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Posted By ltempest On December 15, 2012 @ 8:56 pm In | Comments Disabled
For medievalists the stained glass of Lincoln Cathedral is ‘the one that got away’. Despite owning ‘the most important collection of English 13th-century glass after Canterbury Cathedral’, masterful detective work by one of the contributors to this admirable book shows that it once had much more: a succession of figure windows similar to those of its world-famous French contemporary at Chartres in northern France. This alone is enough to make readers of Vidimus visit Lincoln Cathedral; the great advantage of this attractively presented book that it provides a wealth of other reasons for doing so.
The book begins with a short introduction chronicling the history of the building. Written by the cathedral’s education officer, Carol Bennett, it describes how the present cathedral took shape in the thirteenth century, after fires and earthquakes had destroyed most of the earlier buildings. An interesting part of her introduction cites a contemporary account of 1220, which explains why the two great rose windows in the north and south transepts are called the Dean’s Eye and the Bishop’s Eye respectively: ‘The twin windows that offer a circular light are the two Eyes of the cathedral: and rightly the greater of these is seen to be the bishop and the lesser the dean, for north represents the devil, and south the Holy Spirit and it is in these directions that the two Eyes look. The bishop faces the south in order to invite in, and the dean the north in order to avoid; the one takes care to be saved, the other takes care not to perish. With these Eyes the cathedral’s face is on the watch for the candelabra of heaven and the darkness of Lethe [the river of oblivion in Hades].’
Thereafter her narrative plunges into despair as the impact of the Reformation and the English Civil War wreak colossal damage on the fabric of the church, beginning with the dismantling of the golden shrine of St Hugh, the bishop of Lincoln who had initiated the rebuilding of the cathedral after his consecration in 1186, followed by the destruction of ‘superstitious’ windows. More outrages followed in the seventeenth century, when parliamentary troops armed themselves with axes and hammers and smashed tombs and windows, paintings and sculpture. Although huge sums were spent between 1660 and 1666 repairing broken windows, probably with clear glass, it was not until the nineteenth century that the cathedral’s windows began to recover as visual works of art.
The second chapter in the book is by Professor Nigel Morgan, whose ground-breaking study on the medieval glass of the cathedral, The Medieval Painted Glass of Lincoln Cathedral (CVMA (GB), Occasional Paper III, London, 1983) was published nearly thirty years ago and has now become difficult to find. As mentioned earlier, the cathedral was extensively glazed in the thirteenth century. Thereafter, work continued throughout the middle ages, and culminated in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when new chantry chapels (private chapels where prayers were said for the individuals and/or the families who built them) were added. Following the destruction mentioned above and other changes to the building, most of this glass has either been lost or moved to new locations within the church. Despite the problems this causes for historians, Professor Morgan does a brilliant job of showing both where this repositioned glass was originally installed within the church and what it showed. The thirteenth-century figurative schemes included narrative windows of Old and New Testament stories; the lives and miracles of the Virgin Mary and the saints (including St Hugh); standing figures of the prophets and apostles; angels engaged in a range of activities; and, as at Chartres, a huge depiction of the Last Judgement in the west window There was also a large amount of ornamental glass, which perhaps outstripped the figurative glass in quantity; this included both coloured and grisaille designs.
The third chapter is equally fascinating. Written by Dr Jim Cheshire, a leading expert on nineteenth-century glass, it details the glazing of the church during the Victorian years. There are excellent sections on the role of Charles Winston and the search for glass with ‘body’, a way of describing glass with sufficient impurities and variations in tone and tint to prevent windows from looking flat and monotonous or admitting too much strong light. The author is equally at home in discussing the work of firms like Ward & Hughes and Clayton & Bell as the contribution of the Sutton brothers, the Revd Augustus and Frederick, who made nearly thirty windows for the cathedral. Neglected features of glazing schemes are also discussed fully: the process of reconciling conflicting opinions about designs for new windows, the subjects depicted, the drawing styles, and the colour balances.
