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The identification of some fragments of a fifteenth-century inscription in a window at All Saints Church, North Street, York, as the remnants of a statement of ‘indulgences’ (see note below) is being described as ‘highly important’ by stained glass scholars and medieval historians. It provides dramatic evidence that at least some stained glass inscriptions were used as devotional foci by medieval audiences, either as incentives to stimulate prayer or by offering indulgences to those who recited prayers before them. [Fig. 1]
Such evidence is extremely rare and potentially highly significant. In England the only other known example is a now-lost inscription in a window at St Cuthbert’s church, Fishlake, South Yorkshire, promising a thirty-day pardon to all those who added ‘Jesu‘ to their ‘Ave Maria’. However, it is possible that other examples may have existed before the Reformation. When intact, the All Saints ‘indulgence’ inscription extended to at least three lines. Although none of the existing scraps actually mention ‘indulgence’ as such, Professor Robert Swanson’s recently-published paper about the discovery highlights plenty of circumstantial evidence. Chief among these is the single word [co]nfessis in the middle of the second line. He believes that this indicates that those seeking spiritual reward for their prayers should be ‘contrite and confessed’. Another fragment with the word annorum (far right of the second line) hints at the extent of the pardon. Two fragments containing the word quinquies (middle of the bottom line) suggest that the indulgences were offered in return for the contrite and confessed reciting five Ave Marias with five Paternosters (The Lord’s Prayer).
To date, no exact parallels have been found in medieval France and Germany. Indulgences were given in France to those who helped finance the construction and furnishing of churches. It is possible that this might have included donations of stained glass. An example from late fourteenth-century Germany is more complex. The church of St James in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, was en route for German pilgrims travelling to the shrine of St James in Compostella, northern Spain. It also contained important relics of its own. Apart from papal indulgences given to the donors who financed the furnishing of the church, indulgences were also offered to pilgrims who attended particular Feast Days in the church, including celebrations associated with the Seven Joys of the Virgin, a subject depicted in the choir glazing. Indulgences renewed in 1398 were extended to those, ‘who shall have said seven Hail Marys out of reverence for the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary before the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary’: qui coram ymagine beatae Maria virginis septem ave Maria ob reverentiam septem gaudiorum beatae Mariae virginis dixerint. When a Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) chapel was built at Rothenburg in 1390, it included a Eucharist window which may have been seen as a visual expression of the salvational effect of Holy Communion, the moment when worshippers received consecrated bread and wine: the Body of Christ.
At All Saints, North Street, the fragments can be found in a modern arrangement in the south aisle of the church below a constructed scene of the miraculous Mass of St Gregory. According to The Golden Legend, an anthology of saints’ lives written in the middle of the thirteenth century, the miracle occurred when the risen Christ as The Man of Sorrows appeared to St Gregory as he celebrated Mass. Although it is unclear if the inscription at All Saints was originally paired with such an image, Professor Swanson says that such associations are not unknown in other media.
The medieval church believed that people could enjoy a remission of their sins by acts of mercy and charity, prayer and penance. The granting of these remissions were called indulgences. The earliest record of a plenary indulgence was the declaration of Pope Urban II in 1095 that participation in the Crusade(s) was equivalent to a complete penance of someone’s sins. The later Middle Ages saw the growth of widespread abuses, including the unrestricted sale of indulgences by professional ‘pardoners’. In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms for the rebuilding of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, provoking the German protestant Martin Luther to denounce what he called the purchase and sale of salvation.
For the All Saints inscription:
For the stained glass in All Saints church:
For the Fishgate inscription:
For St James’ Church, Rothenburg:
To see more images from All Saints Church, North Street, York see the CVMA Picture Archive
Penny Hebgin-Barnes’ long awaited CVMA catalogue of The Medieval Stained Glass of Lancashire will be published shortly. Readers of Vidimus will be able to buy copies of this major work with a 40% discount. This special price will only be available for a limited period. The book will have 615 pages, 36 colour plates and 944 b&w illustrations.
If you are interested in learning more about the exclusive discounted price to Vidimus readers, please send an email to: editor [at] vidimus [dot] org. Registering for information does not commit you to buying a copy of the book.
