Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stained glass knights

click photo to enlarge
There is not as much medieval stained glass in England as might be expected. Many continental European countries that saw land warfare in WW1 and WW2 suffered great losses. Similarly, those that were the subject of heavy and systematic aerial bombing lost much in the major cities. England experienced no ground warfare, but was heavily bombed. However, though these major wars did destroy some of our remaining old stained glass they were not the main cause of its disappearance. That had happened much earlier in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Protestant Reformation produced national protestant churches that either replaced or complemented the existing Roman Catholic religion. Its clergy and congregations often saw stained glass as idolatrous. It did not fit with the new churches' ideas of what should be found in a building dedicated to worship. Consequently much was broken and disposed of, and much was sold. In England the Dissolution of the Monasteries following Henry VIII's assumption of the role of head of the church of England saw the deliberate destruction of monastic abbeys, priories, convents, friaries etc, with their wealth being seized by the crown and their property sold. In the following years zealots and iconoclasts before and during the English Civil War smashed yet more ancient glass in cathedrals and parish churches. But, this wanton destruction notwithstanding, today it is not unusual to come across re-assembled fragments, some whole windows and a few quite complete schemes.

Today's photograph shows part of a window, one of seven of the fourteenth century, in the chancel clerestory at Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. The heraldry of the knights' surcoats suggests a date of around 1340. The families represented are, from left to right, Fitzroy, de Clare, le Despenser and Fitzhamon. It is thought that the donor was Eleanor de Clare (d.1337) and the scheme was supervised by her son, Hugh le Despenser. Most of this glass is original. Some re-assembled fragments can be seen in the shields of the four shapes across the bottom of the image. The windows were restored to their present beauty by Kempe & Co. in 1923-4.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 161mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 1600
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On