- Robert Louis Stephenson said “I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” – Robert’s grandfather also named Robert began the tradition of lighthouse building The author’s father and two uncles were also lighthouse keepers. If you’d like to know more then Bella Bathuhurst’s book The Lighthouse Stephensons is for you.
- Charles Dickens wrote this description of Canterbury Cathedral in David Copperfield which drew on his own childhood experiences after his father was imprisoned for debt. “The rooks were sailing about the cathedral towers; and the towers themselves, overlooking many a long unaltered mile of the rich country and its pleasant streams, were cutting the bright morning air as if there were no such thing as change on earth.”
- “Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.” Henry Kissinger won a Nobel prize having served in Richard Nixon’s administration.
- Thomas Carlyle, also known as the Sage of Chelsea, said “The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better.”
- “Cathedrals, luxury liners laden with souls, Holding to the east their hulls of stone.” – W.H. Auden wrote this line in On this Island.
- “The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.” – Ken Follett wrote two books which featured the town of Kingsbridge – The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End which is placed two hundred years after the first novel. For those of you looking for something historical to get your teeth into there are the books and a mini-series featuring Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen and Eddie Redmayne.
- “The most solid thing was the light. It smashed through the rows of windows in the south aisle, so that they exploded with colour, it slanted before him from right to left in an exact formation, to hit the bottom yard of the pillars on the north side of the nave. Everywhere, fine dust gave these rods and trunks of light the importance of a dimension. He blinked at them again, seeing, near at hand, how the individual grains of dust turned over each other, or bounced all together, like mayfly in a breath of wind. He saw how further away they drifted cloudily, coiled, or hung in a moment of pause, becoming, in the most distant rods and trunks, nothing but colour, honey-colour slashed across the body of the cathedral. Where the south transept lighted the crossways from a hundred and fifty foot of grisaille, the honey thickened in a pillar that lifted straight as Abel’s from the men working with crows at the pavement.” – The author of this rather lengthy quote about the building of Salisbury Cathedral is William Golding better known for his work The Lord of the Flies. The book featuring Salisbury Cathedral is called The Spire.
- “If you seek his monument, look around.” – whose epitaph is this and where can it be found? This particular epitaph can be found in St Paul’s Cathedral on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, Seventeenth Century London’s great church builder.
- “Along the sculptures of the western wall I watched the moonlight creeping: It moved as if it hardly moved at all Inch by inch thinly peeping Round on the pious figures of freestone, brought And poised there when the Universe was wrought To serve its centre, Earth, in mankind’s thought.” Thomas Hardy wrote about Salisbury Cathedral after visiting it he is best known for his novels set in Wessex.
- “Somehow, cathedrals have contrived to snap free of the sectarian exclusivity of the parish church. They answer to a longing for congregation and communal space. Their key is a quality unfashionable to social analysis, the offer of solitude with beauty. You need not to be of faith to sit quietly and contemplate the loveliness of a cathedral. As a dean once hinted to me in a whisper, “Here we don’t bang on about God.” Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian and wrote the book called England’s Cathedrals.
Time for answers – how did you do and how many have you visited?
Old Foundation Cathedrals: These cathedrals were ‘secular’ foundations dating from before the Reformation. This simply means that their chapters weren’t made up from monks in a closed order – their chapters were always run by canons who were of the world rather than being enclosed. Essentially the lack of monastic involvement meant that these cathedrals were unaffected by the dissolution of the monasteries.
In England: Chichester, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, London (St Paul’s), Salisbury, Wells and York.
In Wales: Bangor, Llandaff, St Asaph, and St David’s.
New Foundation Cathedrals: These cathedrals either functioned as public places of worship with monastic chapters in the medieval period or were abbeys. The Reformation was not good news for their monastic inhabitants. Cromwell reorganised the dioceses and church administration of England and Wales. New non-monastic constitutions were applied. For instance, St Mary’s Abbey church in Carlisle became the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Many cathedrals were re-founded during the reign of Henry VIII often with the last abbot or prior becoming the dean of the new chapter.
In England: Canterbury, Carlisle, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester and Worcester had already existed prior to the reformation as cathedrals. In addition, Henry created new bishoprics and cathedrals from Bristol (the Holy and Undivided Trinity), Chester, Gloucester, Oxford and Peterborough.