Richly-decorated ornamental borders made around 1175–80 have been conserved by the stained glass studio at Canterbury Cathedral. The borders belong to window St.IV (South Triforium 4) which has recently been reinstated in the east transept by Leonie Seliger and her team. Sadly, the central subject panel in this window has long been lost and no record of it survives. As a result, the borders now frame a conjectural scheme painted in the 1860s by George Austin Jnr. (1821–91) which depicts four seated saints with attributes and with their names inscribed: SS Peter, Stephen, Barnabas and Paul. George Austin was an accomplished artist and the second member of the Austin family to care for the cathedral glass. In the course of the recent conservation programme it was discovered that he had incorporated fragments of thirteenth-century medieval glass into the design of this Romanesque-style window. [Fig. 1]
While Austin’s figurative designs were entirely conjectural, the borders surrounding the window contain at least five of the original panels still in situ. Another, possibly original panel was installed inside-out during a previous restoration, prompting the suspicion that it may have originally belonged to another window in the same series with the same border design. Taken together, these six panels form three sides of the window: the two vertical borders and the surround for the semi-circular arch at the top. In contrast, the bottom horizontal border comprises two complete panels of a roughly similar date but which once belonged to different windows within the cathedral. The left border (St.IV 1) is identical to three border panels in a window of the same date in the north triforium (Nt.VII), which CVMA author Madeline Caviness describes as possibly in situ; the other is very similar (but not identical) to a border panel in window S.IX in the Trinity Chapel clerestory, and therefore likely to belong to a lost clerestory window of the post-1180 glazing.
The design of the three in situ sides of the window comprise white acanthus shoots and fan-shaped leaves, alternately yellow and rose purple. [Fig. 2] Of the lower borders, the leftpanel (St.IV 1) is described by Madeline Caviness as consisting of a series of rose purple fan shaped leaves on a blue ground, from which a white acanthus leaf springs, with a yellow termination. [Fig. 3] The right panel is composed of white half-circles, centred on the inner edge, with palmettes of rose purple, yellow and green. Caviness described this as ‘identical’ to the apparently in situ border in S.IX. However, under workshop conditions, subtle differences between the designs were observed by the conservators. The background of the border panel in St.IX is blue and red, instead of just blue as in S.IX and the manner in which the colours are dispersed is also different. Slight variations in the treatment of the half-circles can also be seen. [Figs. 4 and 5]
As part of the conservation process, unstable paint was consolidated with an acrylic resin and bonded glass was given additional support from copper wires. Finally, a protective glazing system was installed in the existing metal frame, or ferramenta. This comprised a new, clear, leaded window in kiln-distorted float glass with a very thin layer of high firing enamels stippled onto the outside to reduce ‘modern’ looking reflection. The historic stained glass panels were then placed in a brass frame that exactly replicated the older ferramenta. This was fitted about 10–12cm inside the building thus protecting the glass from the weather, as well as reducing further deterioration by regulating the temperature and air flow around this precious stained glass. [Figs. 6 and 7]
Vidimus is grateful to Leonie Seliger and Joy Bunclark for their help with this item. All pictures © The Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral and reproduced with their kind permission.
M. Caviness, Christ Church Cathedral Canterbury, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Great Britain, Volume II, London, 1981.
To read more about the stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral glass see the Canterbury Cathedral website. To see nearly 1,000 images of stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral see the CVMA Picture Archive. To buy copies of M.A. Michael’s beautifully illustrated book about the stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral, contact the Cathedral online bookshop.
Name that Roundel!
Here is another ‘Name that roundel subject’ puzzle contributed by CVMA author, Kees Berserik. The roundel has been dated to c. 1525–1540, and Dr Berserik has pointed out a resemblance to similarly-painted roundels from the former Convent of the Grey Sisters in Antwerp. The ‘repair’ to the right of the painting is a modern insertion. Roundels of this period depicted a range of subjects including stories from the Old and New Testaments, the lives of saints, and tales from ancient history and classical literature.
