Saturday, 6 July 2013

Exotic glass

Well exotic in the sense of very unusual subject matter certainly. A King called Melchizedek. Who? Exactly....

13th century stained glass
Last Thursday it was Independance Day and as I had been offiicially cleared to drive again after my operation we decided to go up to Vouvray to buy some wine from one of the producers we like. A tasty way to show a small token of support after the recent destruction wreaked by the ferocious hailstorm in mid June.

Wine duly sampled, bought and stowed in the car we drove off. Rochecorbon is one of the villages which make up the Vouvray appellation and, like Vouvray, is made up of little valleys which run up from river Loire to the actual slopes where you find the vines. Each little twisty road hides a multitude of semi troglodyte houses and wine producers.

One of these little valleys used to be the parish of St Georges-sur-Loire. That was many years ago [since 1808 it forms part of the commune of Rochecorbon]. Part way up the valley, squashed between two houses, each the home/domaine of a Vouvray producer, lies the small Chapel of St George which has a number of treasures. The oldest section is troglogyte and grew up round a 5th century oratory carved out of the rock. It contains some lovely wall paintings. However, in addtion it also has what, for us, is the star of the show: 'proper' mediaeval stained glass. This is quite special, as very little glass in this area survived firstly the French Wars of Religion [1562 -98] and then secondly the ravages of the French Revolution.

The glass is 13th century and in a window above the altar, though the border is late 19th century. Not only is it a rare survivor, but its subject matter is highly unusual to say the least. The top panel shows a king and an angel making a flagellant's stick. You can clearly see the knotted ropes on the end of the stick and the angel seems to be handing it to the king on the left.

Angel with flagellant's stick on the right
The bottom panel shows King Melchizedek receiving homage from Abraham. We'd never heard of this king and had to do some digging. A priest-king, he met Abraham and blessed him, giving him bread and wine. In return Abraham gave him a 10th of everything he owned. This is the scene which is shown in the window. Melchizedek is on the left holding an orb and crown. On the right Abraham is seated in a chair bowing to receive the King's blessing. Not what you'd call a commonly seen piece of iconography.

King-Priest Melchizedek on the left
In additon to the 13th century window there are two roundels on the south side. They clearly show the connection of the area to viniculture. One shows a labourer tending the vines and the other a cooper hammering in a band to keep the staves of a wine barrel together.

Tending the vines

A cooper making a wine barrel
Both are very much in the same style as the 13th century window, but their condition is so good that we are fairly sure these are very good late 19th century copies of originals and done about the same time as the border of the 13th century window.


the fly in the web said...

You must be reveling in the freedom from pain.

I had a vague recollection of Melchizedek being used as a basis for the imposition of tithes....apart from the references to being a priest in the order of Melchizedek...

Lovely glass, though....what are the wall paintings like and from what period do you think?

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - oh yes and being mobile :-)

wall paintings and a fresco from different centuries. They deserve a separate post and will be appearing soon.

Susan said...

I'm glad to see you write this place up. It's somewhere we have been considering for clients.

Perpetua said...

it must be great to be driving again, and as Fly says, without pain.

Gorgeous stained glass and I think you're right about the roundels - too crisp and clean to be original, but very much in the style of the C13th. How sad that so little mediaeval glass has survived.

PS I I'd heard of Melchizedek, but you'd expect that from me. :-)

Craig said...

Stunning windows. Congratulations to you both. Antoinette for being mobile and pain free and Niall for hot being the sole chauffeur any more!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Susan - we wondered if you'd seen this place. It is well worth a bit of anybody's time and just a stone's throw from Gaudrelle.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - happily they have done a really good job on the reproduction roundels. So often 19th cent glass is garish in its colours.

Naturally you'd heard of him! We'd be most disappointed if you hadn't ;-)

He is, however -to the best of our knowledge- quite an unusual subject in mediaeval glass.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Craig - Niall doesn't drive so we had about 3 weeks at home. Friends kindly allowed us to hitch rides for [fresh veg/fruit] shopping and we'd stocked up heavily beforehand so it all worked fine.