Modern Foundation Cathedrals or Parish Church Cathedrals: from the mid 1800s (the first dates from 1836) a number of new cathedrals have been established which reflect the changing population of England and Wales. They include cathedrals based upon former parish churches, to meet the needs of new dioceses.
In England: Blackburn, Birmingham, Bradford, Chelmsford, Coventry, Derby, Guildford, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Ripon, St Albans St Edmundsbury, Sheffield, Southwark, Southwell, Truro, Wakefield
IN Wales: Brecon, Newport
Cannon, Jon. (2007) Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals. London: Constable.
Jenkins, Simon. (2016) England’s Cathedrals. London: Little Brown
Pepin, David. (2004) 7th ed. Discovering Cathedrals. Princess Risborough: Shire Publications
Please feel free to add quotes into the comments relating to the UK’s cathedrals. And to get you thinking who said the following:
- “I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” – The author of this quote is a writer related to a famous lighthouse building family.
- “The rooks were sailing about the cathedral towers; and the towers themselves, overlooking many a long unaltered mile of the rich country and its pleasant streams, were cutting the bright morning air as if there were no such thing as change on earth.” – The author of this quote about Canterbury Cathedral owned a house in Rochester and another in Broadstairs.
- “Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.”- The author of this quote won a Nobel prize having served in Richard Nixon’s administration.
- “The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better.” – The author of this quote is also known as the Sage of Chelsea.
- Cathedrals, luxury liners laden with souls, Holding to the east their hulls of stone.” – The author of this quote wrote a poem that featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
- “The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.” – The author of this quote writes thrillers and historical novels. He wrote two books which featured the town of Kingsbridge.
- “The most solid thing was the light. It smashed through the rows of windows in the south aisle, so that they exploded with colour, it slanted before him from right to left in an exact formation, to hit the bottom yard of the pillars on the north side of the nave. Everywhere, fine dust gave these rods and trunks of light the importance of a dimension. He blinked at them again, seeing, near at hand, how the individual grains of dust turned over each other, or bounced all together, like mayfly in a breath of wind. He saw how further away they drifted cloudily, coiled, or hung in a moment of pause, becoming, in the most distant rods and trunks, nothing but colour, honey-colour slashed across the body of the cathedral. Where the south transept lighted the crossways from a hundred and fifty foot of grisaille, the honey thickened in a pillar that lifted straight as Abel’s from the men working with crows at the pavement.” – The author of this rather lengthy quote about the building of Salisbury Cathedral is most famous for his debut novel written in 1954 that saw a party of children stranded on an island with unpleasant consequences.
- “If you seek his monument, look around.” – whose epitaph is this and where can it be found?
- “Along the sculptures of the western wall I watched the moonlight creeping: It moved as if it hardly moved at all Inch by inch thinly peeping Round on the pious figures of freestone, brought And poised there when the Universe was wrought To serve its centre, Earth, in mankind’s thought.” The author of this verse wrote about Salisbury Cathedral after visiting it he is best known for his novels set in Wessex.
- “Somehow, cathedrals have contrived to snap free of the sectarian exclusivity of the parish church. They answer to a longing for congregation and communal space. Their key is a quality unfashionable to social analysis, the offer of solitude with beauty. You need not to be of faith to sit quietly and contemplate the loveliness of a cathedral. As a dean once hinted to me in a whisper, “Here we don’t bang on about God.” The author of this quote writes for The Guardian and wrote book called England’s Cathedrals.
There are actually 18 cities in England and Wales without an Anglican cathedral which comes as a bit of a surprise as I learned at school that in order to be a city then a cathedral was required. Equally there thirteen towns with Anglican Cathedrals that do not have city status – just goes to prove that the stuff you learn as a child isn’t necessarily correct…
Your challenge for week 4 is to name as many cathedrals in England and Wales as you can – location rather than which saint is involved – though if you can think of location and exact name please do so!
A cathedral is, of course, the main church in a diocese – or administrative area under the pastoral care of it’s bishop. It is where the bishop has his or her cathedra or throne.
There are three groups of cathedrals. Many cathedrals were once part of a monastic foundation. When Henry VIII closed them down in the 1530s many were re-founded as cathedrals which means that quite often the last prior or abbot of an abbey became a cathedral’s first dean. This kind of cathedral is a New Foundation Cathedral whereas Old Foundation cathedrals were never part of the monastic scene – they were run by secular canons i.e. they were part of the wider world and they were in place before the Reformation. There are nine Old Foundation Cathedrals in England and Wales. The third group are Modern Foundations which were created in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. A cathedral in this group is sometimes called a parish church cathedral. The modern foundations reflect the way in which populations changed due to industrialisation and urbanisation.
