Exhibition of Swiss Stained Glass at the Hermitage Collection

Enthusiastic crowds at the exhibition.

Fig. 1. Enthusiastic crowds at the exhibition.

A stunning exhibition of seventy Swiss stained glass panels from the sixteenth – eighteenth centuries has attracted large crowds at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, Russia. It will remain open until 3 October 2010, and can be seen in Rooms 169–173. [Fig. 1]

According to curator, Elena Shlikevich, the history of the Museum’s stained glass collection reflects the recent history of Russia itself. The nucleus of the collection was given to the museum by Tsar Alexander III in 1886 but was diminished in the 1930s when the Soviet government consigned 130 pieces to an auction in Switzerland. At the same time, and later, art institutions and private donors gave pieces to the museum.

The current exhibition is the first devoted entirely to Swiss stained glass and contains a number of exceptionally fine examples.

An attractive Russian language only catalogue complements the exhibition.

For visiting details, including opening hours see the Hermitage Collection website.

Exhibition of St William Shrines

Carving from the 1330s shrine. © The Yorkshire Museum.

Fig 1 Carving from the 1330s shrine. © The Yorkshire Museum

A new exhibition, Medieval York – the Power and the Glory, at the Yorkshire Museum, York, includes the remains of two medieval shrines that were built to honour St William, a local saint and former archbishop of York. Before their dismantlement in 1541 both objects, one from the early fourteenth century, the other made around 1485, were complemented by the still surviving magnificent window illustrating the saint’s life and miracles, which was installed in the north aisle of the choir around 1414.

As part of the essential background research for the recent restoration and reordering of this window, Professor Christopher Norton, CVMA Committee member, wrote a definitive biography of the saint (born between 1090 and 1100) tracing his family background and upbringing as a member of the royal household before being appointed Treasurer of York. The book describes the bitter disputes which surrounded his election as Archbishop of York in 1141 and the efforts of those who campaigned to prevent his confirmation in office. According to critics the election had been flawed by external influences and financial inducements. St Bernard of Clairvaux, who was promoting a fellow Cistercian for the post, told the Pope, ‘I have it on the authority of truthful men that .. (William) .. is rotten from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head’. After the election of a pope favourable to St Bernard, William was formally deposed as archbishop by Pope Eugenius III in 1147 and returned home to live in relative obscurity in Winchester. Professor Norton argues that there was not just a single reason for this dispute which should be better understood as ‘a microcosm of contemporary English political and ecclesiastical history; complex, confused, protracted and multi-faceted with a large cast of characters ..caught up in a constantly changing and probably only partially understood drama’.

Carving of an eagle from the 1330s tomb. © the Yorkshire Museum

Fig 2 Carving of an eagle from the 1330s tomb. © the Yorkshire Museum

All changed in 1153 when three of William’s greatest enemies: the pope who had deposed him, St Bernard who had led the campaign to unseat him and Henry Murdac who had succeeded him as archbishop, died in quick succession, prompting William to return to Rome and seek his reinstatement as archbishop. Successful in his quest, William entered York in triumph a year later, only to die in mysterious circumstances a few months afterwards. Posthumous miracles were said to have occurred at his tomb and he was declared a saint in 1226. 

Professor Norton’s discussion of the events surrounding William’s canonisation is compelling. He shows that a series of miracles said to have occurred during the week of Pentecost in 1177 followed a distinctive pattern best understood in numerical form and apparently based on the numbers 1 and 3, symbolic of the Holy Trinity. He links the saint’s canonisation in 1226 to York’s desperate search for such a major figure for their church and the canonisation of other English saints in this period. A miracle said to have occurred at William’s tomb and shown in the St William window is singled out for extensive discussion; the healing of ‘a man called Ralph’ who was blinded in a duel by his adversary Besing. When Ralph prayed before the tomb of the saint his sight was restored, regaining eyes but of a different colour to those he had lost. Another report of this story saw Ralph also castrated by Besing who then threw his defeated opponent’s eyes and testicles into the watching crowd; a horrifying event which the author puts into the context of trials by battle and royal justice at this time.

The St William window in York Minster is one of the greatest stained glass monuments in Europe. Professor Norton’s book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand this masterpiece of medieval narration and belief. Together with the long-awaited exhibition of St William’s shrines, they form a triple gateway into the riches and rituals of the Middle Ages.


