Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi

Medieval Stained Glass in Great Britain

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Norfolk: Dunston, Parish Church of St Remigius

O.S. TG 228024

This small church was much restored in the nineteenth century, and all the windows were renewed, except possibly the north-west window in the chancel, where the side fenestration is Early English. 1 Two single lancet windows on the south side (sII and sIII) contain medieval glass, of which the more interesting is sII. In the top half (2a) a nun kneels before a nimbed bishop labelled Remigius. Martin tells us that the nun was formerly labelled as the Prioress of Flixton. 2 The advowson of Dunston Church was given to this Suffolk nunnery in 1264 by its foundress, Margery, widow of Bartholomew de Creke. The initial grant had certain conditions attached, which were removed by a grant in pure alms in 1288. 3 The prioress at this time was Beatrice of Rattlesden, who held office until 1292. 4 The glass, which includes the church’s patron saint, may have been made to celebrate the 1288 grant, or, more probably, Beatrice’s death, which probably occurred in 1292 or shortly after. Stylistically, either date is possible, and a date range of c.1280 – c.1300 is probable. 5

There is some doubt as to the identity of the saint represented with the donor. It is obviously connected to the dedication of the church to St Remigius. Of the six known dedications to this saint in England, four are in Norfolk and there is a cluster of dedications in the south of the county including Dunston. 6 There is a possibility that some or all of these refer not to St Remigius of Rheims, but to the first bishop of Lincoln, Remigius of Fécamp, who died in 1092. There was an attempt, led by Gerald of Wales who wrote a Vita in 1196–99, to promote his canonization. This was ultimately unsuccessful, but the cult continued into the thirteenth century, and Remigius was described as a saint by Matthew Paris in the latest part of the Chronica Majora, covering the years 1254–59. 7 Whether Beatrice of Rattlesden in the late thirteenth century knew which St Remigius the church was dedicated to (both were bishops), and which she intended to be represented in the window, cannot be ascertained.

The panel below has a reset fifteenth-century figure of St Christopher carrying the Christ child. Martin says that it was in a south window over two shields of arms: Argent a cross gules and Gules a cross argent; these are for St George and St Michael respectively and frequently occur together in the fifteenth century, sometimes with St Christopher. 8 Norris records these shields in sV, the most likely south window to have contained a St Christopher, as it is nearest the north door and next to the south door. 9 Images of this saint were usually opposite a door to allow easy visibility to travellers.

Window sIII now has a figure of a saint holding a spiked club, of which only the piece with the club and head is medieval. The rest of the panel is by the workshop of John Dixon, the Norwich glazier. 10 The medieval head may not come from Dunston, and is possibly from St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, where Dixon was a churchwarden and glazier; two copies of this head by Dixon are also in that church. 11 The identification of the saint with spiked club is rather difficult. Two saints were given this attribute: St Nicomede of Rome and St Vitalis of Bologna. 12 According to the apocryphal acts of Sts Nereus and Achilles, Nicomede was a priest, whereas St Vitalis is said to have been a servant of St Agricola. 13 The high collar worn by the figure in the glass indicates a priest, rather than a lay person. On the other hand, the recorded relics of St Nicomede are in Italy or Germany, and relics of St Vitalis are recorded at Winchester. 14 Overall, St Nicomede seems the more likely choice.

The other south nave window (sIV) contained two coats of arms, Sable three bars, in chief three annulets argent (Multon), and Argent six mullets within a border gules. No connection has been established between this family and Dunston, but members of the family held land in Keswick and Cringleford a few miles north-west of Dunston. This window also had a depiction of the Annunciation with ‘Ecce Ancilla D(omi)ni fiat mi(hi) [missing] tua’. The name ‘Walteri’, reversed, was also seen.

Martin recorded other glass with religious subject matter. In a north window was a series of roundels, two with depictions of the Resurrection and the Ascension, and two with ' IHC ' and ' M ' monograms. In another north window was a Gnadenstuhl Trinity surrounded by two texts: ‘Quos: ornat: Sumptus: Benedicat: t’nus: et: un’ and ‘Quos: opus: hoc: orat: altissimus: tis: Benedica’t’. These garbled and incomplete texts are not fully decipherable. The same window also had a broken roundel with ‘Matheus’, probably from another set of roundels with the Four Evangelist emblems. In the chancel the east window had ‘Virgin & our saviour’, probably a Virgin and Child, and ‘God ye Father painted as before’, presumably another image of the Trinity; this was ‘much broken’. There was also a demi-figure of an angel carrying a scroll with ‘Sanctus Matheus’. It appears that the windows were glazed piecemeal at different periods as money became available.


Pevsner and Wilson 1999, p. 313. Return to context
NRO, Rye MS 17, II, f.53r. Return to context
Blomefield and Parkin 1805–10, V, pp. 56–57. Return to context
Copinger 1904–1907, II, p. 391. Return to context
Another female donor figure made for a Norwich friary may date from exactly the same period; King 2004, pp. 123–24. Return to context
Linnell 1962, p. 18. Return to context
Bates 1992, pp. 34–36. Return to context
NRO, Rye MS 17, II, f.53r. Return to context
NRO, Rye MS 6, p. 74. Return to context
Haward 1984, gazetteer. For the career of Dixon, see ibid., pp. 226–30. Return to context
For Dixon’s work at Norwich, St Peter Mancroft, see King 2006, pp. xlvii, xlix, lxii, lxviii, lxix, clxix, clxxiv, ccxv, ccxvii, 17, 39, 44, 117, 122, 123, 124, 159, 172, fig. 17. Return to context
Drake 1926, pp. 94, 161. Return to context
Baring-Gould 1914, 14 September and 4 November. Return to context
Lehmann-Brockhaus 1956, II, p. 661, no. 4727. Return to context
Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi

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