Saturday, 26 November 2011

Patens (medieval examples)

As you may expect due to the wholesale and well-organised confiscation of parish silver in the mid sixteenth century, medieval English parish plate does not survive in vast quantities.  There are just seventy seven chalices made between 1160 and the Reformation still surviving and about one hundred patens.  Curiously and we don't really know why, the county of Norfolk has a third (thirty three) of the surviving one hundred medieval patens and no chalices. I want to illustrate two of them.

Bisen by the sea.

The first example dates from c.1450 and is the earliest of the two patens I will show you.   The paten was originally parcel-gilt, but very little of the gilding now remains. I suspect that some of it was lost in the nineteenth century, when the paten was restored.  In the centre of the paten is a depressed sextfoil and this is decorated with a full-frontal bust of Christ set against a cross-hatched ground.  This image, the Vernicle, is the commonest form of decoration on surviving English patens.  Others in the group are decorated similarly with the Manus Dei, the Hand of God appearing in blessing from a cloud and the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God.  Like a lot of early English plate the paten is not marked.

Bisen by the sea.

Medieval paten
























The second example is about forty or fifty years later than the first, dating from c.1490.  Unlike the first paten, it was originally gilded solid, but over the course of time this gilding has become somewhat worn.  The decoration of this paten is unique among the Norfolk survivals, rather than a Vernicle, Agnus Dei or Manus Dei, the centre is decorated with an engraved roundel containing the IHC monogram in Lombardic lettering. This is set against a ground of cross-hatching with tiny little flowers.  Decoration continues on the sextfoil itself, with sprigs of leaves decorating the foils. It's a somewhat rustic piece and like the first has no distinguishing marks. 
Medieval paten
Why do so many medieval patens survived in Norfolk?  Interestingly the first paten fits perfectly into the top of a Elizabethan Communion cup, dating from 1567, that also belongs to the church.   The snug fit may suggest that when the medieval chalice and paten were traded in the reign of Elizabeth I, there was a conscious decision to keep the paten and simply replace the chalice with a decent communion cup. Thank goodness the did.   

Bisen by the sea.

Incidentally both of these patens belong to churches that are under my care, the first at Beeston Regis and the second at West Runton.     

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Looking down (at medieval floors)

Quite often when we visit church buildings we are so busy looking up at the soaring architecture and the fine roofs, that we sometimes forget to look at the floors. 

Salthouse, Norfolk

St Nicholas, Salthouse on the north Norfolk coast, has a floor that it well worthy of study as a considerable amount of it is late medieval.  The church was completed in 1503 with the internal division, rood and parclose screen added ten years later.

Salthouse, Norfolk


Salthouse, Norfolk

Rather than being tiled with the sort of patterned encaustics that were common in the thirteenth and fourteenth century; the sixteenth century tiles at Salthouse appear to have being laid in a simple chequerboard pattern, with a counterchange of black and yellow and in some cases green glazed tiles.   The floor is worn with many years use, but there are sufficient patches where the glaze still adheres particularly against the walls of the nave and in the north and south chancel chapels, to suggest that the whole eastern part of the church was tiled in this manner. Where the original tiles have become broken or have been disturbed for burial they have in some cases been replaced with brick.  That is certainly the case with the centre of the chancel.  

Salthouse, Norfolk

Salthouse, Norfolk

In the chancel between the stalls and forming part of the original floor there, is the chalice brass of rector Robert Fevyr who died in 1519.  The brass is let into slab of purbeck marble and there is a similar slab in the south chancel chapel.  With all the red encaustic around them, these purbeck slabs rather stick out, but when originally laid amid the black and yellow tiling would have blended in rather well.

Salthouse, Norfolk

Salthouse, Norfolk

Salthouse also retains the dadoes of the rood and parclose screens, all vibrantly coloured.   The figurative work of the screen are backed with a ground of counterchanged red and green, a counterchange that is also continued onto the stencilled backs of the parclose screens.

