Friday, 6 November 2015

The Lampeter Chasuble

When I arrived here as Chaplain to the University Campus in Lampeter in May, I had no idea what riches awaited me.  The Chapel has a wonderful collection of historic vestments dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century.   Among the vestments are a modern cope and chasuble, that incorporate embroidered orphreys that have been salvaged from English vestments of the fifteenth and early sixteenth century.  The vestments are currently very bady stored and as part of the process of thinking about their proper storage and display, I had the delight of examining the vestments more closely in the company of the Herefordshire textile conservator Wendy Toulson.   It was great to discuss the technical aspects of the work, to get her opinion on the amount of restoration present and for us both to think about the date of the work.   Here are our conclusions with respect to the chasuble.

The chasuble is modern, made up sometime in the first half of the twentieth century, in a style associated with the Gothic Revilist A. W. N. Pugin.  It has a backing of plain murrey coloured silk velvet on which are mounted fifteenth century orphreys, outlined with a thick modern braid.  

  Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

On the back of the chasuble, the orphrey is made up of two distinct panels of different dates.  A Crucifixion scene and below it a figure of St Andrew holding his saltire cross.  The embroidered panels have either been trimmed or the thick braid overlays now mask part of the embroidered work. Wendy discussed how we might at some point lift the braid in places to see what's underneath.

  Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

The Crucifixion panel is a standard late medieval form, and iconographically it alludes to the prevaling Eucharistic theology of the time.   Christ crucified is flanked by angels collecting his the blood from his wounds into chalices.  At the foot of the cross is the skull and crossbones of Adam (sadly interrupted by the braid) and above the cross is the Holy Spirit set under a little vaulted canopy with pendants.  Stylistically the panel almost certainly dates from the very close of the fifteenth century or the early years of the sixteenth century, that is indicated by the hairstyle of the angels and the general details of the architectural setting.  

Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

There has been some overworking on this panel, the blood has been replaced and rather rough embroidery has been added to the robes of the angels to indicate folds and shading.  Other areas appear to be little touched, notably the figure of Christ himself, the Holy Spirit and the diapered goldwork ground.

Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

A lot work of this sort was mass produced in London workshops from standard cartoons and there are two chasubles I have traced so far, that have orphreys that are near-identical to this and were the product of the same workshop as the Lampeter orphrey.  One is in the V&A collection (link to photo) and is dated to 1500-1525.  The other is in the Keir collection and is now in the Dallas Museum of Art, where it is dated to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century.(note 1)  In both cases the orphrey is untrimmed, giving a sense of the original form of the Lampeter orphrey and indicating that that under the modern braid is probably a larger architectural surround that is presently only hinted at. The orphreys on the V&A and Keir chasubles are both mounted against a ground of blue velvet, that is powdered with waterflowers, fleur-de-lys and Seraphim.  And they give a sense of the original visual context to the Lampeter panel.

Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

Below the Crucifixion orphrey is a smaller panel, a figure of St Andrew holding his saltire cross.  If you turn the chasuble over and look at the back there are two further panels.   At the top a figure of an Old Testament Prophet, you can tell he's a prophet from his lack of nimbus, his Jew's hat and his hand gestures: he's prophesying!

Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

Below is a figure of an unidentified saint with an extraordinarily long beard, holding a book and what appears to be a stick.  We wondered if the stick was a later alteration and that the figure was originally holding a sword and was therefore St Paul.  

Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

Now these three panels appear to be part of a set.  They figures are all placed within identical or near-identical architectural surrounds, again somewhat curtailed by the modern braid.  The figures sit under vaulted canopies supported on pillars to left and right.  The canopies have an ogee shaped top, with elaborate foliage crockets and with a little quatrefoil in the centre.   The ogee terminates in a finial that sprouts fourth with abundant blue and brown foliage.  As Wendy pointed out those brown tones were originally a much more vibrant red, the silk having been dyed with Madder, which was not colour fast and fades down to brown.  Under the figure of the unidentified saint is the top of another canopy, so these figures were from a much bigger set of figurework.    There had been some overworking of all three of these panels, but the figures on the back of the chasuble have been less tampered with than the figure of St Andrew, where large portions had been overworked.