Today Howden is a sleepy little town between Doncaster and York. The ancient county of Howdenshire under the jurisdiction of the Prince Bishops of Durham no longer exists as an administrative entity but in the medieval period Howden lay at the center of a thriving hub. It was a residence for the Prince Bishops of Durham to provide a headquarters in the south (I know – for those of you who think the Watford Gap is in the north, it is a concept that may be difficult to compute but Northumbrians and Cumbrians will no doubt be nodding approvingly).
As well as providing a residence well away from the turbulent Scottish border it also allowed the canons who lived in the minster precincts to administer the bishop’s lands. They set up a grammar school in about 1265 to teach Latin and song to the choristers. The school remained in use until 1925.
Before the Norman Conquest the church belonged to the monks of Peterborough Abbey but in 1080 it was gifted by Wiliam the Conqueror to Wiliam of Calais who was the Bishop of Durham at the time. Howdenshire also came under the jurisdiction of Durham. William of Calais initially aimed at creating a monastic foundation but it did not thrive so the way Howden was staffed had to be changed – more on that in a moment.
All that remains of Howden Minster today is its west end which now serves as Howden’s parish church. The Oxford Dictionary defines a minster as a large or important church. It may have cathedral status but not always. Probably the best-known minster with cathedral status in the country is York Minster. The ruins of the larger medieval foundation at Howden are cared for by English Heritage. Double click on the image at the start of this post to open its webpage in a new window.
Just to confuse the issue still further Howden Minster used to be a collegiate church meaning that it was the residence of canons or a college of priests with the word college simply meaning an organized group with rights and duties. It was founded by Robert, Bishop of Durham, in 1266, for Secular clerks, and dedicated to St. Peter and St. Cuthbert. “There were originally five prebends, to which a sixth was subsequently added.” The canons were all priests despite the description of them as being “secular.” All the phrase means is that they weren’t Augustinian, i.e. they didn’t take monastic vows, although presumably the Bishop of Durham would have taken a dim view if they hadn’t lived a fairly monastic life with all the usual eschewing of women and wealth. Thus, very loosely, the foundation at Howden was not monastic like an abbey it was more of an administrative part of the bishop’s diocese with the canons as administrators. They were led by a dean rather than an abbot or prior.
The community of priests was not self-supporting in the way that an abbey or a priory was self-supporting although it was self governing – hence the existence of a chapter house. The Bishop of Durham elected to use the prebendary system which sounds complicated but simply means that the canons received an income or stipend from a nearby parish church; in this case Barnby, Howden, Saltmarsh, Skelton, Skipwith and Thorpe.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated that the canons of Howden were not part of a monastic foundation than by the fact that whilst England’s monasteries were dissolved in the reign of Henry VIII it wasn’t until 1548, in the reign of Edward VI, that collegiate churches, including the one at Howden, were abolished. Thomas Cromwell’s monastic visitors did come to Howden because the record of their findings still exists. In 1535 the value of the college is given as £96 8s. 10½d. gross, and net £61 2s. 10½d. Had it purely been a monastic foundation it would have fallen well within the limits set for the identification of smaller monasteries of £200 a year or less and been dissolved in 1536.
The current building was erected in the thirteenth century in a geometric style and it is thought that masons who worked on the Notre Dame de Paris and then on the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey during the reign of Henry III (King John’s son) came north to work on Howden Minster reflecting its importance at that time. By the fifteenth century a chapter house had been added. Another feature of the medieval minster were its chantries including one with an altar dedicated to St Cuthbert.
The income of the minster was also helped by the existence of a shrine where John of Howden was buried. He was Eleanor of Provence’s (Henry III’s wife) confessor and gained a reputation as a saint although he was never canonised. His death and burial in 1275 added an extra stream of income for the canons. He’d started building a new quire during his lifetime and prophesied that he would achieve his goal after his death if not before. After his death, miracles occurred at his tomb, including one on his own funeral when he was seen to raise his arms out of his coffin. His tomb was visited by royalty including Edward I and Henry V.
