Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Hambleden, Buckinghamshire

May I wish all readers of
Medieval Ecclesiastical Art
a very blessed Christmass.

Allan Barton

Noster cetus psallat letus
Voce simul consona,
Jesu Christi gloriosa
Recolens natalicia.
Qui de celis condescendens
In virginis uterum
In eadem carna sumpta
Visitavit seculum.
Felix puer, cuius mater
Incorrupta parere
Et post partum virgo manens
Meruit existere.
Hic est enim, germen ade
Qui venit redimere.
Et ac celi sede mundo
Corruit reducere.
Ad ipsius ergo laude
Omnis nostra concio
Exultanto regi regum
Benedicat Domino.

Let our congregation sing
With consonant voices
Jesus Christ's glorious
Day of birth.
Descending from heaven
Into a Virgin's womb
Taking flesh in her
He visited this world.
Happy child, whose mother
Having incorruptibly given birth
And afterwards remained a virgin
Was thought worthy of this.
For he is the Son of God
Who came to redeem the world
He came down to return the world
To its heavenly home.
Therefore to his praise
Let our entire congregation
Exult the King of Kings
Bless the Lord.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Sick bed

My apologies for the lack of activity this week. I've been hit with the flu. Not a good thing for the clergyman to go down with a week before Christmas. Never mind. Rest assured normal service will resume after Christmas.

In the meantime I draw your attention to Gordon Plumb's lovely series of shots of the fifteenth century Seven Sacraments window at Doddiscombsleigh in Devon. This is the panel of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

John the Baptist's camel skin

Yarnton, Oxfordshire, window nVI, 2b

How was St John the Baptist dressed? This is how Mark's Gospel has it: 'Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist' (Matthew Mark 1.6) This fifteenth century panel from Yarnton in Oxfordshire is pretty representative of the standard medieval way of interpreting the text, by dressing him in a whole camel's skin, with the head of the animal trailing on the floor between his legs. Of course in this image, like many images of the Baptist, we see him set in the heavenly reality, so he gets a rather better robe to cover his camel skin.

Yarnton, Oxfordshire

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Wodshawe and Twygge

Buckland, Gloucestershire

As well as the glorious vestment fragments posted previously, Buckland in Gloucestershire has a number of panels of medieval stained glass. The east window has three panels from a Seven Sacrament window of the late fifteenth century, including this panel of Ordination and one of Confirmation (see below)

On stylistic grounds, Professor Richard Marks has concluded that these panels are the product of a workshop headed by Richard Twygge and Thomas Wodshawe. Their workshop was probably in Great Malvern and was operating from the 1470s right through until the early years of the sixteenth century. Wodshawe and Twygge were responsible for glass in many high status buildings across the Midlands. They were involved in the glazing of Great Malvern priory and are mentioned in the glazing accounts of Tattershall College in Lincolnshire. At the latter they were responsible for windows depicting the Works of Mercy and a second depicting the Seven Sacraments.

If you place Gordon Plumb's image of Confirmation from the surviving glass at Tattershall beside the Buckland panel it clearly demonstrates the stylistic similarities between the glass there and at Buckland. Although I feel that the Tattershall panel is a much more sophisticated piece.

Buckland, Gloucestershire

Tattershall, Lincs, I, 2a, Confirmation

Further Reading

R. C. Marks, The Stained Glass of the Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity, Tattershall (Lincs.) (New York and London, 1984)

Monday, 15 December 2008

More medieval vestment recycling!

Buckland, Gloucestershire

I hope you aren't getting too tired of my minor obsession with late medieval English textiles. Here is another example of the post-medieval recycling of medieval vestments. Buckland in Gloucestershire has a lovely frontal made from various pieces of embroidered silk velvet. Information in the church refers to the fragments as forming part of a cope. The central panel of the frontal a large piece of blue velvet embroidered with waterflowers, is clearly part of a cope, as the motifs radiate out.

