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X.—The St. Albans School of Painting, Mural and Miniature: Part I. Mural Painting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 November 2011

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The history of mural and panel painting in England before the sixteenth century may perhaps be divided into three periods. Firstly, that from the Norman Conquest, or possibly before, which continued during the wave of monastic enthusiasm which swept over Europe, and ended at the close of the thirteenth century. During this time there is every reason to suppose from the evidence of chronicles, fabric rolls, and works accounts that in England as well as elsewhere all the decorative arts were practised by persons associated together in schools or lodges with three gradations of members, namely, masters, workmen, and apprentices or novices. Art was at this date fostered by the monasteries, indeed, those who practised it were largely drawn from the inmates of the Benedictine houses, and it would seem that, at all events at St. Albans, the sacrists were themselves workers and sometimes held the rank of master workmen. During this period one man practised many arts. We know that Richard the Painter superintended the building of Hereford Castle in 1172, and, later, Master John of St. Omer, while making the great lectern for the chapter house at Westminster in 1253, had carpenters, masons, painters, smiths, and others working under his direction. Numerous other instances could be quoted were not the practice so well known as to make it unnecessary.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 1902

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page 275 note a Scott, Leader, The Cathedral Builders, 16, 265,Google Scholar etc. For the gradation of workmen see the Excheq. K. R. Accts., Works, Bdles. 466, 467, 468, 471, etc.

page 275 note b Master Baldwin, a celebrated goldsmith, was sacrist in 1186 (Gesta Abbatum S. Albani, Bolls Series, 28 [4], i. 190, 191, 205Google Scholar). Master Walter of Colchester, of whom hereafter, was sacrist in 1213. Master Gilbert of Eyersolt was sacrist and master of the works in 1218 (Ibid. 205, 219, 220). They seem to have obtained notoriety as master workmen before they became monks.

page 275 note c Pipe Roll Soc. xix. 39Google Scholar; xxi. 121.

page 276 note a Excheq. K. R. Accts., Works, Bdle. 467, Xos. 1 and 2.

page 276 note b Dr. Alf. Woltmann and Dr Woerrnann, Karl, History of Painting, i. 356Google Scholar.

page 276 note c The only reference to any painting in the Saxon church is to that of the shrine (Gesta Abbatttum S. Albani, i. 36Google Scholar).

page 276 note d Gesia Abbatum, i. 62Google Scholar.

page 277 note a See Plate XVII. fig. 6.

page 277 note b The coloured decoration here has been renewed, and some of the decorations in the north transept are certainly not Norman in colour or design.

page 277 note c See Plate XVII. figs. 1-5, for this and the following descriptions.

page 278 note a i. 60.

page 278 note b Gesta Abbatum, i. 63Google Scholar.

page 278 note c From the time of Paul of Caen, the first Norman abbot, there appears to have been at St. Albans a school of art workers, which excelled principally in the goldsmith's craft. Abbot Richard (1097-1119) fostered this art (Gesta Abbalum, i. 69Google Scholar), and in the time of his successor, Abbot Geoffrey (1119-1146), a beautiful shrine was made for the relics of St. Alban by Anketil. a monk of the abbey, who had been goldsmith to the King of Denmark. He was assisted by his pupil, Solomon of Ely (Ibid. 83, 86). Master John the Goldsmirh or John of St. Albans followed, who worked on the shrine; his son Nicholas was keeper of the mint to the King of Denmark and afterwards served the King of England in a like capacity (Ibid. 19, 189). Master Baldwin, who was sacrist of St. Alban's Abbey in 1186, was a renowned goldsmith (Ibid. 190). Walter of Colchester, Richard the Monk, and other members of the monastery also practised the goldsmith's art. It may bs noticed that several of these artists became monks at the Abbey after they had worked at their arts for some time and had obtained probably the position of master workman.

page 278 note d Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Johannis Baptiste de Colcestria (Roxburghe Club), ii. 586,Google Scholar Walter of Colchester is frequently referred to in the Gesta Abbatum as Walter the Painter.

page 279 note a Paris, Matthew, Chronica Majora (Rolls Series), ii. 559.Google Scholar

page 279 note b Paris, Matthew, Chronica Majora, vi. 271.Google Scholar

page 279 note c Records of them will be found scattered through vol. i. of the Gesta Abbaturn (Rolls Series).

page 279 note d Gesta Abbatum, i. 232Google Scholar.

page 279 note e Ibid. i. 279.

page 279 note f Ibid. i. 283, 286.

page 279 note g Paris, Matthew, Chronica Majora (Rolls Series), iii. 59,Google Scholar and Historia Anglorum, ii. 242Google Scholar.

