- Fears about the Burrell
- Hailes Abbey Revealed: New Museum at Cotswold Beauty Spot Reveals Monastery’s Hidden Stories
- St Nicholas Remembered
- Most Wanted
- Illuminating Women in the Medieval World
- North Lands Creative Glass : ‘Taking a Leap: Concept, Conservation and Innovation in Architectural Glass’
- Society for Church Archaeology 2017 Conference : ‘The Articulation of Light and Space in Churches’
- Stained Glass Tours at Wells Cathedral
- Harlaxton 2017
Fears about the Burrell
Fears have been raised about how the Burrell Collection’s outstanding collection of medieval stained glass will be displayed after a planned redesign of the famous Glasgow-based museum (fig.1).
The museum has been closed to the public since 2016 for a major refurbishment and will remain so until 2020.
Architects responsible for the original building, which opened in 1984, have voiced misgivings that parts of a proposed £66 million refit and extension aimed at reversing a decline in visitor numbers will ‘mess around’ with the harmony and integrity of the original building. The changes include ‘improved cafe and retail opportunities’, a new ‘learning space’ and the creation of an internal ‘hub’.
Professor Richard Marks, the first Keeper of the Collection and a leading expert on medieval stained glass, has pointed out that the proposed destruction of the present entrance hall would remove the only area in the museum suitable for the display of large stained glass panels. He has also said that he is concerned that, ‘the planned creation of a new entrance will involve the destruction of the reconstituted Hutton Castle dining room, not only ruining the symmetry of the trio of rooms (from Hutton Castle – Sir William’s home until his death in 1958; the others rooms are the Hall and the Drawing Room) )but also abrogate Sir William’s stipulation (at the time he gave his collection to the city of Glasgow) that all three rooms should be incorporated with their fittings and furnishings’.
There are more than 600 panels of stained glass in the Burrell Collection, ranging from complete windows down to small roundels. The collection is particularly strong in northern European glass of the 15th and 16th centuries and includes a panel from Abbot Suger’s glazing of St Denis in Paris, painted around 1140-45 (fig.2).
L. Cannon. Stained Glass in the Burrell Collection (Edinburgh, 1991)
R. Marks, ‘Stained Glass’ in The Burrell Collection, by Richard Marks, Rosemary Scott, Barry Gasson, James K. Thomson and Philip Vainker and with an Introduction by John Julius Norwich (Glasgow, 1983 and reprints), pp 110-115.
R Marks, Burrell: A portrait of a Collector: Sir William Burrell, 1861-1958 (Glasgow, 1983 and revised ed. 1988).
Hailes Abbey Revealed: New Museum at Cotswold Beauty Spot Reveals Monastery’s Hidden Stories
English Heritage’s new museum telling the dramatic story of the Cotswold abbey that was once one of England’s most important pilgrim destinations will open to the public on 30 June.
Hailes Abbey, near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, was founded by Earl Richard of Cornwall, son of King John and brother of Henry III, in the 1240s. For nearly 300 years, pilgrims from across England flocked to Hailes to visit a shrine said to contain blood shed by Christ on the cross, before the abbey dramatically suppressed by Henry VIII’s commissioners on Christmas Eve 1539 (fig. 1).
The new museum provides fascinating new insights into the history of the abbey and the lives of the monks who worshipped and lived at Hailes for nearly three centuries, drawing pilgrims over long distances to visit the Blood of Hailes, a phial believed to contain blood shed by Christ on the Cross. Miracles were attributed to this holiest of a relic, which was mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but it was later denounced as a fake during Henry VIII’s Reformation and its shrine destroyed. The monks were cast out, and the church was rapidly reduced to ruins and then plundered by locals.
The new museum stunningly redisplays the abbey’s medieval collection, and vividly brings to life 300 years of piety, culture and tradition at Hailes (fig. 2). Visitors will be greeted by an imposing 13th-century stone sculpture of Old Testament figure Sampson fighting a lion. Symbolising Christ’s defeat of death, the sculpture was once a boss in the ceiling in the abbey’s chapter house.
Among the other treasures inside the museum, visitors will find an exceptionally rare fragment of 14th-century monk’s spectacles, lost for centuries on the site of the monks’ choir-stalls (fig. 3). A new invention in the 14th century, it is easy to imagine the frustration of the monk who misplaced them. The museum also holds the metal seal of the abbey’s Confraternity or brotherhood, depicting a monk holding the Holy Blood of Hailes. Membership enabled lay people to benefit from the prayers of the monks and included some of the richest and most powerful individuals in late medieval England.
Whilst there is no stained glass in the new museum, the parish church at Hailes, which was originally the capellea ante portas to the abbey, retains the remains of an early 14th-century stained glass scheme, and an extraordinarily rich set of wall-paintings, associated with the abbey’s founder, Richard of Cornwall.
