Saving the Saints at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene
A major fund-raising campaign has been launched by the parishioners of Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, to help conserve the fascinating late medieval glass in their grade I-listed church (Fig. 1). Installed after the church had been rebuilt in the latter part of the fifteenth century, the glazing scheme in the north aisle originally included fifty images of saints in the tracery lights, some of which are not found in any other church. Research by CVMA (GB) author David King suggests that the scheme was based on the litanies of the Sarum Breviary, a medieval book that contained the daily sequence of prayers (the Office) said by priests and those in the religious orders.
According to Christopher Woodforde, a prolific author of studies of stained glass before his death in 1962, the scheme is also ‘the best example’ of a unified iconographical programme drawn up by a single person yet painted in very different styles by different artists. Woodforde saw the scheme as a textbook case of a wealthy patron wanting the glazing finished as quickly as possible and either using several firms to execute the work, or employing a single workshop that, in turn, put out work to sub-contractors.
Three workshops seem to have been involved. Differences in style can be seen between the nVII window, the westernmost window in the aisle and the adjacent window nVI. In the former window, figures wearing robes of either blue or red pot-metal glass are seated on golden thrones, their names inscribed on scrolls with the capital letters enriched with yellow stain (Figs 2 and 3). In the latter, the figures are entirely in white glass and yellow stain against a patterned blue background, giving a cool and light effect (Fig. 4).
Some recent history of the glass also deserves mention. It was restored by Samuel Caldwell Jnr in 1924–25 for 15s. 6d. Caldwell (1900–1962) is best known for his work at Canterbury Cathedral, where he was the fourth and last member of the same Austin/Caldwell family to care for the glass between 1819 and 1952.
Although most of the figures have textual labels, centuries of losses, patching, inserts, and other damage mean that there have been a number of attempts to describe the various Apostles, popes, bishops, abbots and hermits depicted in the windows. David King’s updated list, which corrects some earlier identifications and adds others previously unknown, can be found below. Further discoveries may be made when the glass is removed for conservation and examined under workshop conditions.
For further information about the appeal, or to send donations, contact the Church Secretary/Treasurer, Mr Alan Sherfield, Toll Bar Cottage, Toll Bar Corner, Magdalen, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE34 3BE. There are more images of the glass at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene in the CVMA (GB) Picture Archive.
Vidimus is extremely grateful to David King for his help with this article. Thanks are also extended to Mr Alan Sherfield and Lyn Stilgoe.
C. E. Keyser, ‘Notes on some Fifteenth-century Glass in the Church of Wiggenhall St. Mary Magdalene’, Norfolk Archaeology, xvi, 1907, pp. 306–19
C. Woodforde, The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century, Oxford, 1950, especially pp. 137 and 165–66
D. King, ‘The Stained Glass of Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, Norfolk’, Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology in King’s Lynn and the Fens, ed. J. McNeill, Leeds, 2008
THE TRACERY-LIGHT SAINTS
The Westernmost Window, nVII
Upper Row 1. St Callixtus, Pope and martyr, d. c.222; Callixtus was Pope from AD 217 until his death when he was probably killed by a mob. 2. Empty. 3. Empty. 4. St Hilary, pope, d. c.467.
Lower Row 1. St Britius, Bishop, d. c.444; he was the successor to St Martin as Bishop of Tours. 2. St Aldhelm (d. 709), scholar and first Bishop of Sherbourne (Dorset). 3. St Sixtus (d. 258), pope and martyr. 4. St Sampson (d. c.565), abbot and Bishop of Dol in Brittany; believed to have evangelized Cornwall and the Channel Isles. 5. St Germanus (d. 448), Bishop of Auxerre; opponent of the Pelagian heresy, which denied that man was born in original sin. 6. St Cuthbert (d. 687), Bishop of Hexham.
Second Window from the West, nVI
Upper Row 1. St Alban?, English protomartyr. 2. St Hugo?, abbot. 3. St Valentinus, bishop and martyr. 4. St Hippolytus of Rome (d. c.235), theologian and martyr.
