A Litany of Saints in Stained Glass at Wiggenhall St Mary
D. King, ‘A Litany of Saints in Stained Glass at Wiggenhall St Mary’, King’s Lynn and the Fens: Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology. John McNeill (ed.), The British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions, 31, Maney, 2008. 246 pages, 24.1 x 17.1cm, 12 colour plates, 179 b/w illustrations plus diagrams and line drawings, paperback, £34.
This book features an important chapter on stained glass and much else of interest to medievalists of every discipline. It is the thirty-first volume in the British Archaeological Association’s Medieval Art Architecture and Archaeology series and, like its predecessors, includes a wide range of essays exploring sculpture, architecture, objects, paintings and stained glass drawn from a particular location. This volume explores the art and architecture of one of England’s hitherto most neglected areas; the once prosperous region around King’s Lynn in Norfolk and the adjoining fenlands of Lincolnshire.
For Vidimus readers, the highlight of the book is undoubtedly David King’s revelatory chapter on the stained glass of St Mary Magdalene church at Wiggenhall, about six miles south of King’s Lynn. Extensive remains of a glazing scheme of around 1430–40 survive in the tracery lights of the north aisle of this mainly brick-built church and show a remarkable collection of largely ecclesiastical saints such as popes, bishops, abbots and hermits.[Fig 2] Although many of the saints had their names inscribed on accompanying scrolls, damage and loss has made identification difficult. One of the triumphs of this chapter is that David King has managed to extend the list of known figures [see: Vidimus12]. Perhaps more important, he has also shown why the figures were depicted and, in doing so, has provided a direct link between stained glass of the period and the rituals of medieval Christian worship. With two exceptions, thirty three of the thirty–five saints are all mentioned in the litanies (short prayers) for saints included in the Sarum Breviary, a medieval service book used in England from the 11th to 16th centuries and developed at Salisbury (Sarum). Remains of a contemporary glazing scheme in the east window of the north aisle of the church depicting the Nine Orders of Angels may also be based on these same litanies. David King explains that when the litany was sung in church, the priest would read the names of the saints and the congregation would respond with ‘ora pro nobis’ or ‘orate pro nobis’ [Pray for us]. He suggests that worshippers may have looked at the tracery lights saints for intercession on their behalf during these sacred moments. In essence, the series amounted to a permanent Litany in a church under the patronage of the Cluniac Priory of Castle Acre (Norfolk), a religious order which placed a strong accent on the liturgy. The essay also discusses the patronage and production of the windows which seem to have been made by two separate workshops, one using pot metal colours, the other relying on white glass and silver stain. It is possible that one of the workshops may have been based in King’s Lynn. [Figs 3, 4 and 5]
Also in the volume is a fascinating account of the unique octagonal Red Mount Chapel in King’s Lynn, built between 1483 and 1485 as a wayside chapel for pilgrims visiting the famous shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. There are also essays on medieval furniture, Romanesque sculpture, a reconstruction of the 13th-century appearance of Crowland Abbey, 14th-century wall paintings at Castle Acre Priory and an interesting description of a 15th-century complex in Kings Lynn, known as the ‘steelyard’ which housed German merchants belonging to the Hanseatic League of traders.
To see more images of stained glass from Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene see the CVMA Picture Archive.
English Church Monuments in the Middle Ages
English Church Monuments in the Middle Ages: History and Representation. By Nigel Saul, Oxford University Press, 2009, 432 pages, 78 b/w illustrations, hardback, £65: $130.
This superb study of English church monuments from the 7th century to the Reformation will appeal to many different audiences, including readers of Vidimus. It examines every aspect of the church monument, from workshop production, design and type, to purpose and social context. Separate chapters on the monuments of ecclesiastics, knights, judges and lawyers, as well as laymen and women provide fascinating details about status, costume, and medieval ideas about love and death. Moreover, it is simply impossible to read this book and not to notice numerous relationships between monuments and stained glass of the same period.
To begin with, large numbers of both have been destroyed. During the early years of the Reformation, monuments – like windows – were vandalised if they carried images of saints or intercessory inscriptions. A hundred years later during the Civil War more were lost, as at Lichfield in 1646 when a parliamentary army stormed the cathedral and smashed monuments and stained glass indiscrimately. Other monuments were victims of the same processes of change and decay which took their toll on so much medieval glass in the 17th and 18th centuries. All Saints church in North Street, York, for example, has a marvellous collection of original glass with some donor figures still extant and others known from now lost inscriptions. When the author reminds us that in 1659 there were nearly a dozen monuments in the church, the losses seem even worse.