Buckland, Gloucestershire

There are two fragments of cream figure velvet, decorated with a waterflower and a figure of a sainted bishop. The may come from cope orphreys, but I'm not convinced they belong with the blue panel.

Buckland, Gloucestershire

Then there are two strips of red velvet, each of a distinctly different shade.The bottom red strip of fragments is decorated with figures of Our Lady, St John and the Crucifixion the fragments ae embroidered with St John, Our Lady and the Crucifixion as well as a waterflower. I can't see these in a cope orphrey or on the back of a cope, so I suspect they form elements from the back of a chasuble.

Buckland, Gloucestershire, medieval cope 1

Buckland, Gloucestershire, medieval cope 2

The upper piece, decorated with figures of St Peter and St Paul, a glorious St Michael and a waterflower, are I suspect, like the cream fragments, parts of a cope orphrey. It was quite common for cope orphreys to incorporate figures of the Apostles.

Buckland, Gloucestershire

Ths strip also incorporates a fascinating embroidered device, which I suspect is a rebus. The word 'why' in blackletter text is followed by an object that looks like the top of an architectural canopy. This is followed by a little cruciform church. Pevsner and others suggest, quite plausibly, that this is a rebus on the name of William Whitchurch, who was abbot of Hailes from 1464-1479. Hailes was an important Cistercian abbey about five miles from Buckland, famous for its relic of the blood of Christ.

Buckland, Gloucestershire

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Advent Blue II

AdventBlue 012, originally uploaded by sarumsleuth.

I couldn't resist posting some of SarumSleuth's photos of the glorious Advent blue high mass set at Primrose Hill in London. St Mary's, Primrose Hill is Percy Dearmer's church and the flagship of the 'English Use'. The vestments were probably made in the first years of the twentieth century during the early years of Dearmer's incumbency. The vestments are made of stamped silk velvet with no orphreys,offset with a lining of Sarum red linen. Very sumptuous they are too. BTW does anybody know where I can get dark blue stamped velvet?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

'In God is al godnes' - an inscribed font.

South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

South Ormsby in the Lincolnshire Wolds has a fascinating Perpendicular font. The base of the font is inscribed with a patronal inscription, recording that it was given to the church by Ralph Bolle and his wife. The inscription reads 'Orate pro animabus Radulphi Bolle ... uxoris eius qui fieri fecerunt hoc baptisterium' . 'Pray for the soul of Ralph Bolle [and ? ] his wife who made this baptistry'. It is curious this use of the word 'baptisterium' rather than 'fons' in this context, I've not come across that before. The part of the inscription that records the name of Ralph's wife is sadly missing, and as a consequence we don't really know who Ralph Bolle is. More research work for me! He was probably a member of the family of the same name from Swineshead, who inherited the neighbouring manor of Haugh in the middle of the fifteenth century.

South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

The stem of the font us decorated with fairly conventional traceried panelling. Around the base of the bowl are figures of angels with outstretched wings. The bowl of the font is again fairly conventional, decorated with figures of angels holding shields, Two are heraldic (and may provide evidence of patronage if I do the work!), others are charged with the sacred monogram 'IHS', the monogram of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven 'MR', the instruments of the Passion and the mongram of the Annunciation, i.e. a lily pot between the letters A and M.

South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

One of the shields is inscribed with a great rarity, a Middle English inscription: 'In God is al godnes' it reads. A very appropriate tag for an object through which so many have been brought to new life in Christ.

South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Virgin Mother & Child Jesus

Virgin Mother & Child Jesus, originally uploaded by Lawrence OP.

This is such a lovely image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus, that I couldn't resist posting it here. Lawrence OP has captured superbly the central image of the lady chapel reredos in All Saints, Margaret Street. No prizes for guessing that the work is by Sir Ninian Comper. It dates from 1909.