An article about the newly displayed stained glass in the museum, which includes panels from Wakefield cathedral and Sainte-Denis in Paris, will appear in a future issue of Vidimus.

To buy a copy of Professor Norton’s book,’ St William of York contact

Further reading

T. French, York Minster, The St William Window, CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 5, Oxford, 1999

Medieval Stained Glass Online from the Church of St Nicholas at Bad Wilsnack 

Heraldic glazing: a lion with a banner inscribed Borselen.Fig. 1. Heraldic glazing: a lion with a banner inscribed Borselen.

St John the Evangelist.

Fig. 2. St John the Evangelist.

The German CVMA (Potsdam) has created a stunning website about the medieval stained glass windows of the church of St Nicholas at Bad Wilsnack:

The church was one of the most prominent centres of pilgrimage in late medieval Europe as people flocked to see three miraculous consecrated hosts, reputedly stained with Christ’s blood. Among the many visitors was the English mystic Margery Kempe (c. 1373 – after 1438) whose autobiography The Book of Margery Kempe, describes her seeing the ‘precious blood which by a miracle came out of a blessed sacrament of the altar’  .

Although little remains of most of the building’s once lavish decoration, the stained glass constitutes one of the most extensive medieval ensembles of stained glass in the Brandenburg region of Germany. 

St James.

Fig. 3. St James.

Executed in the third quarter of the fifteenth century, the ensemble includes some magnificent heraldic displays by a workshop active in the Netherlands, namely that of Zweer van Opbueren Wesselsz from The Hague. This glass was commissioned for Bad Wilsnack in the late 1450s by the eminent nobleman Frank van Borselen (c.1400–1470). An exceptionally beautiful second group of panels was executed by an atelier whose work also survives in Stendal and Werben, as well as in Brandenburg an der Havel cathedral.


Further Reading

For the glass


  • U. Bednarz, E. Fitz, F. Martin, M. Mock, G. J. Pfeiffer, M. Voigt, Die mittelalterlichen Glasmalereien in Berlin und Brandenburg, Mit einer kunsthistorischen Einleitung von Peter Knüvener (Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Deutschland XXII), Berlin, 2010

For context

  • Karl-Joachim Maercker, Die mittelalterliche Glasmalerei in der Stendaler Jakobikirche, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Deutschland Bd. XVIII, 2, Berlin 1995
  • Eva Fitz, Die mittelalterlichen Glasmalereien im Halberstädter Dom, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Deutschland Bd. XVII, Berlin, 2003
  • Monika Böning, Die mittelalterlichen Glasmalereien in der Werbener Johanniskirche Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Deutschland Bd. XIX, Berlin, 2007. For a review of this book see Vidimus35

For Margery Kemp

  • Margery Kempe, Barry A. Windeatt. The book of Margery Kempe, London 1985, 2nd second edition with revised bibliography, 1994. For her visit to Bad Wilsnak, see: pp. 278–279

Carola Hicks

Carola Hicks (1941–2010). Image courtesy of Mr G. Hicks. Photograph by Sergio Bondioni.

Fig. 1. Carola Hicks (1941–2010). Image courtesy of Mr G. Hicks. Photograph by Sergio Bondioni.

The tragically early death of Carola Hicks on June 23, aged 68, will be mourned by everyone interested in stained glass and medieval art.

Among her many achievements were several of particular importance to Vidimus readers: she was a curator of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely cathedral from 1984–1989 and the author of two best-selling books, first thoroughly revising John Harries’s short guide to Discovering Stained Glass for Shire Books in 1996 and then in 2007 producing The King’s Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art (2007), an immensely readable account about the making of the superb sixteenth-century windows of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.

Born in 1941, her father was killed on active service in North Africa in 1943. Brought up by her mother who worked as a professional actress, Carola read archaeology with medieval art history at Edinburgh University, gaining a first in 1964, followed by a PhD in 1967 on the ’animal style in English Romanesque art‘. Later she worked at the British Museum, on the publication of The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial and in 1978 became a research fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, where she turned her doctoral research into a book on Animals in Early Medieval Art  for Edinburgh University Press (1993).