Lower Row 1. St Laudus, bishop. 2. St Botulph, Saxon Abbot of Icanhoeh, an unidentified place sometimes associated with Boston (Lincolnshire), although alternative locations in Lincolnshire and East Anglia have been suggested. 3. St Lambert, Bishop of Maastricht and martyr, murdered c.705. 4. St Benedict, abbot. 5. St Giles, ninth-century hermit near Arles. 6. St Romanus (d. 639), Archbishop of Rouen.
Third Window from the West, nV
Upper Row 1. St Bertinus?, abbot. 2. Empty. 3. Empty, apart from a white rose with a star, the badge of Edward VI (reigned 1461–83). 4. St Nicasius, bishop and martyr.
Lower Row 1. St Medard (d. 645), Bishop of Noyon. 2. St Gildard, Bishop of Rouen. 3. St Julian, probably the third-century Bishop of Le Mans. 4. Unidentified saint. 5. Possibly St Swithin (d. 862), Bishop of Winchester. 6. St Albinus, bishop.
Fourth Window from the West, nIV
Upper Row 1. St Victor, either the Pope (d. 201), or St Victor of Troyes, a hermit, died 640, probably the former. 2. St Sylvester (d. 335), pope. 3. St Marcellinus? (impossible to say which one). 4. St Isidore, bishop and doctor.
Lower Row 1. St Paul. martyr. 2. St Peter, martyr (not to be confused with St Peter Martyr). 3. St John, martyr. 4. St Thomas, martyr. 5, St Edmund Rich, archbishop. 6. Unidentified.
Fifth Window from the West, nIII
Upper Row 1. Angel, from the Nine orders of Angels. 2–3. Empty. 4. Female saint with palm and book, from south aisle?
Lower Row 1. Empty. 2. Seraph, from the Nine Orders of Angels. 3. Thrones, from the Nine Orders of Angels. 4. St Helen, crowned, with book, from south aisle? 5–6. Empty.
Art of Light
The ‘Art of Light’ exhibition pairing German Renaissance stained glass with panel paintings of the same period has opened at the National Gallery in London (Fig. 1). The highlight of the exhibition is unquestionably a stunning recreation of two complete lights from Mariawald Abbey painted around 1520–21 (Fig. 2).Trying to imagine the richness of the original scheme when every window shone with such luxurious colours is almost impossible – but worth the effort (Figs 3, 4 and 5)! Apart from the Mariawald glass, the exhibition also includes other examples of sumptuous glass painting and beautiful panel paintings that make ‘Art of Light’ an unmissable event.
The exhibition begins with a short film shot in Goddard & Gibbs’ studio about the making of stained glass and continues with a display of tools used by medieval glass painters and craftsmen, lent by the Stained Glass Museum in Ely and the Liefkes workshop in The Hague.
Most of the exhibition is arranged in two large rooms. The layout is spacious and aided by informative text panels. The pairings chosen by the curator, Dr Susan Foister, range from intriguing heraldry, through designs for stained glass windows by Renaissance artists such as Hans Baldung Grien and Jörg Breu the Elder, to comparisons between how artists working in different media created similar effects.
The first pairing features a portrait by Baldung Grien (Fig. 6) of a man wearing a chain hung with symbols of a fish and a falcon, together with an intricate stained glass heraldic panel (Fig. 7) incorporating the identical insignia, proclaiming the wearers as members of the Turniergesellschaft (‘Tournament Corporation’) of Swabia, founded in 1484 and reserved exclusively for noblemen. The stained glass panel was painted by the Swiss artist Lukas Zeiner in around 1500 and depicts the arms of Balthasar II von Hohenlandenberg, the brother of the Bishop of Constance.
Dr Hartmut Scholz from the German CVMA (Freiberg) has provided more information about these insignia. The symbol appears in another Baldung portrait of 1526 now in the Kunstmuseum, Basel, depicting the Basel nobleman Adelberg III von Bärenfels, and in stained glass heraldic panels in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum in Zürich – for example, the armorials of Martin von Randegg (1501) and Hans von Rümlang (1502). Vidimus is very grateful to Dr Schultz for this information.
