Sunday, 25 January 2009

More empty niches!

Aldsworth, Gloucestershire

A little more evidence of late medieval devotion for you. This glorious Perpendicular tabernacle is in the east wall of the late fifteenth century north aisle of St Bartholomew's Aldsworth in Gloucestershire. No prizes for guessing whose image it contained, given the shields in the canopy with the letters S K, the barbed wheel on the pedestal and the two swords in the canopy - it was presumably St Katherine. I imagine an altar was placed directly below this image and the whole ensemble functioned as a reredos.

Aldsworth, Gloucestershire

The external decoration of this aisle is particularly noteworthy too. The easter angle buttress of the aisle incorporates another image niche. Sadly there is no evidence of the image that it once contained. Above in the parapet of the aisle is a wonderful array of inventive corbel heads. Martin Beek's excellent photo does them rather more justice than the dark images on my photostream.

Aldsworth, Gloucestershire

Friday, 23 January 2009

North Cerney, Gloucestershire - part 2

Photo copyright Archidave.

One of the most delightful elements of North Cerney church is the rood loft and rood group introduced in 1929 by F. C. Eden. The rood loft was erected independently of a screen and was placed above the narrow Norman chancel arch. A light screen was subsequently erected within the arch five years later.

North Cerney, Gloucestershire

The detailing of the loft is derived from motifs found on late medieval screens in the west country, with panels of lightly pierced tracery set above heavily carved mouldings. The rood group is corbelled out from the beam supporting the loft, rather than resting on the top rail. So the front of the loft creates an effective ground against which the figures of Our Lady and St John are placed. The plain oak of the loft creates a foil for the brightly polychromed figures.

North Cerney, Gloucestershire

The figure of the crucified Christ is an antique piece dating from around 1600 and was collected by Croome on his travels. It was recoloured and gilded by Eden and applied to a very Bodleyesque cross.

Photo copyright archidave.

This sumptuous loft and rood is set below a stunning fifteenth century ceiling. The ceiling, in common with many in the Cotswolds becomes richer as you go east, with the increased use of painted bosses over the eastern bay. Thus creating, in effect, a canopy of honour over the rood.

Photo copyright Eric Hardy

At the west end of the church is an early nineteenth century west gallery, which Eden had marbelled.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

North Cerney, Gloucestershire - part 1

If I was a country parson living in, dare I say it, the good-old-days of the Church of England, when there was one priest per parish. The one parish I would love to serve would be North Cerney in the Cotswolds near Cirencester. In my mind the church in North Cerney is near-perfection. A glorious medieval building, of Norman origins, with late medieval ceiling and stained glass and sublime modern furnishings.

North Cerney, Gloucestershire, All Saints Church 01

The church was refurnished almost entirely between 1913 and 1967, through the vision and munificence of W. I. Croome (1891-1967) who lived in the neighbouring Cerney House. Croome, who was a founding member of the Council for the Care of Churches, was a protege of F. C. Eeles. Like Eeles he was an officienado of the 'English Use', the liturgical and visual ethos commonly associated with the Warham Guild and Percy Dearmer. So naturally the furnishing of North Cerney follows, in principle, the English Use ethos. For his architect Croome chose a very inventive and able man, another 'F C', F.C. Eden. Eden had a pupil of G F Bodley and in his work you can see the influence both of Bodley and also of his contemporary Sir Ninian Comper. Over the course of a number of posts I'm going to consider some of the individual elements of Eden's work at North Cerney, starting today with the high altar.

The chancel at North Cerney is sparsely furnished space. That is intentional, as it draws the eye immediately to the glorious gilded reredos that Eden designed in 1924 - the focus of the church. The subject of the reredos, which is a triptych of three relief panels, is All Saints, the dedication of the church. The taller central panel of the reredos represents the moment of Our Lady's coronation as Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Saints. She is surrounded by lively figures of censing angels. The panel is reminiscent of the north European limewood altarpieces of the late Gothic period.

North Cerney, Gloucestershire

North Cerney, Gloucestershire

The two side panels incorporate representative groups of saints, kneeling or standing in adoration of the central scene. You can identify the saints yourself!

North Cerney, Gloucestershire

In design terms the frame of the reredos presents a 'unity by inclusion' style of architecture, in the main it uses renaissance motifs, based on a classical vocabulary. The central panel is backed with blank Gothic arcading and is surmounted by a a triplet of ogee arches, set between pinnacles and pendants. The unified colouring and rich gilding of the reredos pulls the whole thing together. This unity by inclusion approach works extremely well in this context. Before Eden set foot in the place the church already exhibited a ecletic array of different styles, Norman doors, early Gothic tower, Perpendicular transepts, seventeenth century classical tablets. Somehow the reredos gives a sense of visual cohesion to this eclecticism.

I should mention that during Lent the altar and reredos are covered by handpainted Lenten array in unbleached linen. The Lenten array is almost as glorious as the altarpiece itself.

North Cerney, Gloucestershire - high altar lenten array

Anyway more tomorrow.

More shadows of former things

All Saints, Theddlethorpe is in the remote coastal fringe of Lincolnshire. Many of the churches in this area are relatively unrestored and retain a lot of medieval fittings and furnishings. All Saints Theddlethorpe is about the best. It retains a fifteenth century painted rood screen and two parclose screens dividing the eastern bay of the nave aisles from the rest of the aisle. I will come back to the screens at a later date, as they are an interesting survival from the Marian restoration.

Theddlethorpe All Saints, Lincolnshire

The south chapel contains a refixed stone altar with a medieval mensa and behind it the windowless east wall is pierced with this rather interesting reredos or should I say tabernacle for a reredos. The tabernacle with crocketed canopy appears to be late fourteenth century and fits in nicely in terms of date with the aisle itself. So what did it contain. Well it's not very deep, so my feeling is that it contained a low relief panel, perhaps a large rectangular alabaster of freestone panel. Sadly we will never know.

Theddlethorpe All Saints, Lincolnshire

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Abbey Dore bosses

Dore Abbey, Herefordshire

The retrochoir of the Cistercian abbey church at Abbey Dore in Herefordshire is filled with architectural fragments gleaned from the ruins of the monastic buildings adjoining. The fragments include these two roof bosses. They date from the fourteenth century and are believed to have come from the vault of the Chapter House. The one above has an image of Our Lady and the Blessed Infant, with an abbot kneeling before them with his pastoral staff.

Dore Abbey, Herefordshire

The second shows the Coronation of our Lady. Both are typically lively and fluid pieces of sculpture. I have to say that I haven't made a particular study of bosses, but I'm always struck by their inventiveness, particularly within the constraints of the boss form.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Brief hiatus

Harpswell, Lincolnshire 5, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

My apologies for the hiatus in posting since before Christmas. My wife and my father have both been ill and have spent time in hospital over Christmas and consequently I have been unable to get to the computer. Both are now on the mend so expect some posts over the coming weeks, including one on the Arma Christi, another on stained glass in Norwich, yet another on the liturgiologist Vernon Staley and if you are lucky even more medieval vestments!!

I will also try and catch up with your comments, thanks for your patience.

Happy New Year.

BTW the other day when I was entertaining the kids with a spot of churchcrawling, I came across this rather battered late medieval bench end decorated with the five wounds. It is in Harpswell church in Lincolnshire. I thought it rather unusual with the inclusion of the chevron on the shield.

Harpswell, Lincolnshire 4