Villagers give cold shoulder to Judas

A DORSET church has rejected an artist's offer of an engraved window because his depiction of Judas Iscariot hanging from a tree is too gruesome.

News that 44 parishioners at St Nicholas in Moreton near Dorchester, Dorset, objected to his work has come as a shattering blow to Laurence Whistler.

After all, the artist - who is 82 - is no stranger to St Nicholas: over the past 25 years, he has designed a dozen of its main windows - which attract some 15,000 visitors a year.

The original windows of this 1776 church, in whose cemetery T E Lawrence is buried, were blown out by a bomb in 1940.

Mr Whistler said: 'This would have been the 13th window, though a blind window, only visible outside. The number 13 in itself suggested Judas, as the 13th disciple.'

He added that the scene was bound to be gruesome: 'Hanging is not a very comely thing.'

He explained that the composition was meant to reflect 'the ancient Christian belief that most people are self- damned - not by God. In my picture of Judas, I show him at the moment of hanging . . . looking at the light . . . seeking at the last moment, forgiveness.' That is symbolised by '30 pieces of silver, the price given for betraying Christ', falling from Judas's hand and turning into flower- heads.

The Rev Peter Stevens, who was among the objectors, spoke of the gruesome way the figure's neck is 'jerked back'. He added that the picture was one of 'suicide and guilt', and out of keeping with the other designs on the theme of light.

There is also the question of dress: some parishioners resent Judas's jeans, jumper and wellingtons.

From the artist's point of view, the news is all the more disappointing as the work was initially approved by the parochial church council.