Losses such as these highlight another, and more important, relationship between monuments and stained glass: that many of the people commemorated by – and paying for – incised slabs, engraved monumental brasses or sculptured effigies, were often also responsible for commissioning important glazing schemes. Thus the splendid early 14th-century window on the south side of York Minster’s nave depicting the life of St Nicholas (s29) was donated by Archbishop William Greenfield (1304–1315) whose tomb can be seen in the eastern part of the north transept. At All Saints church, Thurcaston (Leics) the now mainly lost glass in the east window was donated by John Mersdon (d. 1426), a wealthy clerk whose brass survives in the chancel, along with an image of his kneeling figure in the window itself. Monuments and glass could also directly complement one another, especially in chantry chapels where prayers for the benefactor’s soul were said. Significant remains of what the author calls the ‘grandest’ example of such a combined scheme can still be seen in the Beauchamp chapel at St Mary’s Warwick where the magnificent gilt-bronze effigy of the Earl of Warwick (d.1439) is enhanced by stained glass supplied by the King’s glazier, John Prudde. Designs in the glazing include an image of the Earl in the east window wearing a heraldic tabard over his armour (now with an inserted female head) and a choir and orchestra of angels in the tracery lights of the side windows serenading the ascent of his soul into the kingdom of heaven. [Figs 2, 3 and 4]
Less ostentatious arrangements survive in parish churches, such as St Milburga’s, Wixford, (Warks), where a finely engraved brass monument to Thomas de Cruew and his wife (d. 1411) is still lit by tracery lights of musical angels which have been likened to the work of John Thornton, the Coventry glazier. [Figs 5 and 6] .
Another interesting example can be seen in the Old Church of St Nicholas at Heythrop (Oxon) where a tomb chest with engraved brass effigies of John and Eleanor Ashfield, accompanied by their four sons and four daughters, is complemented by representations of the same family group in the adjacent window. In every case the twin functions of prompts to prayer and commemorations of status infuse the schemes. [Fig.7]
Heraldic glass can often be associated with tombs and monuments At Asthall (Oxon) the arms of Sir Richard de Cornwall (d. 1300) and those of his sons appear in a north wall window immediately above the recess wall tomb of a delicately carved stone effigy of a woman, thought to be Lady Joan Cornwall who owned the manor in the early 14th century. [Fig.8.]
Jumping forward towards the end of the Middle Ages, the author suggests that the pose of kneeling figures on brasses may have been developed from the kneeling donor figures found at the foot of windows from the early 14th century onwards.
A different kind of artistic cross-over appears to have thrived in late 15th-century Norwich where the workshop of William Heywood can be associated with glass-painting and the engraving of brasses. In 1503, for example, the parson of East Harling church (Norfolk) ordered an unusual brass from Heyward, who was already known as a glazier. CVMA author David King has said that there is a strong stylistic comparison between the glass and some of the brasses in this church.
An important chapter in the book focuses on the inscriptions found on many monuments. Significantly, none appear to directly interact with stained glass, even when they were both commissioned by the same person(s). Suggestions that an inscription brass at Brightwell Baldwin (Oxon) includes a reference to a now lost image of St Paul in a nearby window is impossible to confirm.
The case of Lady Anne Danvers is more typical. Her tomb chest in the chancel of Dauntsey church (Wiltshire) was set under a window depicting her favourite female saints. But her engraved brass (stolen in 2004) made no mention of these figures, instead concentrating on her superior social status as an ‘heiress’ to that of her late husband who was dismissed as a ‘sumtyme lorde of this maner and patron of this churche in the right of Dame Anne his wyf’.
The thought of Anne putting Sir John in his social place with her last words, prompts a final line for this review – there is no better place for Nigel Saul’s splendid volume than on the book shelf of every reader interested in medieval people and their monuments.
