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Panel - Saint Stephen before the High Priest

Saint Stephen before the High Priest

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Normandy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1230-1240 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details

  • Museum number:

    C.20-1980

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case S1

Stephen was one of the first deacons of the early Christian church, shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament book of Acts he is described as a popular preacher. However, the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, misinterpreted his teachings and accused him of blasphemy. This was a charge punishable by death. Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin to answer these charges and was put to death by stoning.

In medieval art, moving hands indicate the act of talking. In this panel we see St. Stephen talking or in debate with someone. This is probably the Jewish high priest, who appears to be in the act of condemning him.

Stephen was the first to die for the Christian faith and is known as the 'protomartyr'. His feast day is 26 December, which is usually now referred to as 'Boxing Day' in England.

There are no documents to tell us where he was martyred, but in the 5th century the Byzantine Empress Eudoxia built a church on the site where oral tradition claimed it occured. This was outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Stephen's relics were later taken to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) and then to Rome. There they were interred with the bones of St. Laurence in the church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, which is still a pilgrimage site.

In medieval art, Stephen's Ordination, Preaching and Stoning are the most usual scenes from his life to be depicted. He is often shown with his attribute (identifying symbol) of stones, the instruments of his martyrdom.

Physical description

Panel of clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details depicting St. Stephen before the Jewish high priest.

Place of Origin

Normandy (made)

Date

ca. 1230-1240 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details

Dimensions

Width: 455 mm unframed, Height: 625 mm unframed

Historical context note

Stephen was one of the first deacons of the emerging Christian faith shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He is reported in the Book of Acts in the New Testament and is described as a popular preacher. However, his teachings were misinterpreted by the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, and they accused him of blasphemy. This was a charge punishable by death. Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin to answer these charges and was put to death by stoning.

In this panel St. Stephen is seen talking or in debate with someone. In Medieval art, the act of talking is depicted by moving hands. This is most likely the Jewish high priest and he appears to be in the act of condemning Stephen.

Stephen was the first to die for the Christian faith and is known as the 'protomartyr'. His feast day is December 26, now referred to as 'Boxing Day' in England.

The site of his martyrdom was not recorded but in the 5th century the Eastern Empress Eudoxia built a church on the site where oral tradition claimed it occured. This was outside the 'Damascus Gate' in Jerusalem.

His relics were later taken to Constantinople and then to Rome where they are interred with the bones of St. Laurence in the church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, still a pilgrimage site.

The stories related to St. Stephen's life that are usually depicted in Medieval art are those of his Ordination, his Preaching and his Stoning.

He is often depicted with his attribute of the stones, the instruments of his martyrdom.

Descriptive line

Panel of clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details depicting St. Stephen before the Jewish high priest. French, 12

Labels and date

SAINT STEPHEN BEFORE THE HIGH PRIEST

St Stephen is shown explaining himself to the Jewish high priest, having been brought before him by the false witnesses (Acts, 6-7). The panel comes from a window devoted to the story of the saint's life in one of the radiating chapels of the ambulatory of Coutances Cathedral in Normandy.

France (Normandy), about 1230-40
Museum no. C.20-1980 [(PW) 2003]

Categories

Stained Glass; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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