And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 30. oktober 2013

Edward the Confessor at Ickford

There's no hiding that ever since beginning my MA thesis I have been cultivating a minor obsession with Edward the Confessor (d. 1066, can. 1161), as may be evidenced by the number of blogposts wherein he features. One of my fascinations is to see how he has been represented throughout the ages, and how people at various times in history have formulated and envisioned him. On the whole, most of the depictions are similar, and this is of course to be expected as part of the point of such a depiction is to make it easily recognised by on-lookers. However, looking around on the Internet for images of Edward, I came across a stained glass window which was very unusual.

This stained glass window can be found at the Church of St. Nicholas in Ickford, Buckinghamshire. It was executed by Sir John Ninian Comper (1864-1960) in the 1920s, and is available on thanks to Allan Barton, who has uploaded this image to his flickr account and provided the basic information.

It is an unusual picture. First there's his dress - which looks like a floreate leotard with buttons - whose pattern brings to mind the background vines of late medieval stained glass, and to my (albeit minor) experience this pattern is rarely given so much prominence. Nor does it add a regal look to one of England's most important royal saints. Secondly, Edward has no beard. This is the most interesting deviation from the norm, for ever since the first expansive sources depicting Edward, his beard has been mentioned and given some significance. This has been treated to some extent in an earlier blogpost. It has also been a major feature in portraiture depicting Edward throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era. Some examples can be seen here.  A later depiction can for instance be found on this excellent blog.

Edward the Confessor as a beardless youth is therefore an unusual occurrence, and it has led me to think that the identification with the Confessor might be incorrect. If the stained glass window does depict Saint Edward, this might be Saint Edward the Martyr who died in 978 at around the age of fifteen. The confusion of these two saints is not uncommon.

Until I have been able to make further inquiries myself I cannot dismiss the identification, but I do remain somewhat skeptical. 

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