Stylistically we concluded that these three panels were earlier than the Crucifixion orphrey and probably dated from early in the third quarter of the fifteenth century, between 1450 and 1460.  The prophet, for example, is dressed in contemporary mid fifteenth century dress with fur trimmed gown. The canopy, with its very particular form of voluptious foliage is of a type that seems to originate in the late fourteenth century (it's late Decorated in feel), but persists right through to the middle of the fifteenth century.  The closest parallel I have found is illustrated in Maclagan's Catalogue of Embroidery in the V&A, over a figure of St Lawrence.  He dates that orphrey to the first half of the fifteenth century.(note 2).

Medieval Chasuble Lampeter

So the chasuble is a wonderful example of recycling, a modern vestment but using panels embroidered in England between 1450 and 1520.  I have to be careful wearing it!


Note 1.  M. King and D. King, European Textiles in the Keir Collection 400BC to 1800AD (London, 1990), pp. 103-104.    
Note 2.  E. Maclagan, Catalogue of English Embroidereis of the XIII to XVI Centuries (Victorian and Albert Museum) (London, 1930), pp. 33-34 and plate XXXV




Friday, 17 July 2015

Stone altars and Godly texts, Continuity of Use at Patrishow

In a remote valley on the edge of the Black Mountains is the tiny hamlet of Patrishow.   It's church, clinging to a narrow platform on the side of the valley, is said to be the site of a hermitage occupied by 'St Issui' and the church sits above a holy well associated with him.  Nothing is known of Issui, except his name.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

The church has a Norman core, but was rebuilt in the fourteenth and again in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century.  Much of the existing fabric is late Perpendicular.   Attached to the west end of the nave and entirely separate from the church itself is an 'Eglwys-bedd' or church of the grave, a small chapel that may represent the site of Issui's cell and is said to be his burial place.  A squint above the altar gives a view of the interior of the church.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

What an interior it is.  It seems that the Reformation had only a very modest physical impact on the interior of Patrishow church.  Though adapted for reformed worship, the fittings and furnishings needed for reformed worship were simply added to the existing late medieval fittings and furnishings. There was no great purge here.

 Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

The great treasure of the church is the glorious rood screen dating from around 1500.  Although the rood group has gone, at Patrishow the rood loft still remains in place in defiance of the legislation of the reign of Edward VI and of Elizabeth I.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

It's a glorious work a tour-de-force of late medieval woodwork.  The screen itself is somewhat inconsequential as it is dominated by the loft.   The front of the loft is supported by a thick bresummer, decorated with three rows of foliage, vine uppermost all issuing from two lively wyverns at either end.   The parapet of the loft supported on this bressumer consists of seventeen equal bays decorated with lacy traceried openwork.  There is more foliage and a cresting finish it off.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

The screen alone is worth coming many miles to see, but there is more.   In my recent article on the Wellingham image of Pity, I made reference to the practice of placing side altars against the rood loft and how at Wellingham and elsewhere you can still see the shadow of where these altars once stood. Side altars were all swept away by the sixteenth century reformers at the same time as rood lofts were removed.

   Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Except it seems at Patrishow, where the two side altars are still in place on either side of the chancel entrance.  Stone built they are complete with their mensae, still engraved with the crosses marked at their consecration.    Here at Patrishow rather than being built up against the screen, appear to predate the construction of the screen, with parts of the structure built upon the altar slab.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

In the Eglwys-bedd is a third pre-Reformation altar, the squint above it communicating with the interior of the main church.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

The survival of the loft and the altars is not an indication in any way that the Reformation didn't touch Patrishow, it did.  Around these relics of pre-Reformation worship, are furnishings that indicate a Reformed liturgical practice.  The high altar did not survive and was replaced with a communion table, it is railed in with rails of c.1640.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

In front of the rood screen and obscuring one of the side altars is an eighteenth century pulpit, once part of a double-decker.  On the walls of the nave are painted the royal arms and images of the saints have been replaced with godly texts, at the back a moralising image of death.  Here the remnants of the old dispensation, unused but still cherished, sit side by side with the furnishings of the new dispensation.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

By the time the local yeomanry were erecting their charming eighteenth century monuments in the chancel of the church, it's probable the purpose of the loft and side altars was lost.  The loft was a pleasing backdrop to the preacher in the towering Pulpit - and the altars a utilitarian support for all that towering woodwork.  For us they are a satisfying and remarkable reminder that our churches have a extraordinary history of continuity of use.

Patrishow (Patricio), Powys

  



Monday, 13 July 2015

The return of the Croft lions.