Salthouse, Norfolk
       
The visual effect of all this paint work, with the counterchanged tiling, and the textiles and hangings and sculpture that must have adorned the sanctuary and high altar, would have been really rather vibrant, something in appearance to the manuscript illustration below.  They were certainly not afraid of colour. 

 Obsequies

Monday, 7 November 2011

Marian tympanum

Ludham, Norfolk

The grand Perpendicular church at Ludham to the north-west of Norwich, has it's fair share of remarkable treasures, a lovely fifteenth century hammerbeam roof covering the nave a fine early Tudor rood screen with painted panels of saints on the dado, including Henry VI.  He is not that unusual an inclusion as the deposed king had quite cult in the reign of his nephew Henry VII.   The arch above the screen has something more remarkable, a tympanum painted rather crudely with a rood group.

Ludham, Norfolk

The central figure of Christ crucified, who is on a cross decorated with th symbols of the Evangelists, is flanked by various figures.  The usual figures of Our Lady and the beloved disciple are there, but also included St John the Baptist and the centurion Longinus, who is in piercing the side of Christ with his spear.  On either side of the tableau are figures of feathered archangels, both rather chunky and clumsy looking.   The whole thing is supported by rood beam decorated with barber's pole striping. 

Ludham, Norfolk
Our Lady and Longinus

Ludham, Norfolk
Archangel and Our Lady


Ludham, Norfolk
Our Lord, above he symbol of St John the Evangelist.

Ludham, Norfolk
The winged lion of St Mark.

The tympanum is a rather crude affair, in great contrast to the fine and rather masterly painting of the screen below.   The panel is so clumsy as it was properly hastily painted as a temporary affair.  The dress of the figures and the initials J and B identifying the Baptist, are in a mid sixteenth century font and on that basis it has been suggested that the painting belongs to the reign of Mary Tudor and therefore forms part of the hasty refurbishment of the church for Catholic worship following the destruction of the reign of Edward VI, when the original rood would have been destroyed.   How did it survive the reign of Elizabeth I?  

Ludham, Norfolk

Well if you go the back of the tympanum that becomes clear, the back is now covered with a canvas representation of the royal arms of Queen Bess, which once covered the rood.  Where the people of Ludham hedging their bets, expecting a change of religion once again and the uncovering of their new rood.?  At a later date the whole typanum and the royal arms were taken down and stored in the rood stairs, to be disoverered by an antiquarian society on their annual excursion in the ninteenth century. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Here is an encaustic antidote

to the 70s Lenten array I posted earlier. Henry Thorold described the chancel at Waithe in Lincolnshire with its tad excessive Minton tiling as all 'shining and polychromatic like a Turkish Bath'. In 1861 George Haigh of Grainsby commisioned Louth architect James Fowler to rebuild the derelict medieval church at Waithe as a family mausoleum. Fowler built a complete new church in the Early English style around the remaining Saxo-Norman tower of the late 11th century. As well as the elaborate encuastic tile work in the chancel, Fowler incorporated into the decoration lozenge shaped memorials to members of the Haigh family who are buried in a vault beneath.

Contemporary Lenten array

Below are some images of a more contemporary (well sort of 70s) set of Lenten hangings from Stoke D'Abernon in Surrey.  The photos come from the Flickr archive of SarumSleuth

Stoke D'Abernon, Surrey, St Mary

Stoke D'Abernon, Surrey, St Mary

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Grantham Lent array

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At the glorious fourteenth century church of St Wulfram in Grantham, Lincolnshire is this dramatic example of Lenten array photographed here by SarumSleuth.  The array entirely coveres George Gilbert Scott's magnificent towering reredos.


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altar
Photo by Allikevel

The array also extends to the side altars and includes this lovely frontal on the lady chapel by the Warham Guild, which is rather striking in its mixture of red and blue stencilling.

