- Abbey Church, Caboolture, Queensland
- Formerly in the Lady Chapel, Winchester Cathedral, England
- Late 15th – early 16th century AD
- H 250 mm W 640 mm
Created with coloured and clear glass, vitreous paint and silver stain, this superb head of an angel wearing a white alb is the highlight of the group of headers in the Abbey Museum’s collection that may have come from the South Window of the Lady Chapel in Winchester Cathedral. This window was possibly installed in around 1500, just after the Wars of the Roses which saw the Lancastrian king Henry VII seize the throne from the hapless Richard III. His queen, Elizabeth of York, came to Winchester – England’s ancient capital – for the birth of her first son, Arthur. Perhaps Winchester was chosen to give the new dynasty of the Tudors legitimacy and link it to the Arthurian legend. Shortly afterwards, the re-glazing of the Lady Chapel was undertaken possibly by the king’s glazier, either William Neve or Barnard Flower.
The headers were located high above the main lights in the stone tracery. This protected them in December 1642, during the height of the English Civil War, when Puritan troops under Sir William Waller entered the cathedral with ‘colours flying and drums beating, some on horseback’ to begin their dreadful work of destroying the beautiful painted glass and sacred images.
The Oxford newsbook, Mercurius Rusticus, recounts the horror that took place in 1643:
‘those windows which they could not reach with their Swords, Muskets, or Rests, they brake to pieces, by throwing at them the bones of Kings, Queens, Bishops, Confessors and Saints; So that the spoil done on the Windows will not be repaired for a Thousand Pounds’.12
Fortunately, just before the Civil War, a young Parliamentarian lieutenant called Hammond, who loved antiquities, wrote a detailed description of the stained glass in the Lady Chapel. According to Hammond’s description, our window represented ‘the History of the Natiuity of our Sauiour’. It was still in situ in 1897 when a major restoration by Charles Kempe removed the ancient glass and eventually it came to the Abbey Museum.
Experts have called this portrait one of the most important discoveries in stained glass in recent times, but this panel has always been for me the essence of our Tudor stained glass fragments from Winchester Cathedral; a golden-haired angel with a loving gaze looking down from the deep blue shadows of night. This angel perhaps announces the nativity of Christ or perhaps one of the chosen beings recorded in the Book of Revelation in adoration of the Lamb of God.