Happy Festive Season to all our readers!

In the stained glass collection at the Burrell we have a late 14th century German panel showing “The Visitation”; the moment when Saint Elizabeth (on the left) pregnant with John the Baptist meets Saint Mary, pregnant with Jesus. Just look at the little babies acknowledging each other, as described in the New Testament in Luke 1; “when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost”.

Burrell Collection, late 14th century German panel showing the Visitation
Burrell Collection, late 14th century German panel showing the Visitation
The Visitation - detail of babies
The Visitation – detail of babies

With the festive season upon us, our Bishop Saint, St. Severinus, has swopped his mitre for a Santa hat ready for Christmas day.

Saint Santa from Boppard

Santa Claus may well be based upon the real person, St. Nicholas, who lived in the 3rd century CE and became Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey. He was reputedly a very generous man giving presents and money to children and paying the dowry for poor girls.

Have a great Christmas and best wishes for the New Year from the Boppard Blog team!

Megan, Marie and John.

Stone Tracery

Tracery is the “Ornamental work of interlaced and branching lines, especially the lacy openwork in a Gothic window” (From The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language).

It is likely that tracery evolved from Byzantine windows and pierced marble, and medieval tracery arose from the need to terminate 2 or more mullions, the vertical stone shafts dividing window lights, within the frame of a pointed arch as shown in the grey area in the diagram below.

Plate Tracery Area diagram
Plate Tracery Area diagram

Early Romanesque church windows were normally small, with a round or segmental (less than a semi-circle) arch at the top. At the start of Gothic architecture, increased understanding of the forces involved in a building and the introduction of buttresses and flying buttresses, windows became larger and wider, with pointed arch designs a can be seen at the Abbey of St. Denis near Paris, glazed in the 1140s by Abbot Suger and from which a small panel is on display in the Burrell Collection showing the Prophet Jeremiah.

Felix Benoist -  Lithograph of the Abbey of St. Denis
Felix Benoist – Lithograph of the Abbey of St. Denis

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FelixBenoistStDenis.jpg]

Prophet Jeremiah from the Abbey of St. Denis
Prophet Jeremiah from the Abbey of St. Denis

These windows were usually divided into 2 or more bays by vertical stone pillars (mullions) which gave the extra support needed by the glass. The earliest tracery decorated the above these bays with small circular, trefoil or quatrefoil lights, which has become known as plate tracery as the design looks as though it has been cut out of a plate of solid stone. The actual construction would have consisted of several pieces of stone. With the trefoil and quatrefoil designs came the introduction of cusps (projecting points) into the arch design.

Cusp diagram

In the early 13th century, the tracery became slimmer and more varied in shape leading to Bar Tracery, first seen at Reims Cathedral, built in the early 13th century.

Cathedral of Reims, by bodoklecksel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reims_Kathedrale.jpg
Cathedral of Reims, by bodoklecksel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reims_Kathedrale.jpg

Slim stone bars or ribs were used to create a skeleton of geometric shapes, which lead on to flowing, curvilinear and flamboyant designs. Bar tracery allowed a degree of mass production as many blocks could be made using standard templates and could be carved in the workshop when the weather would have been too poor to work on site. The tracery in the Boppard windows is simple but effective, using cusped arches, quatrefoils and subdivided circles with mouchettes (teardrop-shaped designs).

Detail of the North wall windows from Marie’s photo of the Carmelite Church in Boppard
Detail of the North wall windows from Marie’s photo of the Carmelite Church in Boppard

The Islamic designs in Spain at places such as the Great Mosque of Cordoba with its complex tiers of compound arches, had a great influence on Gothic architecture and tracery design. As the Reconquista spread south through Spain, many aspects of the Islamic design of arches were incorporated into Christian designs.

