Medieval Rood Screens in East Anglia

Fig. 1. Detail of the screen at Ranworth: St Michael.

Fig. 1. Detail of the screen at Ranworth: St Michael.

A pilot project organized by the Church of England and the Hamilton Kerr Institute (University of Cambridge) to create a conservation plan for the 400 medieval painted rood screens in East Anglia has received £40,000 from the Headley Trust.

The screens were built between the 14th and 16th centuries, and one of their functions was to demarcate the chancel, the responsibility of the rector, from the nave, which was the responsibility of the parishioners. They were often painted with biblical and historical figures such as saints, apostles and kings. Researchers have grouped them into two different stylistic types: those painted by local craftsmen following long-established iconographic and stylistic traditions, and those painted under the influence of, or by, foreign painters, including those employing designs from German print sources.

Fig. 2. Detail of the east window at East Harling: angel.

Fig. 2. Detail of the east window at East Harling: angel.

British CVMA author David King has pointed to similarities between some of these paintings and stained-glass windows of the same period, suggesting either cross-media influences or even multi-craft workshops. One of the most important of the first stylistic type is the screen at the parish church of St Helen at Ranworth, which includes a splendid figure of St Michael and the dragon [Fig. 1]. Some of the facial details of this figure, such as curly hair, high eyebrows, dimpled chin and heavy eyelids, can also be found in the fragmentary figure of an angel now in the east window of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul at East Harling (I 3a) [Fig. 2].

Further Reading

D. King, ‘A Multi-Media Workshop in Late Medieval Norwich – a New Look at William Heyward’, in Claire de Ruyt, Isabelle Lecocq, Michel Lefftz and Mathieu Piavaux (eds), Lumières, formes et couleurs: Mélanges en hommage à Yvette Vanden Bemden, Namur, 2008, pp. 193–201.


Images of the glass at East Harling can be seen in the CVMA (GB) Picture Archive.

Article about a recent grant to Ranworth Church.

Article about research into East Anglian rood screens.

PhD thesis about medieval rood screens in Devon.

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