Thursday, 2 September 2010

Some Medieval Stained Glass in Hereford Cathedral



The window above the entrance to the shop in Hereford Cathedral contains fragments of 14th century glass with two modern panels above. The slideshow above shows the sections of the window described below.

The top centre light contains a shield “or, five chevronels azure” (a gold shield with five blue chevrons). There is a reference to this description for John Denew, gentlemen of Cantebury.

Challenge: can you throw more light on this shield? 

The next right light depicts Mary, the left light shows David with his harp.

The lower right two lights are below another shield “gules, three ducal coronets, two and one or divided by either a bezant or dish or” (red shield with three golden ducal crowns separated either by a disk or a plate). “Gules, three coronets or” alone is associated with the diocese of Ely. The disk adds uncertainty.

Challenge: can you throw more light on this shield? 

The far right panel contains fragments resolving in part into a sky of sun, moon and stars which the Hereford Cathedral stained glass booklet describes as from the dream of Joseph. The booklet also indicates that the centre right panel shows Joseph being lowered into the pit.

The lower two left panels are fragments which tantalisingly hint at figures, windows and text. Above them is another shield, “gules, a stag trippant or” (red shield with a walking stag in gold) which is associated with the Davison family, who have Scottish origins.

(http://www.elizabethan.org/heraldry/blazons3.html
http://www.heraldry.ws/html/davison.html
http://www.clandavidson.org.uk/heraldry/Rev%20108%20H_Origins%201.pdf)

Challenge: what are the links between this shield and Hereford?

By the 14th century, the old form of making soda glass had been replaced with “wood glass”, potash rich glass made by using wood ash during the glass manufacture.

Whilst English glass was being produced in the Weald during the 14th century, it was generally of lower quality and most of the quality glass came from the continent.

The main method of manufacture was by blowing tubes of glass, up to 3m in length, cutting off the top and bottom, slitting the tube and rolling it out into a sheet.

Various minerals added to glass manufacture create the colours, however, these are often very dense. Clear glass was therefore “flashed” with a thin layer of coloured glass.

The period also saw the introduction of silver salts that could be painted onto the glass before firing again, to give a controlled range of detail in shades from gold to orange.

Detail, such as facial features, was painted in iron and similar oxides that gave a black line in firing.

Medieval glass was not the smooth flat clear product we use in our windows – a fact that is precisely the reason for the luminosity and sparkle of medieval glass. During the stained glass revival of the 19th century, glass manufactures realised this and learnt to recreate the manufacturing processes and effects.


Eight stained glass windows in Hereford Cathedral are described individually and in detail in separate articles, links below 


The following articles are of interest if you want more information. 

history of glass: http://www.glassonline.com/infoserv/history.html
Medieval stained glass: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_stained_glass
glass painting techniques through the ages: http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/glasspaint/glasspaint.htm
The medieval glass industry
http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/cbaresrep/pdf/040/04011001.pdf 
Also see Hereford Cathedral: Stained glass (ISBN 978-0-7117-4491-2)

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