Lawrence has also captured the image in context here:
Lady chapel reredos (Comper)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Elevation torches at Friskney in Lincolnshire

Friskney, Lincolnshire

Look carefully at the photo above, in fact click through to Flickr and look at the image in its original size. Down at the bottom of the window, flanking the altar on either side you will see two crouching figures. Here is a detail of the one to the left. He appears to be in early fifteenth century civilian dress, and is holding what looks to be a candlestick.

Friskney, Lincolnshire

What is he? Well, in the late medieval period is was customary during mass for civilians to come close to the altar and raise large candles or torches at the moment of the elevation of the sacred species. A clerk holding a torch of this sort at the elevation of the Host, is portrayed in the Seven Sacrament window at Doddiscombsleigh in Devon (see below). And I suppose that the two little figures at Friskney represent this liturgical custom. Odd aren't they.

Doddiscombsleigh, Devon, nII, 3a, Eucharist
Doddiscombsleigh, Devon. Photo by Gordon Plumb

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Baby Jesus having a quick dip

South Ormsby, Lincolnshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

I can't resist posting a photo of this glorious little panel of Netherlandish stained glass from South Ormsby in Lincolnshire. This tiny panel dates from the last quarter of the fifteenth century and it portrays the Nativity set in a contemporary domestic setting of the period. Our Lady is sat up in a four poster bed in a very up-market room. The room is so up-market that the floor is tiled and the windows glazed, you can even see the glazing bars. To the left of the panel a midwife gives Our Lord, who is a jolly little chap, a bath in a bason which is placed before the fire. Notice the lovely little details such as the pot hanging from a great hook over the fire and the bellows hanging in the inglenook. I could have done with the latter this evening myself as our fire did not want to light!

South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

For those who want to know more the glass is in panel 1b of sIII in Ormsby and more details cam be gleaned from:
P. Hebgin-Barnes, The Medieval Stained Glass of the County of Lincolnshire (Oxford, 1996), pp. 259-261.


Croft, Lincolnshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

Yesterday I drove down to Croft near Skegness ostensibly to photograph the glorious fifteenth century brass eagle lectern that the church has. There are only two dozen of these in the country. My existing photos, as you will see, are pretty rubbish. When I got there the church, which is normally open, was locked. Sadly the church is locked at the moment because sometime over the summer some unscrupulous individual stole two of the lions that support the base of the lectern. They would have taken the third as well, except that it is soldered to the base.

Croft, Lincolnshire

So if any of you see a couple of small medieval brass lions for sale do let me know. It would be great if the church could recover them.

Croft, Lincolnshire

Friday, 5 December 2008

Clayton and Bell at Freeland

Freeland from the east
Photo by Lawrence OP

The church of St Mary in Freeland, Oxfordshire was designed by J L Pearson in the Early English style. It was constructed between 1869 and 1871 at the expense of the Taunton family. The church has an exquisite and remarkably well-preserved Tractarian interior, with lavish contemporary decoration. The apsidal chancel has a decorative scheme by Clayton and Bell, including stained glass and a rich series of wallpaintings.

Freeland, Oxfordshire

Polychromy covers every inch of the chancel walls. Below the dado the walls are painted in a vibrant red ochre, which is powdered with stencilled devices. Above that are a series of narrative panels depicting the passion of Christ, painted in an ochre grisaille. In some of the panels this ochre grisaille is relieved with muted yellow ochre and pastel green and blue. The two central panels of the north and south wall, Christ's entry into Jerusalem and his burial, get a more vibrant treatment, with Clayton and Bell adding richer blues and greens.

Freeland, Oxfordshire
Christ crowned with thorns

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The scourging of Christ

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The Last Supper

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The entry into Jerusalem

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The entry into Jerusalem

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The burial of Christ

The stained glass in the chancel follows the theme of the life of Christ, with windows depicting the Nativity. I don't have any pictures of them, but Lawrence Lew has an excellent selection on his Flickr page, taken when we visited the church together last year.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Reconstructing a lost window - Annesley, Nottinghamshire

Holme by Newark, Nottinghamshire, window I(8)

The once glorious church of All Saints in Annesley, Nottinghamshire is now a rather dilapidated ruin. The church ended in such a sorry way as a consequence of the industrial revolution. From the 1850s onwards the population of Annesley migrated to a new village near a coal mine and a new church was built in that settlement. The 'old church' now away from the centre of population, continued to be used occasionally until 1942, but then quickly fell into decay. In 1981 the building was purchased by the local district council and in a remarkable act of vandalism they removed the gables and lowered the walls.

