Category Archives: Norfolk medieval painting

Women and Women saints in Norfolk’s medieval stained glass

Most surviving stained glass features tracery figures. Human beings as well as angels, populate the windows; women appear mainly as Virgins, and other saints, whilst men are prophets, patriarchs, kings and clerics – and both appear as patrons.

Anne Boleyn, wife of Sir John Shelton (relative of Queen Anne Boleyn). Donor, Shelton church c1500-1505.

The most common image of a woman in Norfolk glass is the Virgin Mary, who appears in scenes including the Annunciation, the Assumption and the Coronation of the Virgin, as well as multiple Nativities. There are a few images of Mary Magdalen (Burnham Market, photo) and many more of the myriad virgin saints. The most popular in Norfolk were St Margaret of Antioch, usually portrayed slaying a dragon, St Catherine the Great (with her wheel) and St Barbara (with her tower). Others include St Juliana and St Agatha. There are good examples at Cley, Stratton Strawless, Martham and Salle

The virgin Mary, part of an assumption scene at Bale.

The photos in the carousel below are all of donors and women saints:


Norfolk medieval stained glass. Apostles, patriarchs and prophets.

Most remaining Norfolk glass is from the fifteenth century. This is probably because much of the glass from the thirteenth and fourteenth century was destroyed when churches were enlarged and given bigger windows in the fifteenth century (and also during the iconoclasm of Edward vi’s reign). The earliest Norfolk glass is in Saxlingham Nethergate church, which has thirteenth century roundels of St Edmund’s martyrdom.

The martyrdom of St Edmund, Saxlingham Nethergate

There is good fourteenth century glass in Mileham west window, a couple of fourteenth century prophets in Bale.

There is a particular style in a number of windows of apostles, patriarchs and prophets. Full length portraits are backed by a three-sided screen, its height about three quarters of the height of the figures. Sometimes the quarry was decorated with the rose en soleil, the Yorkist badge.

The apostles in the windows of the Norwich Guildhall are particularly good

St Bartholomew, Norwich Guildhall (with screen and rose en soleil above)

and the finest of the patriarchs with perhaps the best stained glass work in Norfolk are found in the tracery lights  in the chancel at Salle church, where the panels are big enough to occupy the main lights of a smaller church. St Peter Hungate in Norwich has an excellent collection of glass, including some of the apostles. Stratton Strawless has a good quality window with the evangelists.

Elijah, Salle.

But the purpose of this post is not to discuss the work in great detail but to allow you, the viewer to look at the images and draw your own conclusions about the glass which was produced in Norwich in the fifteenth century.