It will come as no surprise to followers of English Civil War history that Parliamentarians stabled their horses in Howden Minster or that they broke up the organ and used the pipes as whistles. In addition to Roundheads the weather wasn’t particularly kind to the minster and in 1929 arson destroyed its tower and the choir stalls which were replaced by Robert Thomson of Kilburn, the famous Kilburn Mouseman on account of the wooden mice than can be found lurking on his creations. Howden Minster is famous for the number of mice that can be spotted on its furniture and woodwork. Apparently there are nearly forty of them in residence.
Amazingly there are some medieval survivals in Howden including three statues, one of which is thought to present the Virgin Mary. Not everyone is in agreement as to who the lady might be but one thing is for sure she is a stunning survival and one which must have been carefully protected across the centuries.
Hoveringham – Hoxton’, in A Topographical Dictionary of England, ed. Samuel Lewis (London, 1848), pp. 566-569. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/england/pp566-569 [accessed 10 October 2016].
Its that time of year again when my mind turns to teaching. This term I’m back with Henry VIII and his wives and mistresses; the Norman Conquest and the English Reformation so that should keep me out of mischief for a while, though thankfully Henry’s love life is rather closely bound to the progress of the English Reformation. Today though I’m sticking with cathedrals: Rochester Cathedral to be specific – it has links with all the courses I have just mentioned one way or another.
In the aftermath of the conquest Rochester found itself in the hands of Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother. Once Lanfranc of Bec was created Archbishop of Canterbury the territory around Rochester was wrested from Odo’s control and given to the newly appointed Bishop of Rochester, who at this stage we could think of as a kind of deputy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, not that the influence or power lasted very long.
Both the cathedral with its Benedictine abbey and the early castle at Rochester, an important crossing point for the Medway, were the work of this bishop. Bishop Gundulf was a Norman appointment well known to Archbishop Lanfranc. Like Lanfranc, Gundulf was a monk at Bec before being summoned across the Channel to help reform the English Church along Norman lines. Gundulf turned out to have been a bit of a builder having a hand in the building of the Tower of London as well as the castle and cathedral at Rochester. He began work on Rochester Cathedral in 1080 using imported stone from the quarries at Caen. By 1083 his workmen had started on the nave which still stands despite a fire in 1138 which saw the monks made homeless for a time. The crypt is also a good example of the Romanesque or Norman style of architecture.
The problem for later Bishops was that the cathedral’s powerful neighbour in Canterbury owned more of the land around Rochester than Rochester did. Not only was Rochester a cathedral being the seat of the bishop it was also an abbey. Inevitably with the passage of time there were ructions between the needs of the more worldly bishops and the more inward looking monks and their prior especially when the bishop was not selected from one of their number.
The first instance of this occurred in 1124 when the monks, fearful of their position, did a spot of creative thinking and miraculously discovered some long lost saintly relics and Bishop Gundulf who was by then a saint was remembered in a new book, the contents of which did’t bother unduly with the actual facts. Whilst they were at it, the monks set about creating a dossier of charters and rights that resulted in the monks and the bishops barely being on speaking terms. Nor did it go down well in Canterbury. Words like forgery were bandied around.
However, the death of Thomas Becket improved the relationship between the monks and the bishops of both Rochester and Canterbury primarily because the monks now discovered that they were on a booming pilgrim route – think of Rochester Abbey as offering a medieval ‘good night guarantee’.
Just when things couldn’t have been more eye-brow raising a pilgrim who’d managed to get all the way to Jerusalem and back without mishap was murdered in Rochester. William of Perth arrived in 1201, got himself murdered by his servant and then performed a miracle by curing a woman who touched the body. She was mad before but apparently became completely sane afterwards. William of Perth, a baker by trade, became an overnight success and a saint. The money that accrued from pilgrims flocking to William’s shrine paid for a new gothic east end to the cathedral.
We’ll move on from King John who looted the cathedral in 1215. Things went from bad to worse. In 1264 the cathedral and abbey fell victim to England’s civil war with soldiers stabling their horses in the cathedral.
The later monks didn’t seem to have the same inventive spirit of the earlier ones and by the end beginning of the thirteenth century the abbey was very badly in debt. Fortunately Prior Hamo came along and gave the monks and the cathedral a badly needed injection of energy. He launched a new period of building work in 1320.