Thereafter, there are pairings that show the similar treatment of angels’ wings by Austrian artists working on glass and in wood (Fig. 8); the similarities in the way artists in different media created damask-type textural effects (Figs 9 and 10); and how drawings by Albrecht Dürer and Breu were refined and traced by stained glass painters (Fig. 11).
For further information about the exhibition, including an interview with the curator, see issue no. 10 of Vidimus. The exhibition is accompanied by a well illustrated guide, covered in the Books section of the current issue.
Thanks are due to all the lenders, especially the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Vidimus also extends its appreciation to Ken Hunt of the National Gallery. Final thanks are extended to the sponsors, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, whose generous support made the exhibition possible.
TO VISIT ‘Art of Light’ from 7 November 2007 to 17 February 2008, the National Gallery, London. Admission free.
The Wonders of St. Sebald, Nuremberg
The German CVMA (Freiburg) has published the second volume in its splendid new Meisterwerke der Glasmalerei series of beautifully illustrated books looking at the stained glass of particular churches. Written by Hartmut Scholz, St. Sebald in Nürnberg describes the outstanding collection of glass displayed in this historic church, which was reopened in 1957 after suffering massive damage during the Second World War (Fig. 1). The glass ranges in date from the fourteenth to the cusp of the seventeenth centuries and is remarkable both for its quality and for the opportunity it provides for visitors to see stained glass from three different periods – each separated by about a hundred years – in close proximity to one another.
Nuremberg was one of the great ‘trading’ cities of medieval Europe. It was also the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, as the Reichstag (imperial diet) and courts met at Nuremberg Castle. The church of St Sebald is dedicated to the city’s patron saint.
The first glazing campaign, in the choir, was finished by 1380 and showed Christological narratives (Fig. 2), Genesis scenes, typological themes, and images of saints. Some of the latter were adjacent to altars dedicated to God in their names.
Towards the end of the fifteenth century, at least some of this glass was in poor condition. As a result, four of the principal windows of the east choir were removed by the descendants of the original donors, and new glass inserted. The donors were the Bishop of Bamberg; the emperor, Maximilian I (of Habsburg); and two wealthy nobles, the Margrave of Brandenberg-Ansbach, and Melchior Pfinzing, a prominent Nuremberg patrician, who was also the provost of St Sebald’s and an advisor to Emperor Maximilian (see further Fig. 3).
Parts of the late fourteenth-century windows that were replaced by these later insertions can still be seen in a patchwork window: they show Genesis scenes and typological themes, indicative of the iconographic scheme that characterized at least two of the lost windows.
The new windows were almost certainly designed by the Nuremberg artist Albrecht Dürer and one of his pupils, Hans von Kulmbach (c.1480–1528), and painted by the Veit Hirsvogel family workshop between 1501 and 1515. They show standing figures of saints and large-scale portrait images of the donors. Unlike the scheme they replaced, there were no narrative sequences in the new windows. The so-called Pfinzing Window includes an exquisite painting of the Virgin and Child (Fig. 4) based on a Dürer cartoon, the upper part of which is now in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia (Fig. 5).
The third and final glazing campaign in the church took place around 1600, when another of the choir windows was replaced with mainly armorial scenes painted by the Zurich-based workshop of Jakob Sprüngli, an extremely rare instance of a monumental scheme in stained glass for this period (Fig. 6).
To buy a copy of St. Sebald in Nürnberg, visit the Books page of the current issue. Forthcoming volumes in the same series will include studies of the medieval and Renaissance stained glass at Altenberg Abbey, at the Elisabethkirche in Marburg, and in the Katharinenkirche in Oppenheim. Vidimus is grateful to Dr Scholz for his help with this item. All photographs are reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder, CVMA (Freiburg).