Medieval Painted Glass at Kloster Neuendorf
Medieval Painted Glass in the Church of the former Cistercian Monastery at Kloster Neuendorf:Die mittelalterlichen Glasmalereien in der ehemaligen Zisterzienserinnenkirche Kloster Neuendorf By Monika Böning, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (Deutschland Potsdam) Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 2009, Vol. 19/2, German text only, 235 pages, 34 colour illus; 113 b/w illus; 31.5 cm; hardback only; price EUR. 69.80.
This is another excellent, lavishly illustrated, volume from the German CVMA (Deutschland Potsdam) written by Dr. Monika Böning, an expert on both medieval and 19th-century stained glass. [Fig.1.] Although focusing on the glazing of the church of the former Cistercian nunnery of Kloster Neuendorf, four kilometers east of Gardelegen in Altmark, Saxony-Anhalt, one of the many strengths of this well-researched book is that it is able to locate the glass within the author’s wider knowledge of the region. Dr Böning frequently highlights interesting parallels between the Kloster Neuendorf glass and glazing schemes of a similar date in other churches in this same part of Germany; an area which enjoyed considerable prosperity thanks to its association with the medieval Hanseatic League [see Historical Note].
The nunnery church was built between 1232 and 1235, shortly after the abbey’s foundation, probably with the support of the local lord, Erich von Gardelegen, and donations from the Brandenburg Margraves, Johann I. and Otto III. Today it contains important survivals of two early glazing schemes: scenes of Christ’s Life and Passion dating from around 1365/70 and the remains of a once much larger scheme of saints and apostles installed in 1506 by councillors from Lüneberg, an important Hanseatic city, 76 miles [123 kilometres] to the north of the abbey.
The 14th century glass is in windows sIII and sIV and is an important example of how earlier Cistercian edicts against figurative glass was ignored in later centuries. It seems to have been made by two different workshops. The author compares the Passion scenes to glass at Stendal, St. James, [Jakobi], windows sII, sIII, sIV and nIII. [Fig.2.] The 16th century figures share similarities with copperplate engravings made by the Colmar artist and print-maker Martin Schongauer (c.1448–1491) and can now be found in windows: I, nII, nIII, sII and sV. [Fig.3.] The windows were painted by the same unknown Lüneburg based workshop which was also responsible for glazing schemes at the Cistercian nunnery at Wienhausen and in the collegiate church (Stiftskirche) of SS. Sixtus and Sinitius at Ramelsloh, a town near Lüneburg. Like the 14th century glass, these panels were moved to their present location during the 19th century when the abbey was extensively restored at the behest of the German monarch, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Apart from detailed descriptions of the medieval glass (together with restoration diagrams), the book also includes a fascinating Regesten reproducing extracts of documents relating to the glazing of the Abbey.
The medieval Hanseatic League or Hansa was an alliance of German merchant guilds and cities trading in the Baltic and North seas. It included smaller cities such as Lüneburg whose prosperity was built on a lucrative salt monopoly.
Answer to Roundel Quiz
Dr Rembrandt Duits of the Warburg Institute (London) writes:
This month’s roundel [Fig. 1] depicts the Death of Hercules, as narrated, among others, by Raoul Lefèvre, a 15th century chaplain of Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgungy (b. 1396–d. 1467). Lefevre’s History of Jason (1460) and Recoeil stories of Troyes (1464), popularised these ancient legends by presenting the stories as romantic epics of chivalry.
This author tells us how Hercules’s companion Lycas brought him a fatal poisoned shirt, sent by Hercules’s envious wife Deianira (this must be the scene in the background, where a kneeling man presents a garment to a man in armour with a large club). Lycas meets up with Hercules at the moment when the latter is about to make a sacrifice in a temple (Lefèvre calls it the temple of Diana, but representations of the story in miniatures and on tapestries show a temple with a male idol). Hercules undresses to put on the poisoned shirt, senses that he is about to die, gives a farewell speech, donates his bow to his other companion, called Philotés (this must be the second man in armour standing next to the pyre – in other representations he stands in a similar position, although usually holding the bow) and throws himself on the pyre prepared for the sacrifice (the various representations show Hercules as a relatively young man, comparable to the figure on the pyre in the roundel). A similar scene can be seen in a Lefèvre manuscript in the Bibilothèque nationale de France (BnF fr. 59 fol. 233v). [Fig. 2]
Vidimus is extremely grateful to Dr Rembrandt Duits and to Dr Paul Taylor of the Warburg Institute for their generous help with this item.