A History of English Art in the Middle Ages

By O. Elfrida Saunders | Go to book overview
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Chapter XVIII GOTHIC ART: STAINED GLASS

THE Trinity Chapel or retrochoir at Canterbury, which was built to contain the shrine of St. Thomas, was filled between 1185 and 1220 with medallion windows depicting the miracles performed by the saint after his death. Three of these windows are still almost complete, and two others contain some of the original glass, mixed with modern restorations which are hard to distinguish from it. A single medallion showing a knight and three other pilgrims journeying to Canterbury has also recently been replaced in its original position in the window over Archbishop Walter's tomb. In Becket's Crown (the small easternmost chapel where St. Thomas's head was kept in a gilt reliquary) the central window contains glass of the same period, consisting of square medallions with Passion scenes, each surrounded by four Old Testament antitypes in half-circles.

The Trinity Chapel windows show only a slight advance in style on those of the north choir aisle, which were described in an earlier chapter. The figure-drawing is of the same simple, vivacious quality as in the earlier medallion windows, but the lines of the drapery are rather more flowing, and the ends seem often to be blown out by the wind. The attitudes have also more of the jaunty gaiety which came into English art with French courtly influence in the thirteenth century; and the clean, graceful line-work foreshadows the outlinedrawing of the St. Albans School. The same conventional 'properties' are used in this as in the earlier glass to explain the setting of the scene. The open air is represented by clouds, which are sometimes scalloped arcs of a circle in red, white, and brown glass, and sometimes white festoons; an interior scene is indicated by arches and slender columns; while hanging lamps and looped-up curtains represent a

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