, the lower right hand corner is the place where medieval artisans portrayed themselves in the windows of European cathedrals seven hundred ago. It is suitably placed here in the transept dedicated to St. Joseph, patron saint of workers.
Above on the left, the image is of the ram caught in the thorn bush which Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac. This image relates both to Joseph as Jesus’ earthly father and to Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb of God. On the right, the picture is of a scroll showing a cock crowing surmounted by a censer smoking. The cock represents a calling to a new awakening; the censer is a symbol of divinity. On the left above, a square cross bearing the monogram IHS for Jesus decorates a shield crowned with thorns and inscribed ET REDIMISIT MUNDUM, “And He has redeemed the world”. On the right, a shield is supported by a tree and crowned by a laurel wreath of victory. The shield bears the motto JOSEPH VIA MARIA, “Joseph, the way to Mary”.
Finally, the glass in the top arch bears the image of the Holy Spirit as a dove, flanked by the symbols Alpha and Omega which represents Jesus as the beginning and the end of creation. The scroll beneath bears the word Bethlehem.
The transept window on the left also holds widely varied symbols. The lowest left medallion portrays two doves drinking from a fountain in a golden bowl. The bowl has wings signifying divinity. The doves personify purity and gentleness. The whole image probably refers to Apocalypse where the Lamb leads the redeemed to the fountains of the waters of life. To the right, the second medallion bears the picture of a synagogue lectern bearing the Old testament with its seven seals. The book is open to the centre seal and the inscription EGO VIA VERJTAS VITAQUE means “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”
In the second level, the left-hand picture is of a cushion upon which lie a flower and a rod topped by a miniature hand which has two fingers raised. This is a rod of justice and the scroll above reads VIR JUSTUS, “The Just Man”, so the total image refers to judgement by the Lord. The right side medallion depicts the Lamb of God triumphant, for He bears the flag of Christian victory, the labarum. Upon the labarum are the words QUI TOLLIT PECCATA MUNDI, “Who bears the sins of the world”.
The last pair of circular pictures relate to, first, on the left, the Blessed Virgin, and on the right, the Incarnation. The word MARIA on a golden shield identifies the first picture’s theme. The shield is circled by a rosary and bears a crown, these indicating Mary Queen of the Rosary. Finally, Mary’s symbols, three roses and three lilies, surround the shield. The last picture’s shield bears the XR monogram for Christ, surrounded by palm fronds indicative of royalty and triumph. The banner bears the words ET VERBUM CARNATUM EST, “And the Word was made Flesh”.
Finally, the top arch panes bear the same picture of the Holy Spirit as the right window, except that here, the scroll bears the name of Nazareth.
Above the two tall windows is the large round window portraying the death of St. Joseph, attended by Mary and St. John the Beloved Apostle. On the surrounding glass are the words “St. Joseph, Patron of a Holy Death, pray for us”. In the arch above the Latin words are painted ITE AD JOSEPH QUIDQUID DIXERIT VOBIS FACITE, “Go to Joseph and whatever he tells you, do it”. The top of the transept is decorated with the monogram IHP for Joseph, surrounded and fronted by the lily symbol of his spouse.
© 1992 (text) Terence Currie – Used with permission