Dr Michael Carter, Senior Properties Historian for English Heritage, said: “Hailes Abbey was one of the last and greatest Cistercian abbeys to be founded in England. Thanks to the relic of the Holy Blood, the name of Hailes was familiar to popes and kings. Modern day visitors are following in the footsteps of the pilgrims who made long and arduous journeys to Hailes. Just like their medieval predecessors, they will be struck by the beauty of the abbey’s settings in the foothills of the Cotswolds.
“The new museum contains artefacts of international significance and provides fascinating new insights into the abbey’s royal founder, medieval belief and piety and the daily routine of the generations of Cistercian monks who lived here, their way of life brought to a sudden end by Henry VIII in 1539.”
To accompany the reopening, a new 48 page guidebook researched and written by historian Dr Michael Carter – Senior Properties Historian for English Heritage and an expert in Cistercian monasteries – has also been published by English Heritage Guidebooks (ISBN 978-1-91-090720-7, price £4), and will be on sale at the abbey.
For further information, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/hailes
St Nicholas Remembered
Up to ten thousand people attended a special service at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on Sunday, May 21st to celebrate the arrival, on a two-month loan, of a four-inch piece of rib bone said to have belonged to St Nicholas of Myra (sometimes Bari), Russia’s most venerated saint. The relic will be displayed at the Cathedral until 12 July when it will be transferred to St Petersburg for the period 13-28 July. The bone has been kept in the Basilica of St Nicholas at Bari in southern Italy, since 1087 when sailors removed the fourth-century bishop’s body from it his original tomb in Asia Minor (now Turkey), possibly to save it from invading Turks (fig.1).
Among the most widely-venerated saints of the Middle Ages, St Nicholas was often depicted in medieval stained glass. In Holland his name evolved into Sintertklass and he is regarded as the inspiration for Santa Claus.
In England there is evidence of a 12th-century St Nicholas cycle or window at York Minster (a surviving panel is now in S27) and remains of 13th-century cycles survive at Beverley Minster (c.1230s), Lincoln Cathedral (c.1230s), Westminster Abbey (1246-59), and York Minster (c.1280s). The last named also has a St Nicholas window made for the new nave in the early years of the 14th century (c.1306-10). Three scenes from his life appear in a window dating from c. 1300 at North Moreton church (Berks) (fig.2).
Elsewhere, stained glass cycles of his life and miracles survive in the French cathedrals of Chartres and Bourges. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a panel from a cycle that was made for Troyes cathedral, c.1170-80, which shows his selection as the bishop of Myra (fig. 3). Two other scenes from the cycle are now in the Musée national du Moyen Age in Paris.
Among the most famous stories told about the saint in The Golden Legend, the thirteenth-century compendium of saints’ lives written by a former bishop of Genoa, are the saving of three innocent knights from wrongful execution; the giving of dowries to save three girls from slavery/prostitution; and the calming of stormy seas. A legend from a different source describes his revival of three boys pickled in brine by an evil butcher during a famine (fig. 4).
Two other stories are worth mentioning. The Miracle of the Cup appears in stained glass of c.1510-19 at Hillesden church, (Bucks) (window sIV), and among the wall paintings in Haddon Hall chapel (Derbys) dating to c.1427. The miracle story tells of a wealthy man who promised to present a gold cup to the saint’s tomb if he were given a son. The boy was duly born and the man had the cup made but when it was finished he kept it for himself and ordered a replica for the saint. On his voyage to the tomb he asked his son to fetch him some water in the original cup. But the boy fell overboard and was presumed drowned. Although grief-stricken, the father continued his journey to the tomb where he eventually offered the replica cup to the saint, only for an unseen hand to throw it back and knock him to the ground. His ‘dead’ son then appeared holding the original cup and explained how St Nicholas had saved him. The grateful father gave both cups to the saint (fig. 5).
The second story, also depicted at Hillesden, involved a rich pagan who placed a statue of St Nicholas in his house to protect his valuables. When he was robbed by thieves he thrashed the statue. Sometime afterwards St Nicholas appeared before the thieves displaying his injuries from the beating. The thieves returned the stolen goods and the pagan converted to Christianity. This story is also told in one of the panels from Troyes cathedral now in Paris.
Single images of St Nicholas appeared in many English churches, especially in coastal areas where he was often invoked by sailors. Buildings and altars were dedicated to him including the leper hospital at Harbledown, near Canterbury (Kent) and King’s College, Cambridge.
