Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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National Library cartoons and images of saints in Wales

Exhibits at the `National Library of Wales.As part of my work on ‘The Cult of Saints in Wales‘ project, I have been co-curating an exhibition of medieval and early modern manuscripts of saints’ Lives, poetry addressed to saints and saintly genealogies at the National Library of Wales.

It has also been an opportunity to display a couple of the hundreds of cartoons acquired by the National Library from Celtic Studios in the late 1990s. The figure of Illtud from Mountain Ash, and the scene showing David, Padarn and Teilo leaving for Jerusalem from Ebbw Vale are displayed with illustrations of the windows on the interpretation panel.

In addition, John Petts’ design for his first window at All Saints, Penarth is included in the show, as well as the scale drawing by A.L. Wilkinson of his saints window at Peterston-super-Ely. The latter comes from the diocesan archives at the Library, which include many such drawings submitted as part of the process of obtaining a faculty.

Wall display at the Stories of the Saints exhibition, National Library of Wales.I designed the exhibition displays which include my photographs of modern and medieval images of saints, and some of these are displayed as framed prints. To coincide with the exhibition, I will be speaking at the National Library about images of saints from churches in Wales on 17 May, as well as doing a gallery talk on 29 March.

The exhibition opens to the public on 18 February and runs until 10 June 2017.

Stained glass and religious identities: two conferences

Two conferences this month gave me opportunities to talk about saints in stained glass windows that tell us something about the conflicting national and religious identities.

For ‘The MIddle Ages in the Modern World‘, a multidisciplinary conference on medievalism in the post-Middle Ages at the University of Lincoln, I contrasted competing claims on Welsh saints by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I also talked about the inherent medievalism in most stained glass since the nineteenth century, which eschewed the use of coloured enamels in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in favour of the medieval mosaic method of making stained glass.

The International Congress of Celtic Studies, held every four years, came to Glasgow this year, and my paper, ‘Kings, Saints and Popes: Ancient Britain in Stained Glass During the Welsh Revival’ followed a similar theme but focussed on the legend in which the British king, Lucius, sought the help of the pope for the evangelisation of Britain in the second century. This was a subject occasionally chosen by Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic patrons, and implicated the dependence of the early Welsh church on Rome, in contrast to the Protestant projection of an early Welsh church independent of papal authority.

Detail of a stained glass window with a group of figures.

Mayer & Co., Pope Eleutherius Sending Missionaries to Britain, 1882, Church of St Peter, Roath, Cardiff

Both visits were also opportunities to see the stained glass in two cathedrals that I had not visited before. At Lincoln I was surprised how much medieval glass still survived, and, at the other end of the scale, Glasgow was interesting for the amount of post-war glass commissioned the replace the Victorian glass (by Mayer of Munich, controversial in its time and notable in the involvement of the historian Charles Winston). Both cathedrals, commendably, had books available detailing their windows.

stained glass window.

Douglas Strachan, Detail of a window in Bute Hall, University of Glasgow

I was particularly struck by the quality of the mid-twentieth century glass in Glasgow Cathedral, featuring Scottish artists whose work I have not come across in Wales, such as Herbert Hendrie, William Wilson and Douglas Strachan, as well as English makers such as Francis Spear and Marion Grant. Excellent work by Douglas Strachan was also on hand where the conference was held at the University of Glasgow, in both the Bute Hall and the University Chapel. The Chapel east window is by Lawrence Lee, a work of 1962 and roughly contemporary with two of his three Welsh commissions.

Narberth talk

nave window by Joan Fulleylove.

Joan Fulleylove, St John, 1932, Church of St Andrew, Narberth

I will be presenting a number of talks in September related to my work on stained glass in Wales. The first of these will be held in Narberth Museum on 3 September at 7.00. Earlier in the afternoon I will be at Oriel Q from 4.00, where my exhibition Patterns, Monsters and Mysteries will be in its final week, to talk about the exhibition. Immediately prior to the talk, the Church of St Andrew, Narberth, will be open from 6.00, providing an opportunity to see windows by Joan Fulleylove, Morris & Co and Robert Newbery.

I will also be speaking at conferences in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, both of which are related to broader themes. The Aberystwyth conference is a British Academy Digital Humanities Networking Event, 12-13 September, at the National Library of Wales. For the conference in Carmarthen I will be speaking about images of Welsh Saints in stained glass as well as in other media. This conference, 16-19 September, is part of The Cult of Saints in Wales Research Project at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.