There remains one more Bishop of Rochester who is impossible to ignore. He was executed on Tower Hill in June 1535 for failing to accept the supremacy or the fact of his monarch’s new marriage. His name was John Fisher. The monks at Rochester had all taken the oath of supremacy in 1534.
The following year Dr Layton arrived to visit the abbey as part of Thomas Cromwell’s Visitation of the Monasteries. In 1539 the monks of Rochester Abbey were shown the door and then allowed to return as the dean and chapter of six canons of one of Henry VIII’s new cathedrals.
Cannon, Jon. (2007) Cathedral: The Greatest English Cathedrals. London: Constable
‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The cathedral priory of St Andrew, Rochester’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 121-126. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp121-126 [accessed 17 August 2016].
Edward Hasted, ‘The city and liberty of Rochester: The priory and cathedral church’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4(Canterbury, 1798), pp. 86-110. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol4/pp86-110 [accessed 16 August 2016].
Prince Arthur, born 1486 in Winchester- the heir uniting the white rose with the red, died on April 2, 1502 after a few short months of marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
Three weeks later he was buried in Worcester Cathedral parallel with the altar with much pomp and pageantry. We know about Arthur’s funeral because a royal herald, one William Colbarne or Colbourne (the York Herald) wrote a first hand account. Being Henry VII’s son there is also a detailed account of the cost of the funeral.
A chantry where prayers could be said for Arthur’s soul was built two years after the prince’s death. It’s a two-storey affair that rather overshadows the fourteenth century tombs beneath it. His tomb chest is made from Purbeck marble and decorated with the arms of England, although he is buried beneath the cathedral’s floor several feet away from the tomb that visitors can see. Archeologists discovered the actual grave in 2002 with the use of ground penetrating radar that gave rise to speculation as to whether it might be possible to find out what Arthur died from. At the time it was announced that he’d died from sweating sickness. Historians tend to think it is more likely that he had tuberculosis, the disease that ultimately, probably, carried off his father (Henry VII) and his nephew (Edward VI).
The inscription round the tomb’s edge reads that Prince Arthur was the first begotten son of the ‘right reknowned’ King Henry VII and that he popped his clogs in Ludlow in the seventeenth year of his father’s reign. Having lost his heir, Henry appears to have been keen to remind everyone how successful his reign had been, that he had more sons and that he was perfectly entitled to the throne, thank you very much, and hadn’t he done well arranging a marriage with a European royal house such as Ferdinand and Isabella’s. The symbolism on the chantry is typical of Tudor iconography. There’s the white rose of York and red rose of Lancaster for instance as well as the Tudor rose; the Beaufort portcullis; a pomegranate for Catherine of Aragon whose home was Grenada and a sheath of arrows which belong to her mother Isabella of Castille; a Welsh dragon and the white greyhound of Richmond – a reminder that Edmund Tudor, Henry VI’s half brother was the earl of Richmond. The prince of Wales feathers are also on display.
Bishop Wulfstan became a saint much admired by King John. He was also a canny politician. He’d been appointed bishop by Edward the Confessor in 1062 and is said by his biographer a monk called Colman to have advised King Harold. This didn’t stop him from being one of the first bishops to offer his oath to William. The Worcester Chronicle also suggests that Wulfstan was at William’s coronation.
William set about reforming English Bishoprics, generally by removing Saxon clerics and appointing Normans. He demanded that Wulfstan surrender Worcester. According to its chronicle Wulstan surrendered the staff to the king who appointed him – i.e. Edward the Confessor. No one else could shift it so William was forced to confirm Wulfstan as bishop. King John trotted this legend out as an example of the way in which the king had the right to appoint English bishops rather than the pope having the right.
Wulfstan ensured that the Benedictine monks at Worcester continued their chronicle and he preached against slave trading in Bristol. Meanwhile the priory at Worcester was growing (It was a priory rather than an abbey because it had a bishop as well as its monastic foundation- that’s probably a post for another time). Not much remains of the early cathedral building apart from the crypt with its forest of Norman and Saxon columns. Wulfstan’s chapter house draws on its Saxon past and is, according to Cannon, one of the finest examples of its time. In 1113 it suffered a fire rebuilding began immediately. Wulfstan’s canonisation in 1203 helped Worcester Abbey’s and the cathedral’s economy although the Barons’ War ensured that Wulfstan’s shrine was destroyed on more than one occasion although when Simon de Montfort sacked Worcester he spared the priory.