In 1984 she became Curator of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral, a post she combined with teaching for the History of Art department and the Extra-Mural department at Cambridge University. After leaving the museum, Carola was Director of Studies in Art History for a number of Cambridge colleges including Newnham, where she was a fellow. From 1979 to 1981 she was Assistant Editor of Medieval Archaeology for the society of Medieval Archaeology and then editor of the society’s monograph series. In 2006 she published The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece and recently she had become Reviews Editor of The Antiquaries’ Journala post she relinquished only when she became ill.  

Other publications included: England in the Eleventh Century: Proceedings of the 1990 Harlaxton Symposium (editor) (1992); Cambridgeshire Churches (editor) Improper Pursuits: the Scandalous Life of Lady Di Beauclerk (London 2001).

Sarah Brown, Chairman of the CVMA and conservation advisor to the Stained Glass Museum, paid tribute to Carola’s contribution to the museum. ‘Carola was a tremendous asset to the museum. She had the foresight and skills to document its growing collection and was instrumental in cementing its reputation with funders and other museums. She was extremely articulate and a great advocate for the museum and stained glass. The last time I saw her in 2008 she was giving a lecture on the Kings College glass to the Friends of the museum. She never forgot us and we will never forget her.’

Carola Hicks, art historian and author, was born on November 7, 1941. She died of cancer on June 23, 2010, aged 68.

Alice Free at the Hungate Medieval Art Centre

Alice Free at the Hungate Medieval Art. © Julia Cameron

Fig. 1. Alice Free at the Hungate Medieval Art. © Julia Cameron

Alice Free has been appointed manager of the Hungate Medieval Art Centre in Norwich. She studied Art History and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and has a MA in Cultural Heritage Management from the University of East Anglia. She succeeds Dale Copley who has moved to the Tower of London.

Other news from Hungate includes the introduction of a new flat £3 (£2.50 concessions) annual pass entitling visitors to return to the Centre whenever they like – a great value for money initiative.

Forthcoming highlights include an exhibition by local award-winning photographer, Julia Cameron, focusing on the redundant church of St Peter Hungate itself.

The Centre currently features a permanent exhibition on Norfolk’s medieval stained glass, with beautiful backlit images of glass from across the county by Mike Dixon. The exhibition was curated by CVMA supporter, Dr Claire Daunton.

For more information about this and other activities plus details of opening times, see the Hungate Medieval Art Centre website.

Medieval Glass Seminar at the Corning Museum, 14–16 October 2010

The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York state, will host its 49th annual seminar on glass from 14–16 October. This year’s topic is Medieval Glass and Its Influence.

Lecture topics will include: Medieval Glass and Glassmaking, by Dr David Whitehouse, Executive Director of the Museum and Curator of Ancient and Islamic Glass; Medieval Glass and How it was Made, by William Gudenrath, Resident Advisor of The Studio and President of the Fellows of the Museum; Heraldry and the Continuous Application of a Medieval Art Form in Glass, by Florian Knothe, Curator of European glass at the Museum; by Dr Timothy Husband, Curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, and Medieval Stained Glass and its Architectural Context, Responses to Medieval Art and Craftmanship in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries, by Peter Cormack, Visiting Research Fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The seminar will also include tours of special exhibitions, a behind-the-scenes look at the Museum’s new conservation studio and demonstrations of glass blowing at an outdoor wood-fired furnace.

A brochure is available to download from the Programmes and Events area of the Corning Museum website.

For further information see the Corning Museum website.

Important Manuscripts Sold at Auction 

Arms of Anne de Montmorency c. 1548–50. © Trustees of the Victoria & Albert Museum

Fig. 1. Arms of Anne de Montmorency c. 1548–50. © Trustees of the Victoria & Albert Museum

Exceptional illuminated manuscripts made for some of the most important patrons of Medieval and Renaissance glazing schemes were offered for sale at auction in London last month.

Among the outstanding items at Christies on 7 July from the Arcana collection of manuscripts and incunabula (printed books before 1501), formed over the last fifty years by the retired US financier, Ladislaus von Hoffman, was a combined Book of Hours and Psalter made in Cambridge between 1330 and 1340 for Elizabeth de Bohun, the wife of William de Bohun (d. 1360), first Earl of Northampton. The de Bohun arms can be seen in a window at the parish church of St Nicholas, Stanford (Northants). In the nineteenth century they were also recorded in a now lost window at the parish church of St Mary and All Saints at Nassington (Northants).

