The Window Glass of the Order of St Gilbert of Sempringham


list of authors
C. Pamela Graves
list of contributors
H. I. Alten
J. E. Burton
G. A. Cox
R. L. Kemp
J-F De Laperouse
M. A. Little
J. P. Maish
S. Rees Jones
N. S. H. Rogers
J. A. Spriggs
S. Vaughan
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Medieval Defences and Suburbs [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 29 September 2023
The report aims to explore the relationship between a set of material culture and the social context of its use, re-use, changes in its form and deposition. Art-historical, archaeological and literary evidence are all brought to bear, in conjunction with scientific analysis and experimental conservation work.

The excavations on the site of the Gilbertine Priory at Fishergate, York, uncovered the largest quantity of window glass from any house of this peculiarly English medieval monastic order. It is the only assemblage of any size to come from a modem, controlled excavation. Research on this glass provided the opportunity to study all other known assemblages of window glass associated with the Gilbertines, and the results are presented here for the first time.

The Fishergate glass can be divided into two main periods of glazing: one relating to the original early to mid 13th century church and claustral buildings, the other relating to an early 14th century rebuild and contraction of the priory. An aesthetic difference was apparent between these two episodes. In the first, figural glass was hardly represented at all and there was little use of colour. In the second episode of building there was evidence for extensive use of figural glass, colour and even some heraldry. It is argued that this difference is evidence for an intentional aesthetic and ascetic choice made at the time of the founding of the first priory followed by the changing economic and spiritual fortunes of the priory in the 14th century which forced the canons to accept the rather more worldly aesthetic preferences of a wealthy and influential external patron.

The most important of the other remaining Gilbertine window glass assemblages come from the mother house of the order, Sempringham Priory, Lincolnshire, and a lesser house, Ellerton Priory, North Yorkshire. These revealed high-quality glazing of the first half of the 14th century and a small number of complete heraldic shields, respectively. It is argued that the latter in particular may also reflect the contemporary trend for expressions of secular patronage within monastic contexts.

The report includes a discussion of the innovative conservation and storage solutions developed for excavated medieval window glass, and analyses of the chemical composition and deterioration of the Fishergate glass.
Rights Holder
York Archaeological Trust
CC BY 4.0
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Is Format Of
Paper publication
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