Jesse - Encyclopedia

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JESSE, in the Bible, the father of David, and as such often regarded as the first in, the genealogy of Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. xi. 1, 10). Hence the phrase "tree of Jesse" is applied to a design representing the descent of Jesus from the royal line of David, formerly a favourite ecclesiastical ornament. From a recumbent figure of Jesse springs a tree bearing in its branches the chief figures in the line of descent, and terminating in the figure of Jesus, or of the Virgin and Child. There are remains of such a tree in the church of St Mary at Abergavenny, carved in wood, and supposed to have once stood behind the high altar. Jesse candelabra were also made. At Laon and Amiens there are sculptured Jesses over the central west doorways of the cathedrals. The design was chiefly used in windows. The great east window at Wells and the window at the west end of the nave at Chartres are fine examples. There is a 16th-century Jesse window from Mechlin in St George's, Hanover Square, London. The Jesse window in the choir of Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire, is remarkable in that the tree forms the central mullion, and many of the figures are represented as statuettes on the branches of the upper tracery; other figures are in the stained glass; the whole gives a beautiful example of the combination of glass and carved stonework in one design.

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