A research student asks if readers have seen similar designs elsewhere to the fourteenth-century tracery light glass at the parish church of St Mary, at Cogges, Oxfordshire, shown below. According to the CVMA author, Peter Newton, the design is both original and extremely striking and he knew of no parallels in Oxfordshire. The bold leaf patterns are all in white glass and yellow stain against a matt black background. The yellow stain varies in intensity of tone from light lemon to a deep orange.
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Illuminating Women in the Medieval World
A new exhibition focusing on medieval women as depicted in medieval manuscripts has opened at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, USA.
Although inevitably slanted towards religious imagery, the exhibition includes a variety of depictions of medieval women ranging from damsels in distress to biblical heroines, incorruptible virgin saints to the adulterous Bathsheba. While such books invariably held up the devout and pious as models for proper behaviour, some books also included warnings against sinful conduct. Female figures also fulfilled the romantic role of lovers, the social and political function of wives, and the nurturing capacity of mothers.
The exhibition also highlights women as creators of manuscripts, as figures of great wealth and high status who exercised their authority and influence by commissioning books—and sometimes even illuminating them.
The exhibition is accompanied by a well illustrated and readable catalogue written by Christine Siacca (review forthcoming in next issue of Vidimus). The event closes on September 17th. Admission is free.
North Lands Creative Glass : ‘Taking a Leap: Concept, Conservation and Innovation in Architectural Glass’
Sunday, 16th July 2017
This one-day event explores the potential of stained glass as an important and exciting medium for creative practice, whether in the context of the preservation of historic windows or in the creation of cutting-edge contemporary art.
A programme of lectures, discussions, networking and gallery tours will consider the creation and conservation of traditional and architectural commissions, with speakers including Keith Barley FMGP, Dr Cate Watkinson, Robin Webster OBE RSA FRIAS, and others.
Tickets cost £75.00 (£55.00 for residents of the Highlands & Islands). For more information and to book tickets, see the North Lands website.
Society for Church Archaeology 2017 Conference : ‘The Articulation of Light and Space in Churches’
Friday, 15th – Sunday, 17th September 2017, Worcester
Based in the Old Palace at Worcester Cathedral, the conference will focus on the relationship between light, space, liturgy and devotion in churches, from the early-medieval period until the Victorian era. The event will bring together a range of lectures, revealing new methods and interpretations about ecclesiastical light and space; tours of the cathedral’s workshops and Upper Reaches; and also visits to significant local churches and monastic sites.
The importance and role of stained glass will be showcased in lectures, among others, focusing on the role of the glazier, the restoration of Worcester’s windows, and the art of stained glass in the articulation of the liturgy.
For further information, including a full programme of events and details of prices associated with various elements of the conference, and how to register, see the Society of Church Archaeology website or call the conference secretary, Dr Anne Sassin on 07896 125207.
Stained Glass Tours at Wells Cathedral
Saturday, 5th August 2017, 10.00-11.30 Wells Cathedral houses a spectacular and one of the most substantial collections of Medieval stained glass in England. As part of its series of special interest tours, focusing on various aspects of the church’s art and architecture, over each of the coming months Wells is offering one of three different stained glass tours.
On Saturday, 5th August, ‘Marvels of Medieval Glass’ will highlight the cathedral’s 13th and 14th century glazing. A specialist guide will explain how and why the glass was made, pointing out elements of design, identifying the figures depicted in the glass and outlining the stories narrated by the windows.
Subsequent tours will look at the role of angels depicted in the cathedral’s stained glass (‘The Work of Angels’, Saturday, 2nd September), and offer an overview of the development, design and glass-making techniques illustrated in the Cathedral’s glass collection (‘Chronological Stained Glass’, Tuesday, 17th October).
Each tour lasts one and a half hours, and places need to be pre-booked; maximum tour numbers apply. Tickets, costing £10 per person, can be purchased through the cathedral website.
The 2017 Harlaxton Medieval Symposium will take place between 17–20 July at Harlaxton Manor, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG32 1AG.
The conference will hear a variety of papers from both leading and younger scholars around the theme of: Church and City in the Middle Ages.
Convened by David Harry and Christian Steer FSA, the papers will honour Clive Burgess FSA, whose work on the Church as community and institution has shaped perceptions of late Medieval religious culture. The meeting will explore the urban presence of the late Medieval Church; the relationship between lay devotion and urban regulars; clerical provision and the administration of urban parishes; distinctive patterns of worship in large towns and cities; and the material culture and music of urban spaces of worship. Speakers include Vidimus Editor, Anna Eavis, Julian Luxford FSA, Elizabeth New FSA, Sandy Heslop FSA, Robert Swanson FSA, Jon Cannon FSA, John Goodall FSA, David Lepine FSA, Vincent Gillespie FSA, Julia Boffey FSA and Caroline Barron FSA. For further details visit: www.harlaxton.org.uk