The most striking part of this building was the south nave aisle known as the 'Felley Chapel', which was screened off from the main body of the church. This chapel, dating from the middle part of a the fourteenth century, had a lavish east window with reticulated tracery. A chantry founded by William de Wakebridge and Robert de Annesley in 1363, is believed to have been sited in this chapel, which had all the acoutrements for high mass, including a triple stone sedilia. The patronage of the chantry was vested with the Augustinian canons at nearby Fellley Priory, which is how the chapel is believed to have received its designation.

The antiqurian John Allen visited the church in 1748 and he described some of the elements of the glazing of the reticulated east window. Below in italics is his account:

‘In the South Isle, which was built by the Annesleys, and above half of which to the East was a Chantry, still separated from the Rest by a Screen, as well as from the Nave of the Church, on the North Side of the Altar of this Chantry …, in the East Window, which is a very fine one, and has been richly glazed, are the shield and stories still remaining. Over the Crucifix the shield of Annesley.

‘The Nativity, viz. the Stable, wherein is a Cow and a Goat, the Babe in the Manger, the Virgin asleep upon her Arm, and Joseph watching over her: the wisemen offering &c. At the bottom a Man in Armour, praying, on his Surcoat the Arms of Annesley;.
‘and a Shield of the same a little above his Face. A Lady, praying, with a little Girl before her, seemingly on her Coat, viz: the Childs 'Vert, two fesses or'.

This is a useful record. What we appear to have had is a series of narrative panels surrounding a central image of the Crucifixion, with family groups of kneeling donors at the base of the window. The narrative panels were fairly standard fourteenth century fare, the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi.

By the twentieth century all of the narrative panels and the kneeling donor images had disappered, but remnants of glazing still remained at the tops of the lights and in the tracery of this window. In 1932 these remains were removed by Nevil Truman and transferred to Holme church near Newark, where it was leaded into the east window by Dennis King of Norwich. This glass still survives and gives some indication of the high quality of the Felley chapel east window.

At the top of the tracery lights of the Felley window and now at the bottom of the Holme window, were two quatrefoils containing a Coronation of the Virgin compositon. Our Lady crowned and praying in one light and her son enthroned and blessing her in the second. The colouring of these panels is extremely rich. Both figures are offset against blue grounds decorated with trailing foliage (rinceau) executed in stickwork. The figures make use of pot metal yellow, ruby and murrey glass.

Holme by Newark, Nottinghamshire, window I(7)

Holme by Newark, Nottinghamshire, window I(4)

Other tracery lights incorporated coloured armorials set on white grounds painted with rinceau.

Holme-by-Newark, Nottinghamshire

The remnants of the filling of the main lights of the window are very scant. Nothing of the narrative panels remains. If other windows of the period are anything to go by, these narrative panels were presumably arranged in bands across the main lights, the bands set against a ground of white glass decorated with a foliage trellis. Nevil Truman was able to salvage a number of the light tops from the window, which give an indication of the type of trellis that existed. Each is decorated with an oak stem and acorn within a yellow border.

Holme 1

The edge of each light may have had borders of red glass incorporating figurative pieces like this lovely bird and standard decorative elements like vine trail and micro-architecture.

Holme-by-Newark, Nottinghamshire

Holme-by-Newark, Nottinghamshire

Holme-by-Newark, Nottinghamshire

The arrangement of the main lights would have resembled, more-or-less, the east window of the north aisle at All Saints, North Street in York.

All Saints, North Street, York