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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Lenten array 2011

Christ Church Staincliffe

The ancient western custom of covering altars and images with Lenten array and Lenten veils has been covered on this blog a number of times.  If you want to know more about the custom and its purpose look at the article here and further examples of it see here, here and here.  It was a custom that seemed to be in decline, but recently there have been one of two revivals of it.  The first few images here are of the array introduced by Fr Anthony Howe at Christ Church Staincliffe in the West Riding of Yorkshire.  An old stencilled frontal was acquired for the high altar and new veils made to go with it.   The last image comes courtesy of Fr David Ackerman and shows the high altar at Windrush in Gloucestershire.  The frontal is an old Warham Guild frontal long unused that he found hidden in a chest in the church and reused for the first time this Lent.  The altar arrangement with the riddel posts is a recent revival of the old arrangement and dates from 2010. 

Christ Church Staincliffe

Christ Church Staincliffe

Windrush, Gloucestershire

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Gospel lecterns

Cropredy, Oxfordshire
Lectern at Cropredy, Oxfordshire

Quite a number of medieval lecterns survive in English parish churches. Many of the surviving examples are fifteenth or early sixteenth century and are made of brass (latten). They take the form (as shown in the examples below from Cropredy in Oxfordshire and Croft in Lincolnshire) of an eagle of with its wings outstretched, perched on a large brass mond, which in turn is supported on a stem and a base, that sits on the backs of three little lions. Where these eagle lecterns where produced is a little unclear, some maybe English, but many are believed to have been fabricated in the Low Countries, which in the late Middle Ages had a thriving trade in luxury metal goods.
Croft, Lincolnshire

Croft, Lincolnshire

Most of the surviving English medieval lecterns are now to be found at the east end of the nave of a parish church, to one side of the chancel arch and supporting a large lectern Bible. That has not always been the case. Prior to the Reformation and the Advent of the large Bible for public use, these lecterns generally formed part of the furnishings of the chancel and were placed up close the high altar. The two early sixteenth century illustrations below, demonstrate how many of these lecterns were probably positioned. 
westminster2

The first illustration is taken from the Islip roll and shows the high altar at Westminster Abbey as it appeared at the funeral of Abbot John Islip in 1532.

Flemish Prayerbook of Joanna of Ghistelles, c. 1516.

The second is from a Flemish book of hours of c.1516, which shows the office for the dead taking place in a wonderful Gothic interior. In both of these illustrations the lectern is placed in a similar position, at the bottom of the altar steps slightly to the north of the altar. The eagle, or in the case of the second illustration a pelican in her piety, are orientated to face towards the north. In this position the lectern was used as a support for the gospel book during the singing of the liturgical gospel at high mass. As is shown in this woodcut illustration (below) from Gherit van der Goude’s, Dat Boexken Vander Missen, the deacon faced towards the north to proclaim the Gospel, in order to avoid turning his back on the altar itself.
Dat Boexken Vander Missen - The Gospel

To be continued ... choir lecterns

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

'Christopher ought not to forget'

Aughton, East Riding of Yorkshire

The west tower of Aughton church on the banks of the river Derwent in the East Riding of Yorkshire, has an armorial panel on its southern face that incorporates a rather curious inscription in Old French. 'Christofer le second filz de Robert Ask chr oblier ne doy, Ao Di 1536'.   Samuel Pegge the antiquarian, writing for the Gentleman's Magazine in 1754, under his pseudonym 'Mr Gemsege', was the first to try and interpret this inscription and he came to the conclusion that it could be translated in two ways.  Either as:  'I Christopher, the second son of Sir Robert Aske, ought not to forget the year of Our Lord 1536', or 'I ought not to forget, Christopher, the second son of Robert Aske.  The year of Our Lord 1536'.  

