Friday 4 May 2012

Stained Glass Saints: East Anglia, Again

One of the mildly eccentric things I like to collect in this blog is pictures of saints depicted in stained glass, especially of medieval saints. Last year I went to East Anglia and visited churches and took pictures of various such windows in north Suffolk and in Norwich, and also collected pictures of my favourite St Edmund of East Anglia. And this year I went to East Anglia and visited churches and took more pictures. So here they are.

Let's start with St Edmund again, because did I mention he's my favourite? I always look out for churches dedicated to him, because there's a good chance of seeing him in stained glass; and so it proved at St Edmund's, Kessingland - a windswept place on the very edge of coastal Suffolk, which feels like the end of the world. It has a huge tower, a landmark for shipping, but you feel positively sea-sick looking up at it:

And above the door is the man we're looking for, Edmund himself:

The tower was built in the middle of the fifteenth century and the carving around the door is wonderful; beside Edmund there, stroking his beard, we have his emblem of the crown and arrows:

As I was standing outside the church, a cat wandered into my picture. It looked so very much like the one in this stained glass window of Julian of Norwich that I thought it must be a friendly spirit, come to inspire the would-be pilgrim of Suffolk's medieval saints.

More inspiring still was the sign next to the cat which said 'Church open'. Hurrah! And so:

The oldest thing in the church is its fifteenth-century font, which also features Edmund stroking his beard:

Stroking the beard in Middle English literature is a gesture of authority and of ritualised, controlled aggression; it's appropriate for a warrior-king but not exactly for a martyr who wasn't killed in battle, so it's interesting that it appears twice at this church. In the Anglo-Saxon and early medieval accounts of Edmund he is very much presented as a mild, gentle figure, innocent victim of Viking aggression, but later medieval Suffolk legends about him increasingly tend to turn him into a more warlike king, with stories about him fighting battles against the Vikings and outwitting them with clever strategies. I wonder if the later image is reflected in this beard-stroking gesture.

In the east window Edmund appears again, a Victorian this time:

It's a lovely window, and I must observe (since we were just discussing his facial hair) that Edmund has a delightfully Victorian pair of whiskers.

The guidebook said the saint on the other side was St Felix, who certainly would be appropriate in this area - but St Felix's usual attribute is a candle, and a banner of the type this saint is carrying normally belongs to St Augustine of Canterbury:

So I don't know who this is.

I also admired this gently-faded church banner:

I've never been part of the kind of church that has banners, but I do like them; they speak to me of civic parades and Victorian religious enthusiasm and Charlotte Yonge novels and all things good and honest.

Also at Kessingland was this window depicting the Resurrection, which I really liked.

Another coastal church, another Saxon saint. At Aldeburgh, where it's all about Benjamin Britten, I was more excited to find a depiction of St Margaret of Scotland:

This is rather unusual - St Margarets of Antioch abound, but my favourite Saxon princess and Scottish queen is hardly ever commemorated (possibly because my range of church-visiting is confined to southern England). This was part of a window commemorating Griselda Mary Theophila Hervey (what a name!) who died in 1929 and who was the founder of a school in the parish; her window is on the theme of female education, and shows four female saints (St Margaret, St Katherine, St Ursula and St Cecilia) surrounding a scene of St Anne teaching the young Virgin Mary. St Margaret, with her plaits and trefoil crown and decorated book, is a stately Saxon lady amid such exotic company. Take a closer look at the blue of her gown; it's gorgeous close up. Who needs Benjamin Britten?

What else? Well, I went to the lovely church of Barsham, late on a sunny afternoon when golden light was streaming in, but its east window, which features various saints in little diamond-shaped panels, was unfortunately covered by scaffolding. My camera peeked through the bars to get a picture of St Etheldreda, Suffolk royalty and virgin saint of Ely:

She looks very meek and pious here, but she's another one whom later medieval tradition turned into a warrior: her fearsome ghost was supposed to have terrorised the Normans who besieged Ely in 1071.

