Spotlight falls on forgotten 'Nativity'

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The Independent Online
IAN MacKINNON

After 13 years lying virtually unseen in a studio, a priceless stained-glass window by the late John Piper has found a new home in timely fashion.

The Nativity, designed by Piper in 1982 for an exhibition, "Prophecy and Vision", hasbeen installed in one of Britain's foremost small Norman churches. St Mary the Virgin, at Iffley, Oxfordshire, already home to carvings dating from 1170 when it was built, is now home to the more recent attraction.

Myfanwy Piper, widow of the artist who was one of the country's most revered stained-glass artists, donated the window to the church because of her husband's love of the area. He had famously illustrated the Shell guidebooks, written by his close friend the former Poet Laureate John Betjeman, as they toured Britain.

The Nativity depicts a fourth-century Latin hymn telling the story of the birth of Christ as relayed by a cockerel, a goose, a crow, an owl and a lamb.

Piper's widow and family joined the congregation at St Mary's to view the latest addition. The vicar, the Rev Peter Judd, said: "Iffley church is world famous for its carvings dating from the time it was built. Now we have something of unique importance from our own generation."

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