Aughton, East Riding of Yorkshire

Generally speaking Pegge's former interpretation of the text, is usually accepted these days as correct, that Aske was using this inscription to highlight this year for particular remembrance.  For Aske's motive for making this permanent statement in stone, we have to examine to the events of that year.  The year 1536 was the year that Henrician Reformation really began to hot up, it was the year that Henry VIII began to dissolve the Monasteries and rumours began to circulate of the possible confiscation, in turn, of parochial assets.  In October 1536 in response to the first dissolutions and this active rumour mill, the commons of Lincolnshire and then of Yorkshire rose in rebellion.  The second rebellion in Yorkshire became known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.  The commons marched to York and then to Doncaster under the banner of the five wounds of Christ, led by a London Barrister called Robert Aske.  Robert Aske was the third son of Sir Robert Aske of Aughton and brother of Christopher who put up the inscription.  After Robert Aske bargained with the Duke of Norfolk at Doncaster, who offered a general pardon from the King, the 40,000 strong host under Aske's command were dismissed and the 'Pilgrimage' ended.  However, fresh outbreaks of minor rebellion broke out further north in February 1537 and in response to this Robert Aske was executed in York in July 1537.  Robert Aske's elder brother Christopher had good cause to put up an inscription on the tower of Aughton church calling to mind the year 1536.                 

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Aumbry door

Many of our churches still retain the evidence of aumbries, the secure lockers that served as the repository for valuables before the invention of the safe.  They are a common feature let into the side walls beside both high and side altars and many were uncovered from behind plasterwork in the restorations of the nineteenth century.  Many of them still have evidence of the door that once covered them, but very few of the original doors remain.  However, at Begbroke, just north of Oxford, the chancel aumbry still retains its original door, here beautifully captured by Eric Hardy

Begbroke, Oxfordshire, St Michael’s Church

The door, which is very probably early sixteenth century, is decorated with carving.  An elaborate and foliated fleur-de-lys is surrounded lucious foliage, pomegranates and berries.  Above the door, to fit into the space created by the shouldered arch, is a fillet of pierced vine.  It is a wonderful example of florid, if slightly stilted, late Gothic carving.  Of course the door had to be secured and there is a lock plate on it, but it's a later addition that interrupts the carving.  However, that is of no matter, for all told this aumbry door is a remarkable and attractive thing.

Begbroke, Oxfordshire, St Michael’s Church

Monday, 3 January 2011

Memorial altarpiece

The parish church of Youlgreave in the Derbyshire peak district, has a rather remarkable and interesting medieval alabaster panel. This rectangular panel is currently set into the wall above the altar at the east end of the north nave aisle, though it has moved around quite a bit and spent some time in the chancel and was before that in the south wall of the south nave aisle. The panel is a monument to Robert Gilbert and his wife Joan and the marginal inscription around it, records the burial of Robert ‘sub lapide’ below the stone (at an unspecified date) and the death of Joan on the 2nd of November 1492. Robert is described in the inscription as ‘generosi’ i.e. gentleman, one step down the social hierarchy from esquire. According to J. Charles Cox, the arms on the monument, are those of Rossington impaling Statham, Joan Gilbert being a member of the Statham family. The Rossington arms are in fact those of Robert Gilbert, who was using this armorial bearing, Cox argues, by virtue ofhis descent from the Rossington heiress.

Youlgreave, Derbyshire


The inscription and shields of arms frame a wonderful panel of figures carved in low relief. In the centre of the figurative composition is a very tender image of the Virgin and Child, sadly a little mutilated. To the right of Our Lady kneels Robert Gilbert and his seven sons, all identically dressed, in civilian clothing, prominent purses and the caps with liripipes. On the other side kneels Joan and their ten daughters, she with a large set of paternoster beads. All the figures are in the attitude of prayer, with Robert and Joan shown in the act of paying devotion to Our Lady. If you look carefully there are the remains of tiny little scrolls in front of them, which would have represented their intercessions rising towards Our Lady.

It is difficult to imagine given the dimensions and the relief carving that this panel functioned as a conventional floor slab covering a burial and it seems likely that the panel served a dual purpose as an altarpiece as well as a memorial. The inscription also records that Robert was involved in some liturgical reordering of the inside of the church. It refers to Robert ‘clausuram hujus capelle’, enclosing this chapel. This is evidence that the panel was situated and Robert was buried in an enclosed chapel, separated off from the rest of the landscape of the church by parclose screens.  The figure of Our Lady may be a clue to the dedication of this space.

References
J. Charles Cox, Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, vol. 2, p. 329.