At Bungay, not far away, I returned to another St Edmund's - the Catholic church, where last year I photographed the carvings of St Edmund's death surrounded by proud Vikings. This time I was able to get better pictures of the inside. It's a beautiful Victorian church, richly and intelligently decorated, and the stained glass is very interesting. Though we'll pass swiftly over this St Edmund, which is not very attractive:

And move on to this:

The Venerable Bede, always a welcome sight. Bungay has an interesting set of windows celebrating various religious orders: Bede is among the Benedictines, with Benedict and Scholastica:

We have the Franciscans (l-r, St Antony of Padua, St Frances, and St Clare):

And the Dominicans (l-r, Thomas Aquinas, Dominic, and Catherine of Siena):

And St Bruno, St Gertrude and St Bernard:

Here's a picture of the whole church; I can't help thinking this is just what Catholic churches ought to look like, and practically never do.

This was my favourite window at Bungay (which I think we can just sneak in here, though not medieval):

St John Fisher and St Thomas More, both holding the palm of martyrdom. (Note that they were only 'Blesseds' at the time this window was made; they were canonised in 1935).

Reaching this part of the Catholic story in England reminds me that I also went to Norwich's Catholic cathedral, St John the Baptist. This is apparently the second largest Catholic cathedral in the UK, a Gothic Revival building built between 1870-1910. It's an impressive building but I must confess I didn't find it an attractive one; there was something chilly and unwelcoming about it, which is never normally the impression I get from the Gothic or Gothic Revival style. Maybe it's because I couldn't find any memorials to East Anglian saints - now if Pugin had designed it, he'd have been all over that! However, there was a window for St Paulinus of York (St John Fisher's predecessor at Rochester by, oh, eight hundred years):

And there was lots and lots about Our Lady of Walsingham, which is, to be fair, both a local and a medieval devotion. There's this:

(Those cavorting angels!)

And this, the statue being adored by various kings and knights:

And a charming series of windows depicting the story of Walsingham, of which I took some fairly bad photos.

The original vision of the Holy House of Nazareth to Richeldis de Farverches in 1061 (a name I've always found troubling; why was a woman with such a Norman name living in Walsingham in 1061? If anyone knows of any scholarship on the subject, I'd be interested to hear of it.):

The building of the shrine by Geoffrey de Farverches in 1146:

'My Lord of Norfolk and my Lady visit Walsingham, 1471':

Queen Catherine visits the shrine to give thanks after Flodden, 1513:

(I think I accidentally omitted a window in the sequence here - the visit of someone else, probably...)

But this is the destruction of the shrine in 1538:

And then its restoration: Cardinal Bourn and Bishop Youens inaugurate the reopening of the Slipper Chapel, 1954:

I wish I'd got a better photo of this, because the cardinal's red was very striking. But I was already getting funny looks for taking photos so I had to give up at this point. (Most churchwardens seem to think 'young woman with camera = idiot tourist' and therefore they should glare, though I only took pictures after I'd been praying and lighting candles too, and I was in fact the only person in the cathedral, so I wasn't disturbing any other visitors. Perhaps I should carry a little card that says 'I'm a blogger, not a tourist', though who knows if that wouldn't just make it worse...)

And this concludes the present installment of 'Medieval People in East Anglia Stained Glass'. Other posts on this theme from non-East-Anglian places include Pugin's Ramsgate, Canterbury Cathedral, Minster-in-Thanet and Kingsdown; churches in Winchester; a variety of places in Northumberland; and some Anglo-Saxons in Somerset; and this mish-mash.


Denim Journal, Scarlet Lens said...

LOVE these pics!

Clerk of Oxford said...

Glad you like them - thanks for commenting!

Deb said...

Perhaps a card saying that you are a post-graduate student in medieval literature at Oxford would be the entree you seek.....

Clerk of Oxford said...

Perhaps! I do have a card like that, but somehow it never occurs to me to use it...

Jared Haselbarth said...

Hi, do you keep copyrights on your photos? I am interested in the one of St. Margaret of Scotland, I'd like to use it for a holy card. Thanks,

Clerk of Oxford said...

Hi Jared,
Yes, leave a comment with your email address (it won't be published) and I'll get in touch with you.