Devotion and identity: the patronage of stained glass in late Medieval England
LE3 .A278 2016
Bachelor of Arts
History & Classics
The patronage of stained glass was an act of power that expressed the identity and piety of the donor. Both aristocratic and merchant-class patrons donated stained glass windows to the churches and cathedrals of late medieval England, but key differences in the location and imagery of their windows indicate a disparity between the two social classes. Firstly, this thesis studies the written works on stained glass by medieval chroniclers and modern historians, showing a movement toward focusing on the role of the patron in the analysis of medieval stained glass. Next, this thesis examines the windows donated by members of the aristocracy, which demonstrate the agency and piety of the patron through their placement throughout the entirety of the ecclesiastical structure, most notably in the east ends of cathedrals, and their representation of significant biblical and hagiographical imagery. Aristocratic patrons chose to express their noble heritage through these of heraldry, primarily within the nave, identifying themselves as members of the aristocracy. This thesis then analyzes the stained glass windows donated by members of the merchant-class and the notable absence of their windows from the east ends of cathedrals, which exhibits the limitations faced by merchant-class patrons of stained glass. Merchant-class donors chose to express their identity through representations of occupational and mercantile activities, predominantly within the nave, which demonstrated both their connection to the community and pride in their societal roles. Ultimately, this thesis illustrates that the societal structures of late medieval England are echoed in the placement and imagery of stained glass windows donated to churches and cathedrals by both aristocratic and merchant-class patrons.
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