On a happier note, King John was buried there partly because of his veneration of St Wulfstan. He’s one of the saintly bishop’s whispering in the John’s ear (see first image). Henry III crowned at Worcester aged nine with a circlet belonging to his mother because the crown was too big and John had famously just lost rather a lot of bling in The Wash (assuming you don’t think there’s a conspiracy behind the whole story). Simon de Montfort’s daughter Eleanor (whose mother Eleanor was Henry III’s sister) married Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales there in 1278 having been held prisoner for three years by her cousin Edward I.
A building programme was required for the final resting place of a monarch not least because in 1175 the central tower had collapsed possibly because of dodgy foundations. In 1202 there was yet another fire and in 1220 a storm blew down part of the edifice. In 1224 the rebuilding began ensuring that Worcester is a good example of early English gothic. The building continued to expand. By the fifteenth century new windows were being added.
We shift now to the Tudor period. In 1502 Prince Arthur died at Ludlow after only a few months marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His heart in buried in Ludlow but the rest of him was interred in Worcester Cathedral. His tomb and chantry will be posted about separately. The Tudor propaganda machine provided symbolism with bells and whistles.
In 1535 Latimer was made Bishop of Worcester. He visited his see in 1537 by which time Cromwell’s commissioners had carried out the Valor Ecclesiasticus. Its income was £1,260. It was the fourth richest of the monastic cathedrals behind Canterbury, Durham and Winchester (Lehmberg: 46). Holbeach had sent Cromwell “a remembrance of his duty” in the form of an annuity to the tune of some twenty nobles a year – presumably in the hope of being left alone. Latimer found that the monks were sticking to their old ways of dressing the Lady Chapel with ornaments and jewels rather than new more austere Protestant approach. He laid down the law but three years later Worcester Priory was surrendered by Prior Holbeach on 18 thJanuary 1540.
Two years later it was re-founded as the Cathedral of Worcester. Holbeach became the first dean of the cathedral. As with many other religious buildings it suffered during the English Civil War – lead was stripped from its roof valued at £8000. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a time of renovation for Worcester Cathedral.
Somehow, thirty-nine fifteenth century misericords survive at Worcester. There are also some fine spandrels (triangular bits between arches) depicting various scenes including a crusader doing battle with a lion not to mention the crypt and Arthur’s chantry with its tomb of Purbeck marble.
‘The city of Worcester: Cathedral and priory’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 394-408. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp394-408 [accessed 27 August 2016].
Cannon, Jon. (2007). Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals and the World that Made Them. London: Constable
Lehmberg, Stanford. E. (2014) The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society. Princetown: Princetown University Press.
This is me going off on a tangent before writing up a post on Worcester Cathedral. I’ve spent quite a lot of the past few weeks staring at stained glass one way or another, though not taken many photographs of whole windows because I can’t do them justice. Aside from a crick in my neck, time spent waiting for the sun to come out and a fascination with Thomas Denny windows I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary. This is by way of a glossary for future reference.
Cartoon -A full scale drawing of each panel of glass or light. The cartoon follows on from the vidimus.
Catherine window – another name for a rose window or wheel window because of its symmetrical pattern, containing tracery that makes the ‘rose’. They are usually Gothic in origin and must contain the radiating wheel spokes to be Catherine, wheel or rose windows depending upon your choice of name.
Cinquefoil– five lobed shape. Usually to be found within the tracery (fancy lace-like stonework) elements of a window.
Clerestory – the upper part of the wall within the church, cathedral or abbey containing windows.
Diaper- a decorative pattern added to the glass with paint.
Donor window – the people who paid for the window feature in the window.
Gothic – style of architecture evolving from Romanseque during the late medieval period – pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, flying buttresses and fancy tracery.
Grisaille– monochrome painting on glass.
Jesse Window – window depicting Christ’s ancestors beginning with Jesse, father of King David. Wells Cathedral has a fourteenth century Jesse Window.
Light – the posh term for the complete vertical panel of glass within the stone framework of the window.
Medallion– circular panel of glass.
Mullion – vertical stone shafts between the panes (lights) of the window.
Murrey – colour ranging from pink through to reddish brown.
Quarry– small diamond shape pane of glass. Quarries are prone to bulging with the passage of time.