In December 2008 I posted the sad news that two of the little lions that support the base of the fifteenth century lectern at Croft in Lincolnshire had been stolen.  The third couldn't be taken as it was soldered to the bottom of the lectern.  A very sad loss indeed and I think we all assumed that they were lost forever.  Recently a gentleman called Paul Wortley contacted me via Flickr to say that he had bought a pair of old brass lions at a car boot sale and in researching their origin had come across my Blog and photos of the lions on Flickr and had discovered through the information I had posted that they were from Croft.   Here are the lions on Paul's hearth at home shortly after he had bought them.



Paul has very generously returned the lions to Croft church and we are delighted to say that they will soon be reinstated where they belong and this fine late medieval lectern will be once more be complete again. Thanks Paul.

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ORIGINAL POST FROM DECEMBER 2008.



Croft, Lincolnshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.
Yesterday I drove down to Croft near Skegness ostensibly to photograph the glorious fifteenth century brass eagle lectern that the church has. There are only two dozen of these in the country. My existing photos, as you will see, are pretty rubbish. When I got there the church, which is normally open, was locked. Sadly the church is locked at the moment because sometime over the summer some unscrupulous individual stole two of the lions that support the base of the lectern. They would have taken the third as well, except that it is soldered to the base.

Croft, Lincolnshire

So if any of you see a couple of small medieval brass lions for sale do let me know. It would be great if the church could recover them.

Croft, Lincolnshire

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Friday Indulgence - medieval stained glass heads from Norfolk

So much of English medieval stained glass survives as isolated fragments..  At Warham in North Norfolk, is an extraordinary collection of such fragments, mostly heads.  They are the heads of saints, angels, kings, queens, bishops and clergy - elements of lost narrative or of decorative panels, each with a story to tell and each evidence of the lost visual landscape of the medieval church.  All the heads here were produced by Norwich glaziers in the fifteenth century, and presenting them together as a group demonstrates the great technical skill of medieval glass painters, as well as the individual creativity of these anonymous craftsman.

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk



Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk

Warham St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk




Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Medieval Wineglass Pulpit

Burnham Norton church close to the north coast of Norfolk has amongst its treasures a medieval wineglass pulpit.  Perhaps this was used for the proclamation of the Gospel as well as for preaching and for 'bidding the beads'!   The pulpit is notable in that it still has a substantial amount of it's medieval polychromy remaining, carefully restored in the twentieth century by Pauline Plummer. The subject matter of the panels is appropriate for an item of furniture used for preaching and teaching, on four of the six panels are images of the four Latin Doctors of the church: St Gregory the Great, St Ambrose, St Augustine and St Jerome.  

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

St Jerome is sat at his writing desk, dressed, as was usual in medieval depictions of him, the scarlet of a Cardinal with a broad brimmed cardinals hat on his head.  He is working on a large scroll that hangs over the front of the desk.  What he's doing is unclear as this panel is quite damaged, but he may be sharpening his quill with a knife.  Notice that behind him the green coloured ground with a powdering of gold motifs.  The pulpit, as is typical of late medieval polychromy uses counterchange to good effect.

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

St Ambrose is dressed in the everyday dress of a medieval bishop, a fur lined and trimmed gown, with a mitre on his head.  He has completed his text and seems to be contemplating the scroll it is written on.   Notice the label above his head, written freehand and not lined out before application - it slants downwards.

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

Pope St Gregory the Great is similarly dressed.  The papal tiara that once sat upon his head has been the victim of very thorough piece of iconoclasm and has be virtually obliterated by a Protestant fanatic.  Mitres are one thing, but to tolerate the papal tiara was quite another. He is busy writing on his scroll, quill in one hand, knife in the other, ready to affect any corrections as he goes!  Notice the counterchange here, the scarlet and gilded ground, contrasting with the green of the cusping of the arch that frames it.  

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

Lastly St Augustine, perhaps the most lively of the four figures, his gaze is directed outwards.  His is one of the centre panels and the one most clearly seen on the front of the pulpit.   In one hand is his knife, in the other he has a stylus, it's as though we have interrupted him at his work and he has stopped either to rebuke us or to make a theological point.

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

Around the base of the pulpit is an inscription asking for prayers for the soul of John and Katherine Goldalle, who had the pulpit made in 1450.  And at the back of the pulpit, amid the exalted company of the Doctors of the Church, and with their hands open in adoration of the company they are keeping, are the kneeling donor images of John and Katherine themselves, neatly labelled.  

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

Burnham Norton, Norfolk

There is full set of images of the pulpit and of the rest of the church here.