A Serpent’s Tale: York Minster Great East Window Update
Thanks to the generosity of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster, Vidimus has been given rare access to the conservation trials taking place prior to the complete removal of the minster’s famous Great East Window next year. Made between 1405 and 1408, the window contains the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in England, covering over 1680 square feet. The main lights tell the story of the history of the world from the beginning to the end, drawn from the first and last books of the Bible.
This month we take a second look at panel 2j and reveal more of its secrets (Fig. 1). In our last issue we reported how a decision to seek the help of Professor Nigel Morgan, one of the world’s leading authorities on Apocalypse iconography, had yielded instant dividends when he was able to make a vital contribution to the conservation treatment of panel 2j. The panel was described by Tom French in his study of the window as showing Christ in Majesty holding a book inscribed ‘Ego sum alpha & omega’. To his right, there are two figures, the upper figure an angel with a banner inscribed ‘Deum adora’, and a lower kneeling figure with yellow hair and blue robe, identified as another angel. The figure seated to Christ’s left is St John, shown writing the book of his visions, inscribed ‘Apo/cho/lip/cis’ (cf. Revelation, vv. 7, 10 and 18–19).
After studying the panel, Professor Morgan explained that the earlier reference to the kneeling figure on the left as an angel was mistaken. The panel actually depicts at least two scenes from the Apocalypse cycle with the figures on the left illustrating Revelation XXII, 6–9, where an angel corrects John and tells him that it is God whom he must adore; the angel points to God. As such the kneeling figure is not an angel, but a further image of St John, who thus appears twice in the same panel. Following this reinterpretation of the iconography of the scenes by Professor Morgan, we pick up the story anew with the conservation team grappling with a number of questions arising from this crucial new identification.
Research undertaken by members of the team responsible for overseeing the conservation of the window, the East Window Advisory Group (EWAG), revealed that when the window was described in 1690 by the York antiquary, James Torr, he only mentioned three figures in the main section of the panel and completely ignored the kneeling figure now known to be St John. Equally interesting, a photograph of the panel taken prior to its restoration after the Second World War by Dean Eric Milner-White’s glazing team showed the same figure headless (Fig. 2).
Although the head that was inserted during the Milner-White post-war restoration is obviously medieval and broadly contemporary in style (Fig. 3), it posed several types of problems for the EWAG team, as it was noticeably different from the work of John Thornton, the Coventry glass painter responsible for the making of the window between 1405 and 1408 (Fig. 4).
Initially, it was thought that the inserted face may have been chosen at random from a bank of fragments accumulated by the minster glaziers from different sources, which they occasionally used to patch missing faces and limbs. Moreover, because the face did not resemble the figure of St John on the right – for a start, it is clean shaven – some observers thought it ought to be replaced, as the differences made it very difficult to comprehend visually that the two figures actually represented the same person. One suggestion was to replace the Milner-White insertion with a replica head of St John using the numerous models available within the window to overcome the problem of visual disparity.
EWAG was, however, quite apprehensive about the removal of such a fine medieval piece that fitted so well within the panel in other respects without further investigation and thought. Their caution was vindicated when the panel was examined in the YGT workshop. On removing the lead framework, and gently cleaning the glass, a fascinating painted detail in the inserted head became much clearer: to the right of the face was a clear symbol of St John, the chalice and serpent, a reference to a legend that John was ordered to drink from a poisoned chalice by the high priest of Diana at Ephesus, indicated by a serpent or small dragon emerging from the cup (Fig. 5).
In light of this discovery, it seems likely that Milner-White had deliberately chosen the insertion because he understood that the figure ought to represent St John. During EWAG discussions it was decided unanimously that the inserted face should remain in the panel despite the differences between the two painted versions of John, as it offered such a fascinating insight into the methods of the previous restoration.
For further images of the Great East Window and the other glass at York Minster, visit the CVMA (GB) Picture Archive.
Thanks to Amanda Daw and Nick Teed. All photographs are reproduced by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster. Photography by Nick Teed.
Sarah Brown, Stained Glass at York Minster, London, 1999
Tom French, York Minster: The Great East Window, CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 2, Oxford, 1995 (paperback edition, 2003)