The final chapter focuses on the conservation of the cathedral glass and the role of its in-house studio. Written by Tom Küpper, the studio team leader, it focuses on the restoration of the Dean’s Eye window, which is 8m in diameter (between 1989 and 2005), and the restoration of five apostle windows made by the Sutton brothers between 1858 and 1862 (in 2008–2009). Such work is, of course, never done. Shortly after the publication of this book it was announced that a £550,000 project to protect some of earliest stained glass in the Cathedral would begin in 2013. Revolutionary protective glazing will be fitted to four thirteenth-century lancet windows beneath the Bishop’s Eye. The project will take four years to complete.
No review of this book would be complete without mentioning the contribution of Gordon Plumb. As stained glass brings life to a building, so his photography brings life to the text. His detailed images are a fabulous record of the cathedral’s treasures and make the book a visual, as well as a scholarly, triumph.
For visitors in a hurry, the cathedral has also published a shorter and very informative guide to the stained glass, which can be bought from the shop.
This is yet another outstanding volume in the Harlaxton medieval symposium series, and once again it contains plenty of interest – and importance – to historians of stained glass [Fig. 1].
Three essays immediately stand out. The first is by David Griffith and concentrates on images of the Seven Works of Mercy in parish churches before 1540. The subject had been introduced in the wake of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, when a great assembly of bishops adopted plans to teach the laity the fundamental tenets of Christian ideas and living. As this campaign intensified over the next 150 years, images of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, and burying the dead multiplied in stained-glass windows and wall-paintings, with at least twenty recorded in the former medium and another forty or so in the latter. Among the best-known extant windows are those at Chinnor (Oxforshire), dating perhaps from as early as c.1326, while fifteenth-century versions survive at All Saints Church, North Street, York (1429, Fig. 2) and at Tattershall (Lincolnshire). Lost examples include a window at Coughton (Warkwickshire) commissioned by Sir Robert Throckmorton, who died in 1510 en route to the Holy Land. The author explains that patronage of this subject was a practical expression of Christian living and was often accompanied by gifts of money and possessions, such as clothes, to the poor. He also discusses the inscriptions that accompanied these images. The chapter concludes with a helpful appendix listing representations of the Seven Works of Mercy in medieval English and Welsh churches. To this list may be added a wall-painting at Toddington (Bedforshire); it should also be noted that the representation at Ringshall (Suffolk) does in fact survive.
The second essay is by the CVMA (GB) author David King, who uses his unsurpassed knowledge of medieval glazing schemes in Norfolk to chart the history of the John Wighton workshop in Norwich from the middle of the fourteenth century to the early years of the sixteenth. Employing contemporary records and decorative motifs, particularly the estoile (a star with wavy rays, Fig. 3) used by the Wighton glaziers, he lists the leading members of the workshop and details their œuvre, which includes famous schemes at St Peter Mancroft church in the centre of Norwich and places such as Salle. A noticeable feature of the workshop was its craft genealogy with the business being handed down within the sane family.
Richard Marks’s contribution completes the trio. He extends and revises an article that he wrote for Vidimus no. 30, in June 2009 about the will of Robert Hunt (d.1500), who left money for the making of a window at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster in 1499. A key feature of the will is that a contract had already been drawn up for the work with a London glass-painter called Adrian, who lived in Southwark, on the south side of the River Thames. The precise identity of Adrian remains uncertain, as new evidence has come to light since 2009 that suggests that it might have been either Adrian Andru, a member of a team of glass-painters who worked between 1500 and 1502 with Barnard Flower (the King’s Glazier, probably from the 1490s) at the Tower of London, Westminster Hall, and the royal palaces at Eltham and Greenwich, or a newly discovered glazier, Adrian Joys/Joos, who was also a resident of Southwark. Both men must have been among the craftsmen from either the Netherlands or German-speaking lands who settled in Southwark in the late fifteenth century, beyond the jurisdiction of the London craft guilds. Among the many issues raised by the author is the light Hunt’s will sheds on the glazing of parish churches around 1500 and the relationship between the patron, the artist, and other interested parties, such as the church wardens and patrons of St Margaret’s.
Other essays in the book include exemplary contributions by Nigel Saul and T. A. Heslop, and some welcome contributions by Continental scholars.
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