Rose window – The most common name for a Catherine window or wheel window derived from the French name rosace. The window is formed from symmetrical patterns, containing tracery that makes the ‘rose’ or ‘spoke’. They are usually Gothic in origin and must contain the radiating wheel spokes to be Catherine, wheel or rose windows depending upon your choice of name. The Rose Window in York Minster is one of, if not the, best in the country. It is certainly the most famous after the fire of 1984 which saw all 7000 pieces of glass cracked by the heat of the blaze but remained in tact. The painstaking conservation that followed ensured that the window was back on display by 1987. The ‘Bishop’s Eye’ window in Lincoln is not a rose window despite often being called such because although it is round it is not created with ‘spokes.’ An article on the development of rose windows and their symbolism can be found here. There is also an interesting article on the geometry and number involved in the creation of rose windows as well as their symbolism here.
Saddle bar – a horizontal iron bar running across a pane (light) to which the glass panels are tied.
Spandrel– in window terms they are the small openings between the corner of the arch of a window and the horizontal stone bar (transom).
Tracery – intricate stonework at the top of the window.
Transom– the horizontal bar of stone that runs across the middle of the window giving it strength.
Trefoil – three lobed shape.
Vidimus – literally meaning “we have seen”. A sketch of the window to be shown to the people who have paid for it or want it created.
Wheel window – another name for a rose window or Catherine window because of their symmetrical patterns, containing tracery that makes the ‘rose’ or ‘spoke’. They are usually Gothic in origin and must contain the radiating wheel spokes to be Catherine, wheel or rose windows depending upon your choice of name.
Here is a link to the York Glaziers Trust with a bigger glossary and much better illustrations. Double click to open a new window. The Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA) of Great Britain is a project devoted to recording Britain’s medieval stained glass. They have a very large archive. Double click to open a new window and possibly a whole new set of days and weekends out! As you might expect given it’s medieval heritage there is a Worshipful Company of Glaziers which dates back to 1328. Part of their story is told by the Stained Glass Museum which is based in Ely.
The priory’s treasure is its windows. It has the largest collection of fifteenth century glass in England which means that the parliamentarians didn’t get there during the English Civil War. It also means that although the parishioners of Great Malvern were able to buy the priory for £20 they were unable to remove the coloured glass and replace it with plain Protestant panes in later years.
I was told that the glazing of the East Window began in 1430 and although the pieces of glass no longer tell a story because of the impact of time and ivy the panes are still medieval having been moved around from other locations within the church. Wells suggests that the window was originally given by Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and his wife Isabel Despenser because of the roses and circle stars that appear there and which also feature on their coat of arms.
Looking to the west, the arms of Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester can be found. This was probably moved from the West Window which was originally donated by him and his wife Anne Neville. Her coat of arms can be found in the western choir aisle in the so-called museum window which is largely plain with sections of medieval glass being inset there. The heads of two bear supporters – referencing the bear and ragged staff can be seen. The West Window told of the Day of Judgement. Depending upon your viewpoint of Richard III there may well be some irony in his donation and the fact that of all the windows this was the one which survived least well into the modern era.
The west window of the transept is known as the Magnificat Window and was donated by Henry VII. I shall do a separate post on that as it contains images of Henry, Prince Arthur and some of his leading henchmen.
However, in Queen Anne’s Chapel a treat awaits. Most stained glass involves a crick in the neck but here the windows are substantially lower so the glass is much closer. The crucifixion window is Victorian but the rest of the glass is medieval. One window tells the story of the Creation, another the stories of Noah and Abraham whilst the third relates the stories of Isaac, Joseph and Moses. It is a reminder that in an age where most people lived in small dark buildings that churches were full of light and colour. It is also a reminder that the word of God came not only from the priest but from the pictures that surrounded the congregation.
The tradition of donors, some of whom are pictured above, giving windows continued in Great Malvern Church through the Victorian era with Princess Charlotte, the only child of George IV who died in childbirth, donating a window amongst others. The Friends of Malvern Priory donated the Tom Denny windows which celebrate the millennium. They can be found in the north choir. Their theme is psalm 36. Denny has used the Malvern hills as part of his inspiration as well as colours which echo the medieval windows. Denny was also commissioned in Leicester for the Richard III memorial windows. Once seen, his style is instantly recognisable.
Wells, Katherine. (2013). A Tour of the Stained Glass of Great Malvern Priory. The Friends of Malvern Priory.