The central scene shows five figures. On the left are two men; one stands behind a curtain leaning on a staff, while a young man sits on a high-backed throne of office, holding a rod and gesturing at the three figures opposite. Left to right, they comprise a kneeling woman, a kneeling man and a standing figure. The kneeling well-dressed woman is shown from behind, with a long plait and her face is not visible. The kneeling man wears a sword, suggesting that he is a soldier or knight, and he appears to hold a cap in his left hand. The gender of the standing person is unclear: he or she wears a long robe or dress and may be holding a white cap. Although the head of the figure is mostly modern, traces of the original painting show that the original figure had shoulder-length hair. Two other episodes from the same story are shown in smaller scale. At the far right a man leaves the chamber in which the main scene is set. Through an open window two guards escort a prisoner towards a tower.
The suggested solution to this month’s puzzle is provided by Dr Paul Taylor of the Warburg Institute in London. It can be found as the bottom of the Books section in this issue of Vidimus.
If any reader has other suggestions as to the subject depicted in the painting, please email: news [at] vidimus [dot] org.
For details of the Grey Sisters roundels mentioned above, see: C.J. Berserik and J.M.A. Caen, Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels before the French Revolution, Flanders, Vol I: The Province of Antwerp, Corpus Vitrearum Belgium, Brepols, 2007, pp. 42–50.
The Hungate Centre for Medieval Art in Norwich has appointed Dale Copley as its first manager. She has academic qualifications in medieval history and was previously employed at Cornerhouse, Manchester’s international centre for contemporary visual arts and film.
Due to open in April, the Centre will include a strong focus on stained glass. Funded by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Centre will be based in one of Norwich’s finest redundant churches, St Peter Hungate, a fifteenth-century church within easy walking distance of the Cathedral.
For more information see the Norwich Historic Churches Trust website. For stained glass in Norfolk see the Stained Glass in Norfolk and Norwich website.
This month we have added some new web links to the Vidimus website
Different Visions is a USA-based, free, online academic magazine specialising in new approaches to medieval art, including stained glass. Issues are currently published annually and Issue 1 is now available online. Contributors include Professor Madeline Caviness. This issue includes an article by Anne F. Harris on 13th-century glass at Chartres Cathedral. [Fig. 1].
Peregrinations is published by the International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art. Again, readership is free and issues appear three or four times a year. The Editor-in-Chief is Sarah Blick of Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, USA. [Fig. 2]
Links are also provided to two useful Swiss websites: the Stained Glass Museum at Romont (Vitro Musée) and the Swiss Research Centre for Stained Glass and Glass Art (Vitro Centre).
The Vitro Musée website includes details of events and exhibitions at this attractive museum. The Vitro Centre website describes the work of the centre and its facilities. It also includes an invaluable list of publications produced by its research teams.
The Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York has appointed Florian Knothe as its new curator of European glass. Florian was previously employed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where he was responsible for curating exhibitions, conducting research, and managing acquisitions for the Museum’s extensive European glass collection.
The Corning Museum owns a number of pieces of early stained glass, comprehensively catalogued by Meredith Parsons Lillich in her definitive US Corpus Vitrearum volume, Stained Glass before 1700 in Upstate New York, 2004.
These items include: a thirteenth-century grisaille lancet from Sées [Orne] Cathedral; a reconstructed panel with a fifteenth-century head of Christ, possibly from St Martin-le-Grand, Coney Street, York; important Netherlandish roundels; Swiss panels from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries; and a fourteenth century figure of an angel, probably reconstructed from several related designs, tentatively assigned an English (Yorkshire?) provenance. [Fig.1]
US readers have told us that they are hopeful that Mr Knothe’s appointment will lead to more of these treasures being displayed.
There is still time for trainees seeking a full-time career in stained glass to apply for the Worshipful Company of Glaziers forty-week Award for Excellence and the ten-week Ashton Hill Award.
These awards are designed to raise skill standards in the craft and to offer unique and valuable opportunities for graduates from a stained glass studio, students in further education or someone who has undertaken long-term training in a studio to develop their skills towards a practical career in stained glass. Recipients will be placed in high-quality working studios where they will gain work experience on architectural projects under the supervision, guidance and tuition of experienced professional designers/makers, top level craftsmen and conservators. Placements with European studios are usually included.
