Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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Windows with Welsh Saints

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For well over ten years I have been collecting images of Welsh saints from churches on my travels, mainly around Wales. The majority of these images are in stained glass and there is more variety in the windows than there is in sculpture and occasional murals, as windows sometimes feature scenes from the saints’ Lives, as well as standing figures. I have given a couple of lectures about images of saints in Welsh churches and been writing about them for a while, with the intention of publishing a book on Welsh saints from Welsh churches in the future, although it will not be finished before next year.

In November I joined the ‘The Cult of Saints in Wales‘ project as a part-time Research Fellow at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, where I am working on the beginnings of an online dictionary of Welsh saints, and setting up four dayschools around Wales with a small touring exhibition. The principal aim of the project is the publication online of editions of all of the medieval Welsh-language poetry related to saints in medieval Wales, and of the Welsh-language lives. This includes material relating not just to Welsh saints, but also to saints with more widespread cults such as the evangelists Mark and Luke; Mary Magdalene; and Margaret of Antioch.

A few posts back I wrote about the Stained Glass in Wales Catalogue, which was launched in 2011, and as part of the project I hope to find some time to add some further examples of images of saints to the resource. Recently I have added the windows at the Church of St Elvan, Aberdare, which includes a large window with scenes from the story of the patron saint of the church. The window is one of many in south Wales by the studio of Robert Newbery, and his association with the patron Lord Merthyr is underlined by the number of other windows by the firm at the church.

Three standing and kneeling saints depicted in stained glass.

Celtic Studios, Saints Cyfelach, Rhidian and Gwladys, probably 1959, Church of St Gabriel, Swansea

I have also added the windows at the Church of St Gabriel, Swansea, a church that I visited some years ago when photographing windows for the book by the late Maurice Broady on the Swansea firm Celtic Studios. The church boasts a west window that may contain more Welsh saints than any other (about 27, depending on whether you count Brychan and all of his family), and is a significant work by Celtic Studios. Two large details from the window occupy the centre spread of the colour section in A Vision Fulfilled, and partly for this reason it did not get included in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. I included the east window at the church and a detail from one of the Lady Chapel windows by A.K. Nicholson’s studio. The church is perhaps unusual in having two good sets of windows by just two firms: six by A.K. Nicholson from 1925–6, and four by Celtic Studios 1949–71.

You often see new things when cataloguing windows, and unfortunately I realised that the caption of the east window in the book is incorrect. The window is in fact a representation of the ‘Te Deum’ and the standing figures in the outer lights are Peter and Paul, Isaiah and Stephen. The detail of Mary reading the Bible from the Lady Chapel windows, open at the same verse of Isaiah that Isaiah holds on a scroll in the east window, is one of many that deserved reproduction at a much larger size in the book.

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