Bishop Saints in Stained Glass at the Burrell

The two panels in the Burrell Collection from the Boppard Window with Standing Figures
The two panels in the Burrell Collection from the Boppard Window with Standing Figures

Having looked at the two bishop saints in the Boppard windows, it is interesting to compare them with other, similar stained glass panels in the Burrell. Bishop saints are senior church officials (usually bishops) who have performed or are associated with some remarkable event of Christian religious significance. The process of raising someone’s status to that of a saint in the Catholic Church is called canonization. It has become more structured over the years, so today the basic rules are:

  • The candidate should be dead (more than five years in most cases). A local bishop then undertakes a detailed investigation and gathers evidence relating to the candidate’s life.
  • The information, now sent to the Vatican, is considered by the “Congregation for Cause of Saints”, a panel of senior church officials.
  •  If the panel agrees, the Pope will declare the candidate “venerable”, which means that they are a role model for the Catholic Church.
  •  Next, the candidate must be “beatified”. This means that either they are associated with a miracle, or they were martyred. The miracle does not have to have been performed by the candidate, as it could be for example, someone who has recovered from a terminal illness as a result of praying to their spirit.
  •  To be canonized, there must be proof of a second miracle, at which point the candidate becomes a saint.

Bishop or priest saints are often venerated at a local level having undertaken their religious services nearby. The Boppard saints were St. Cunibert, patron saint of a local important family and Archbishop of Cologne, and St. Severinus, also Archbishop of Cologne and patron saint of Boppard.

Four other bishop (or priest) saints in stained glass at the Burrell are shown below.

Bishop Saint - German c1230-60
Bishop Saint – German c1230-60
Priest Saint - German c1230-60
Priest Saint – German c1230-60

These are a pair of panels from Germany, made around 1230 – 1260. There is a bishop saint was on the left (top image in this blog), with his mitre and crosier, and a priest or deacon saint on the right (immediately above). Bishop saints are often depicted with a mitre and crozier to show their status within the Church, and usually with a symbol to help indicate which saint it is, such as Romanus and the dragon, below. If there is no inscription and the saint is depicted with only a crozier and mitre such as the one above, they can be hard to identify.

Romanus and the dragon from the Burrell Collection
Romanus and the dragon from the Burrell Collection

The bishop saint in the panel above is thought to be St. Romanus (or Romanus of Rouen). He is shown standing under a canopy holding a pastoral staff piercing the open mouth of a red dragon. St. Romanus was the Bishop of Rouen and died around 640, and is associated with several miracles. The miracle involving a dragon has a number of variations. The legend says that Romanus went off to hunt this beast that devoured and destroyed the local people with the only other person prepared to help, a condemned prisoner. When they found the dragon, Romanus subdued it with a crucifix and led it back to the town, where it was burned before the entrance to the cathedral.

This miracle was the origin of the bishop’s privilege, in which the bishop is allowed to pardon one condemned prisoner a year at a procession involving Romanus’ relics.

Partron Bishop Saint and Donors in the Burrell Collection
Partron Bishop Saint and Donors in the Burrell Collection

Another stained glass panel, shown above, and on display in the Burrell was made in the early 16th century in the Rhineland. It shows three lady donors dresses in red robes and kneeling in church. The Mother is depicted at the centre and her married daughter is behind her (on the right). They both hold rosaries and are coifed in white to cover their heads. The unmarried daughter (as her head is not covered) is shown between the two married women and has a small garland, or chaplet, of flowers in her hair. She doesn’t seem to be holding a rosary, but the word chaplet also refers to a Roman Catholic prayer that uses prayer beads.

On the left is their patron saint, a bishop saint with his mitre and crosier. His right hand is raised in benediction and he wears a gold embroidered cope, a blue dalmatic and a white alb. He was probably a favourite saint of the donors or of local importance.



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