The Good Shepherd

The window of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, located on the west wall of the choir loft, is one of the most intriguing in the Chapel, for it seems to tell several stories at once. It depicts a shepherd high on a mountainside reaching for a sheep that stands just over the edge of a precipice. The shepherd is dressed in a coarse brown tunic and holding staff. Directly above him two eagles with outstretched wings hover and appear to be gliding on the wind. Their presence informs us that the shepherd has had to climb quite high to recover his missing animal. Like the other windows in the loft, this one features a single Biblical quote in a banderole at the bottom of the window. It comes from the parable of the lost sheep, “Rejoice with me. Because I found my sheep that was lost.” (Luke 15:6) Jesus tells his disciples this tale about a man who looses a sheep, searches for it, and rejoices when he finds it. Jesus’ primary message here is about God’s grace for the lost and his joy at (re)union with them. 
Several interpretations are possible for the window, depending on the visual evidence considered. A literal reading regards the imagery as a visualization of the text. The basic elements of the parable are present: shepherd and sheep. The man’s halo—a symbol of holiness—puts this reading into question, however. The halo points to an allegorical reading of the figure as Christ the Good Shepherd. The Gospels refer to Jesus in this capacity on several occasions. Another, and less satisfying, reading takes the figure to be John the Baptist who is traditionally portrayed in brown coarse dress, a sign of his time in the desert, and carries a lamb, in remembrance of his statement about Christ, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Visitors to the Chapel might read this figure as St. John the Baptist in response to an image of him wearing a similar outfit in a window on the other side of the choir loft.
None of these readings explains the two birds that fly near the shepherd and hold a prominent place in the image. It is difficult to determine the exact specie of bird. They resemble eagles in form (they are large in size and have hooked beaks) and behavior (they dwell on a mountaintop). As such, they function both as a narrative detail and a symbol. They suggest the height to which the shepherd has had to climb to recover his sheep and they allude to St. John the Evangelist, the Chapel’s patron, whose symbol is the eagle. The artist has designed the window with its location in mind. The mountainous setting with its craggy rocks and dark vegetation is certainly fitting for the choir loft. Moreover, the artist has selected pale mauve for the sky to distinguish it from the pale blue-green sky in the windows in the nave.