The star lot at Sotheby’s on 6 July was a Book of Hours written and illuminated for Anne de Montmorency (1493–1567), a major patron of French Renaissance stained glass.

Despite his biblical name, Anne was a man and a close childhood friend of the future king Francois I. He was Marshal of France from 1522, Grand Master of France from 1526 and Constable of France from 1538 until his glittering career ran into trouble in 1539– 40 and he lost the confidence of the king. He returned to court after Francois’s death.

During his life Anne commissioned a number of spectacular windows. They include examples at the collegiate church of Saint-Martin at Montmorency made between 1523–24. He can be seen with his wife, Madeline of Savoie, kneeling before scenes from the life of Christ in the parish church of Saint-Acceul in Ecouen and again in windows of c. 1550 at Mesnil-Aubry. A panel displaying his badge and monogram, thought to be part of a large scheme of heraldic and figurative painted and stained glass he had commissioned for his Chateau at Ecouen, can be seen in Room 62, case 15, in the Medieval and Renaissance galleries of the Victoria and Albert museum. [Fig. 1]

Name that Roundel! 


Name that roundel!

Fig. 1. Name that roundel!

This month’s puzzle comes from a small collection of roundels arranged in the east window of the south aisle at the parish church of the Holy Trinity at Denford (Northamptonshire). It is approx. 24 cm with sepia paint, light and dark yellow stain and some flesh-coloured enamel. It has been dated to the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries, and shows an older, bearded man giving money from his purse to a younger clean-shaven figure while to their right two (servant?) women carry an unconscious half-naked man into a building, possibly an inn.

What scene does our roundel show?

Roundels and other single panels of this period typically depict a range of subjects, including stories from the Old and New Testaments, the lives of saints, and tales from ancient history and classical literature such as Homer’s Odyssey.  Moral themes can also appear. 

The solution can be found at the foot of this month’s Books section.



Friday 15 October: BSMGP Autumn Lecture 6.15 for 6.45pm, Tom Denny – ‘Recent windows in extraordinary buildings’. For more information see the BSMGP website.

Conferences/Study Events

Thursday 2 – Sunday 5 September:  BSMGP 2010 Annual Conference in Winchester and the New Forest.  Delegates will visit the Cathedral, Winchester College and the Hospital of St Cross. Other highlights include a visit to the church of St John, at Rownhams, near Southampton, to see its spectacular collection of 15th- 17th-century roundels. The residential fee is £290 for members. For more information contact: Forest 

Wednesday 15 September2010 conference of the Stained Glass Group of the Institute of Conservation (ICON) at the Cripps Auditorium, Magdalene College, Cambridge. Speakers will discuss ‘Colleges, Parishes & Villas, Stained Glass Conservation in the South of England’ and include Martin Harrison, Prof. Joost Caen, Prof. Sebastian Strobl (Germany) and Elise Learner (France). Non-members are welcome. Lunch is included in the delegate fee of £78 for ICON members and students, £88 non-members. For further details and information about booking please contact Peter Campling at or phone 01603 891505.Cripps  



Until 8 August: Saints, Sinners and Story Tellers, Medieval Wollaton Manuscriptsat the Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham. Admission free. For more information see the Lakeside Arts Centre website.

Until 8 August: Old Testament Imagery in Medieval Christian Manuscripts at Getty Centre, California, USA. For more information see the Getty Centre websitethe 

Until 3 October: Swiss Stained Glass, 16th to 18th Century from the Hermitage Collection, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Until 31 December: Vitraux de la renaissance à Chartres at the Centre International du Vitrail, Chartres. For more details see the Centre International du Vitrail website.

Until 2 January 2011: Medieval Glass for Popes, Princes and Peasants at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York. This is an exhibition of vessel glass. For more information see the Corning Museum website.


From 1 August: New galleries open at the Yorkshire Museum, York. Exhibits include stained glass.

From 24 August 2010 – 6 February 2011: Illuminated Manuscripts from Belgium and the NetherlandsGetty Museum of Art.

From 6 October – 17 January: Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

From 17 October 2010 – 17 Jan 2011: Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA.

From 16 November 2010 – 6 February 2011: Imagining the Past in France, 1250–1500, Getty Museum of Art.

From 13 Feb – 5 August 2011: Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 

From 6 October – 17 January: Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  

From 23 June 2011 – 10 September 2011: Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, at the British Museum, London.  

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