page 280 note a Paris, Matthew, Chronica Majora, vi. 271.Google Scholar

page 280 note b Gesta Abbatum, i. 232Google Scholar.

page 280 note c Paris, Matthew, Chronica Majora. Addit. vi. 202.Google Scholar

page 280 note d Cott. MS. Julius D. 3, fol. 27

page 280 note e Gesta Abbatum, i. 305Google Scholar.

page 280 note f Paris, Matthew, Chronica Majora, vi. 271.Google Scholar

page 280 note g i. 233.

page 281 note a Lloyd, Ridgway, The Altars, Monuments, and Tombs in St. Alban's Abbey in 1428. Langley, St. Albans, 1873.Google Scholar

page 281 note b P. 109.

page 282 note a See Altars, etc. in St. Alban's Abbey, by Lloyd, Ridgway, 15, 50, 60.Google Scholar

page 282 note b Proc. Soc. Antiq. Lond. N.S. ii. 198Google Scholar.

page 282 note c See Cott, MS. Nero D. 1, and other St. Albans MSS.

page 283 note a Theophilus, , Upon various Arts. Translated by Hendrie, , 1847, p. 5.Google Scholar

page 283 note b Royal MS. 2 B. vi. fol. 12b.

page 284 note a Mr. George Gilbert Scott in his History of English Church Architecture, pp. 119,120, 121, suggests that the nave ceiling at St. Albans destroyed by Lord Grimthorpe was that erected by Walter of Colchester, but the work on some pieces of the panels which I have seen is not, I think, earlier than the sixteenth century.

page 284 note b Close Roll, 33 Hen. III. m. 3.

page 285 note a Exclieq. K. R. Accounts, Works, Bdle. 466 No. 30; Bdle. 467, No. 1; and Bdle. 467, No. 2.

page 285 note b Gesta Abbatum, ii. 124, 125, etcGoogle Scholar.

page 285 note c The works at St. Alban's Abbey executed during the long abbacies of Abbot Thomas de la Mare (1349-1396) and Abbot John of Wheathampstead (1420-1464) were clearly influenced by these abbots.

page 285 note d Cott, MS. Julius D. 3, fol. 48d.

page 285 note e Vettista Monumenta, vi. 27Google Scholar. The evidence in support of this identification does not seem strong.

page 285 note f Excheq. K. R. Accounts, Bdle. 468, No. 6.

page 285 note g Cott. MS. Julius D. 3, fol, 43d, 48d.

page 285 note h De Banco Roll No. 86 (18-19 Edw. I., Mich.), rot, 22

page 286 note a Lay Subsidy, 120/2;

page 286 note b Excheq. K. R. Accounts, Bdle. 468, No. 6.

page 286 note c Lay Subsidy, 120/3;

page 286 note d Cott, MS. Julius D. 3.

page 286 note e The large figures painted on the wall between the windows of the clerestory in the choir may of this date, but they are so indistinct that it is impossible to speak definitely as to their age.

page 286 note f Excheq. K. R. Accts., Wardrobe,391/1.

page 286 note g Rymer, , Fædera, v. 670.Google Scholar

page 286 note h Excheq. K. R. Accts., 471/6, 471/11, 471/15.

page 287 note a Excheq. K. R. Accts., 468/2, 468/6, 471/6, 471/11, 471/15.

page 288 note a Cott. MS. Nero D. 7.

page 288 note b Wall Paintings in St. Allan's Abbey (pamphlet). The altar of St. Benedict formerly stood on the opposite side to this painting, but it is questionable whether this figure could represent that saint.

page 288 note c Middlesex and Herts Notes and Queries, iv. 49Google Scholar.

page 288 note d This figure is now lost, but a drawing of it is given in Gough's Sepulchral Monuments. Mr. J. Gr. Waller suggests that this painting may represent the story of Quo Vadis.

page 289 note a This painting was found by Rev. Dr. Nicholson, who reported his discovery to this Society on 22nd April, 1852. See Proc. Soc. Antiq. Lond. ii. 244Google Scholar.

page 289 note b Gesta Abbatum, ii. 433Google Scholar.

page 290 note a Archaeologia, li. 427Google Scholar.

page 290 note b Cott. MS. Nero D. 7.

page 291 note a The inscription below the painting, now almost obliterated, is given by Mr. Ridgway Lloyd in his paper on the paintings before referred to. It is taken from the prayers after Mass in the Sarum Missal, and is as follows:

Mors tua, mors Christi, fraus mundi, gloria celi

Et dolor inferni, sint memoranda tibi

In cruce sum pro te; qni peccas, desine, pro me;

Desine, condono, pugna juvo, vince, corono.

page 292 note a See Report by Professor Church to the Committee of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.