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Panel of the Month

When Devils Prowled: Jangling & Idle Gossip in Medieval Churches

Fig. 1.Warning against idle Gossip, Church of St Nicholas, Stanford-on-Avon. © Gordon Plumb.

This month’s panel is a tracery light from the parish church of St Nicholas at Stanford-on-Avon, near Daventry, in Northamptonshire.

Description of panel

The panel shows three women in conversation while surrounded by assorted denizens of hell. The most prominent of the women wears a pot metal yellow mantle over a murrey gown and holds a yellow-stain rosary. On the right is the upper part of a fierce monster in pale blue glass and on the left are the upper half of a green devil and the lower section of a ruby monster.

It measures h. 0.32m by w. 0.35m. Professor Richard Marks has assigned it to a major glazing campaign in the church of c. 1330–1350 (Further Reading: Marks, 1998).

The panel is the only certain example in stained glass of a subject sometimes called the Warning against Idle Gossip, an image more commonly found in surviving English wall paintings of the period. [Fig. 1] Its importance – both in terms of its rarity and the way it was intended to be seen and understood by medieval audiences – cannot be overstated.