Funding of up to £250 a week will be provided toward subsistence, rent and travel costs for the duration of the award.
Since 1995 the Company has made 27 work placement awards. At least 20 of the recipients are currently working in glass today. The closing date for applications is 3 April 2009. For details of how to apply, see the Worshipful Company of Glaziers website.
For the comments of past award winners, see Vidimus 26.
Until 24 May: The exhibition Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum, at The Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, includes panels of stained glass. For more details see Vidimus 15 and the Millennium Gallery website.
Until 24 May: German and Central European Manuscript Illumination, at the Getty Center, Los Angeles. Some of the exhibited works may have influenced glass painters. For details of opening hours, and to download an illustrated checklist of the exhibits, see the Getty Center website.
On 21 March Risham Majeed will give a talk: ‘Cultivating Taste: Collecting Medieval Art at the Cloisters’, at The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, New York. [Fig. 1] The talk will take place at 12.00pm and 2.00pm and is free with Museum admission. For details of other talks in the same programme see the Metropolitan Museum of Art website.
29 March– 2 August: Glass and Light, an important exhibition of stained glass from a private German collection at the Knauf-Museum, Iphofen, Germany. [Fig. 2] For more information see the Glass and Light exhibition website.
On 18 April there will be a one-day stained glass workshop at the Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. J. Kenneth Leap will demonstrate twelfth-century techniques. This will be followed by an intensive five-day workshop. For details of both events see the Glencairn Museum website.
On 25 April CVMA Secretary, Heather Gilderdale Scott will be giving the postponed Deerhurst 2008 lecture at Deerhurst Church, near Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire. Heather will be speaking on, ‘Deerhurst, St Werstan and Monastic Mythmaking’. For more information see the Friends of Deerhurst website.
1–3 June: Forum for the Conservation and Restoration of Stained-Glass Windows, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. For more information about this important event, see the Forum website.
On Friday 19 June Andrew Rudebeck will speak about the fifteenth-century century glass painter, John Thornton, in ‘On the trail of John Thornton’, at the British Society of Master Glass Painters Summer Lecture; 6.30 for 7.00pm at The Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London WC1 (Admission by ticket only). For booking details see the BSMGP website.
On Tuesday 14 July Emma Jane Wells (University of York) will speak about ‘Stained Glass in York Minster: Perceptions and Representations of Space’ at the Leeds International Medieval Congress 2009. For further details see the Leeds IMC website.
On Wednesday 15 July Rosie Mills of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, will speak about ‘Stained Glass Narrative Strategies in the Elaborate Tracery Forms of English Gothic Windows’ at the Leeds International Medieval Congress 2009. For further details see the Leeds IMC website.
17–19 July: The Annual Meeting of the American Glass Guild will be held the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Buffalo, New York. For more information about the AGG and the conference see the American Glass Guild website.
16–18 September: The 2009 annual conference of the Society of Glass Technology will be held at Lancaster University. The ‘History and Heritage’ sessions will take place on 18 September. CVMA Chairman, Sarah Brown, will be among the speakers. For more information and updates see the Society of Glass Technology website.
17– 20 September: A four-day visit to see twentieth-century stained glass in Paris is being organised by the British Society of Master Glass Painters. For more details see the BSMGP website. The closing date for bookings is 27 March.
16 October, the Icelandic stained glass artist, Leifur Breidfjord, will speak about his vision and work at The British Society of Master Glass Painters Winter Lecture; 6.30 for 7.00pm at The Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London WC1 (Admission by ticket only). For booking details see the see the BSMGP website.
9 November, Glyn Davies of the Victoria and Albert Museum will speak about the stained glass in the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the V&A at a special Worshipful Company of Glaziers Lecture, The Glaziers Hall, 9 Montague Close, London Bridge, London SE1 9DD. Admission is £5. For more information contact: info [at] worshipfulglaziers [dot] com.
Once again, we are delighted to express our thanks for a donation of £250 ($350) to sponsor this issue. This month our anonymous donor comes from Yorkshire. If anyone, including companies, would like to sponsor an issue, please email the Editor at editor [at] vidimus [dot] org for details
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