Great Mosque Cordoba - Capilla-de-Villaviciosa
Great Mosque Cordoba – Capilla-de-Villaviciosa

 The small lights that were fitted into the holes in the tracery were often designed to complement the imagery, themes and stories displayed in the main panels, with depictions of angels or associated symbols and emblems. Even the tracery could be designed to reflect the content of the glass as in the 14th Century “Tree of Jesse” Window in Dorchester Abbey.

Dorchester Abbey Tree of Jesse
Dorchester Abbey Tree of Jesse

Tracery declined in the 16th century with the Renaissance, but returned in the 19th century with the Gothic Revival.

The name, tracery, probably comes from the ‘tracing floors’ (called épures in French) on which the full size design for the window was drawn, and the blocks of carved stone could be laid down and checked for fit before installation. The floors also allowed for easy communication of ideas between craftsmen and a clear understanding of the finished design. Tracing floors still exist in Wells Cathedral and the Mason’s loft at York Minster.

York minster Tracing Floor showing design marks http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~arch40/plasterfloor.htm
York minster Tracing Floor showing design marks
http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~arch40/plasterfloor.htm

Depicting Angels in Stained Glass

There’s more to angels than you might think!

The word “angel” derives from the ancient Greek word ángelos which means messenger or envoy.

Angels are often depicted in human form with feathered wings and they feature in many of the world religions and can be seen as guiding spirits and intermediaries between Heaven and Earth.

In Christian theology, there is a hierarchy of angels from those that intercede and communicate with humans to those next to God. There are subtle differences in exactly how many different angels exist and their relative status, and this has changed over time and between denominations. The most common structure has nine types of angels (the nine choirs) divided into three main levels of importance. The painting from Greece below, possibly painted in the 18th century, shows the nine orders of angels with an illuminated triangle, a symbol of the Trinity, above.

(Image from Wiki Commons - Source=http://www.vvv.ru/forum_gallery/original_view.php?id=8570&tid=1)
(Image from Wiki Commons – Source=http://www.vvv.ru/forum_gallery/original_view.php?id=8570&tid=1)

(Image from Wiki Commons – Source=http://www.vvv.ru/forum_gallery/original_view.php?id=8570&tid=1)

The angels are ranked according to their perfection, innocence and piety. Whilst all angels are far more perfect and innocent than any human, those in the top layer nearest to God, the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, burn with religious passion. The angels in the bottom tier nearest to humans are the principalities, archangels, and angels, and as the least perfect and innocent, they interact with humans as messengers and protectors. In the middle tier are the dominions, virtues, and powers: The dominions are like God’s civil servants, making sure that God’s commands are carried out, through the virtues, God keeps an eye on the seasons and visible heavens, and the powers fight and defeat evil spirits.

For people to relate to angels they are usually depicted in a human or human-like form, especially the angels on the lower tier such as the Archangel Gabriel who is seen in the Annunciation scenes bringing the news to Mary of her forthcoming pregnancy. The Boppard Annuciation panel from the Jesse Tree window shows a classic Angel Gabriel as seen in the detail below.

Boppard - Annunciation Detail of the Angel Gabriel

Boppard – Annunciation Detail of the Angel Gabriel

The Agony in the Garden panel shows another, unnamed, messenger angel. In both these depictions, the angels look like normal adult humans except for their splendid wings.

Boppard - Detail from Agony In The Garden
Boppard – Detail from Agony In The Garden

The Burrell Collection has some beautiful depictions of angels in little panels made by the EnglishNorwichSchool of stained glass who created most of their work between the mid-14th to the early 16th century. They had a characteristic style to their depictions of angels which is believed to stem from the way angels were portrayed in the Mystery Plays of the time, where actors would wear feather costumes. Mystery plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays were mainly based on stories from the Bible. They were at their most popular in the 15th century, and included a musical style called antiphonal song, which involved two or more choirs or singers taking alternating parts. The two little Norwich school angels, shown below, are on display in the Burrell Collection.

Norwich school angels from the Burrell Collection
Norwich school angels from the Burrell Collection
Norwich school angels from the Burrell Collection
Norwich school angels from the Burrell Collection