Magic and beauty as Medieval music and stained glass history finds home in Norwich

By Ivan Stoyanov | 01 June 2010
A photo of a grey stone church with a large tree outside it

(Above) Norwich is full of Medieval chruches and artwork

Exhibition: Music in the Glass, Hungate Medieval Art and various venues across Norwich.

Norfolk's Medieval musical instruments are often pictured in stained glass being played by angelic musicians. The county now has the greatest surviving collection of depicted musical angels across the UK, and Hungate Medieval Art in Norwich is an idyllic location to celebrate this.

Music in the Glass recreates, animates and brings to life tunes that have been sealed for more than 500 years by focussing on beautifully illustrated glass from more than 20 parish churches – including Shelton, East Barsham, Ketteringham and Stradsett.

Musical angels are a reference to theological teaching which established music as an important part of Medieval worship. In ancient plays, music is said to have announced the arrival of characters with otherworldly characteristics.

For example, Psalm 150 says "Praise him with the trumpet/Praise him with the harp and lyre". The distinctive style and craftsmanship of the exhibition offers the invaluable opportunity to eye these same instruments played by angels in stained glass windows.

St Mary's Church starts off the lineup of images with its beautiful 15th century glass featuring city forefather Ralph Lampet in the foreground. Being the first man to hold civic offices in Great Yarmouth, Lampet, along with his wife Margaret, had acquired the patronage of the church by 1440.

Wighton Church's gems provide further insight into Norwich’s medieval religious beliefs. The four male figures in the north-east window are the apostoles Paul, Andrew, Bartholomew and Peter. To the delight of all church-goers, these are complemented by 15th century musical angels playing medieval stringed intruments called rebecs.

A photo of a darkened stained glass window showing an illustration of a biblical figure

15th century musical angels complement the stained glass surrounding them

Among these outstanding works of art and artefacts, visitors can also see the Nine Orders of Angels at St Botolph from Banningham and rare survival of main light figures such as the Annunciation, the Holy Trinity, the Virgin and the Child from St Peter’s Church in Ringland, St Andrew's at Hingham as well as 150 other underrated artistic legacies of the Medieval period.

"There is something about the stunning beauty and intensity of colour in stained glass that provides inspiration for the modern instrument copyist," observes Dale Copley, Centre Manager at Hungate.

"It certainly informs the performance of this wonderfully colourful and vibrant music."

Hungate Medieval Art's interpretation centre is usually open 10am-4pm Thursday-Saturday. Admission £3/£2.50. Call 01603 623254 or visit Hungate online for more details and a full programme.

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