26 July 2019

S Anne

Near Oxford there is a village called Marsh Baldon (yes, I can assure cynical American readers that English villages really do, even outside novels, have names like that). Like most village churches, it stimulates thought.

The Buildings of England series (popularly known as 'Pevsner' even when, as in the Oxfordshire case, a particular volume was written by someone other than old Bauhaus himself) informed me that the East window dates from 1902, Heaton, Butler, and Bayne. I would have said that, beyond any doubt, this window represented a quite common English phenomenon: the gathering together (with restorations) into one window of fragments of medieval glass from throughout a church (in fact, there is another chancel window, unmentioned by 'Pevsner', including jumbled late medieval fragments from the time of one of the Henry Tudors). (Alternatively: around Oxford a late Georgian antiquary called Fletcher collected unwanted medieval glass; parts of his collection can be found in quite a number of places. But I go for my first suggestion.) I get intrigued by so often seeing tiny glass fragments too insignificant in themselves to attract attention but which cumulatively point to a massive movement in different parts of England to provide new glass, often with Renaissance motifs, on the eve of the Reformation.

The central light at Marsh Baldon has a nice representation of S Anne engaged in her customary occupation of teaching her Daughter.

And ... what a coincidence! ... the next church, Sunningwell, also has a vitreous S Anne. Here, the date is about 1877, and the designer "J P Seddon, a friend of Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites" (Pevsner), who restored the church. In this case the reason for S Anne's presence is that among those whom the window commemorates there is a woman with that Christian name.

[Unmentioned by Pevsner: there are fine and unusual encaustic tiles in the Chancel at Sunningwell, by Seddon, showing the Elders casting down their crowns before the throne; "The Lamb slain"; and related themes reminding me of Canon Chamberlain's famous Eucharistic Window in S Thomas's Oxford, representing the worship of the Lamb at the heavenly altar and, below, the Sacrifice of the Mass. The unity of the earthly and heavenly sacrifice(s), so exquisitely taught in the paragraph Supplices te rogamus of the Roman Canon, was a favourite theme among the Tractarians. Part of our Patrimony!]

For me, S Anne has Sacred Memories. She is the Patron of Pam's College ... undergraduate memories of so many Sunday lunches in Hall there before we set off on walks through the Oxfordshire countryside ... gracious, all that was nearly six decades ago ... water under bridges ...

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