Builders & Decorators: Medieval Craftsmen in Wales
Although most medieval glass in Wales has been lost, there is still plenty to see, as a new book by the distinguished art historian, Nicola Coldstream, reminds us. Builders & Decorators: Medieval Craftsmen in Wales is a lavishly illustrated, 65-page guide to the best of the principality’s medieval buildings and the skilled craftsmen who made them. Published by CADW, the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government, it includes short chapters on masons, sculptors, carpenters, tilers, painters and, of course, glaziers. [Fig.1. Cover Picture]
While many of the chapters combine wide appeal with interesting details bringing the craftsmen and their skills to life, the chapter on glaziers will be of particular interest to Vidimus readers. It names the only known glazier to have worked in Wales, Simon, who was employed at Caenarfon Castle in 1283, and suggests that stained glass was common in Welsh churches in the late Middle Ages, with most surviving examples of the art dating from the late fourteenth century onwards. Panels from a window of 1498 depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary at All Saints church, Gresford (Denbighshire), Crucifixion scenes at Llanllugan (Montgomeryshire) and Cilcain (Flintshire), and early sixteenth-century quarries decorated with delightful oak sprigs at Llanrhudd (Denbighshire) are illustrated. Pride of place naturally goes to the spectacular window in the north aisle of St Dyfnog, Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch (Denbighshire). Dated 1533 it depicts the Tree of Jesse and is a masterpiece of bold design allied to beautiful colours and innovatory techniques such as the use of red enamel to shade lips. [Fig. 2. Detail showing Abuid, the son of Zorobabel, ancestors of Joseph who married Mary. See the Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter I]
A gazetteer and map that includes the sites mentioned in the glazing chapter is a useful addition to this attractively produced publication aimed at introducing new audiences to the achievements of the largely unrecorded and frequently forgotten craftsmen who built Wales’ rich historic heritage.
Builders & Decorators: Medieval Craftsmen in Wales, priced at £6.95, is available from CADW websites or by contacting CADW Sales by telephone on 01443 336092 (10am–3pm), or by email . The main CVMA Picture Archive includes images from Welsh churches. From the county list, select Caernarvonshire, Flintshire, or Glamorgan.