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Saint Edmund the Martyr; Saint Edward the Confessor

  • Object:

    Roundel

  • Place of origin:

    Suffolk, England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1420-1440 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Roundel of clear glass with painted details in a brown/black pigment and with yellow (silver) stain

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.111-1924

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, room 84, case S3

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The saintly king on this roundel is probably English, because the style and painting technique indicate that it was made in an English workshop. The scroll behind the head reads ‘SCE EDE’, which is an abbreviation in Latin for either St Edward or St Edmund. It is written in a form known as the vocative case, which means that the saint was being invoked rather than simply identified. Another glass panel probably accompanied the roundel. This would have depicted donors, calling on the saint to pray for their souls.

We can usually identify the saints depicted in medieval art by the attributes that accompany them. These attributes are objects that are associated with their life or death; for example, St Peter is depicted with keys and St George with a dragon. Because no attribute accompanies the saint on this roundel, we cannot be sure who he is.

In cases such as this, we often look to where the artwork was originally located. Churches and chapels within the churches were dedicated to particular saints and, in the Middle Ages, they would have contained images of these saints. Unfortunately, we do not know where this roundel came from. Prior to coming to the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was in a house, Hardwick, near Bury St Edmunds. We do not know how long it was there.

If the roundel was originally from the area near Bury St Edmunds, it is likely that the saint depicted was St Edmund himself. St Edmund was a king of East Anglia who was killed by pagan Danish invaders in 870. He was about 30 when he died. He is usually shown with the arrow or arrows with which he was killed.

However, the saint in this roundel is depicted as an elderly man and there is no attribute. There is a possibility that it represents St Edward the Confessor. St Edward was King of England between 1042 and 1066. He died peacefully in his sleep a week after the dedication of Westminster Abbey, which he was responsible for building. He was made a saint (canonised) in 1161 because of his virtuous life. He is known as 'the Confessor' because by his pious life and acts he 'confessed the Christian faith'. He differs from martyrs such as St Edmund because he did not die for the Christian faith. St Edward is depicted as an elderly man and he has no attribute other than the marks of royalty, such as a crown and an ermine robe or collar, as depicted on this roundel.

Physical description

Roundel of clear glass with painted details in a brown/black pigment and with yellow (silver) stain. Within a border of twisted white and yellow bands, and against a black background diapered with small barbs, the head and shoulders of an elderly bearded man. He wears a crown and a yellow gown decorated with white and yellow flowers. The gown has an ermine collar. Behind his head is a scroll with an abbreviated inscription in gothic letters: Sce...Ede.

Place of Origin

Suffolk, England (made)

Date

ca. 1420-1440 (made)

Artist/maker

unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Roundel of clear glass with painted details in a brown/black pigment and with yellow (silver) stain

Marks and inscriptions

'Sce Ede' Saint Edward
Saint Edmund

Dimensions

Diameter: 19.0 cm sight

Object history note

The original location of the roundels is not known but their size and type suggest that they were set in a simple trellis or quarry pattern in a window of a private chapel or oratory.

They were removed from the now-demolished Hardwick House near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in 1924. Hardwick House had been the property of the late Sir Thomas Cullum and his descendents.

Historical significance: As the text on this panel is written, in abbreviation, in the vocative, it would be very likely that it formed part of a window in which the saint was being called upon to perform some function.

At Stanford on Avon in Northants, there are several windows which have in their upper parts a roundel depicting a saint. The saints are identifed by a scroll on which is their name written in the vocative. These panels are placed above others in which we can see secular figures kneeling in prayer; these are called 'donor panels' as they undoubtedly depict the persons who paid for the glazing of the windows. On some of these panels we can see scrolls with text calling on a saint to pray for their souls - written in the vocative.

Although the coupling of the panels at Stanford are not as they may have been originally, this type of relation would have been pretty standard. We have the donors of the window calling on their patron saint to aid them in shortening their time in purgatory in return for their pious donation to the church.

The roundel here depicting St Edward or St Edmund most likely formed part of a donor window as well.

Historical context note

There are several candidates for the person depicted in this roundel:

Edmund, born about 840 and died in 870, was King of East Anglia. He was crowned king at the age of 15. He successfully repulsed an invasion of Danes early in 870 but they returned later that year. They captured Edmund, tortured him and finally killed him with arrows. Very quickly legends arose about his saintly life and his refusal to compromise his Christian beliefs with the pagan invaders and his murderers. His relics were removed from Hoxne, his place of martyrdom, in the 10th century to a place that developed into the modern cathedral of Bury St Edmunds. His cult was widespread in England but was mostly celebrated in the eastern counties. He is normally depicted as a young man and with his instrument of martyrdom - usually an arrow but sometimes a sword.

There was a King Edward of England, born about 962 and died in 979. He suceeded to the throne of a united England in 975 when he was about 13. His succession was opposed by a party led by his stepmother who wanted her own son (the future Ethelred the Unready) to succeed. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Edward was lured to Corfe Castle by his stepmother and was murdered there by her supporters. His remains were eventually housed in Shaftesbury Abbey which became the centre of a, primarily, west country devotion to Edward. He was canonised in 1001 and was considered a martyr as his murderers acted in a non-Christian manner. He is depicted as a royal youth and his attribute is normally a sword.

Saint Edward the Confessor was born in 1003. He was half brother of the King of England at a time when the Danes were invading. Edward was sent into exile and was raised in the courts of Normandy where his mother was from. The Danes were in control of England until 1042 when the unpopular Hardicanute died and the populace of England called for Edward's return and accession to the throne. Throughout his life, Edward was noted for his piety and good works. He built Westminster Abbey, surviving only a week after its dedication in 1066. His unwillingness to settle a proper succession on the country, he had no children of his own, led to the conquest of England by William of Normandy. Edward was canonised in 1161. He is known as 'the Confessor' as he was not a martyr to the Christian faith but rather by his saintly life and deeds he is seen as a 'confessor of the faith'. His cult was widespread throughout the Middle Ages and throughout the country. Many historians consider him to have been held by contemporaries as the patron saint of the nation, supplanted by St. George perhaps not until the early decades of the 15th century. He is depicted as an elderly man in royal garb and has no attribute.

It is possible that the roundel depicts Saint Edward the Confessor as the subject is depicted as elderly and it bears no attribute.

Descriptive line

Roundel of stained and painted glass depicting the head of King Edward the Confessor or King Edmund the Martyr. English, c.1420-40.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
...should almost certainly be interpreted as indicating St Edmund the Martyr rather than St Edward the Confessor. The former was, of course, especially venerated at Bury St Edmunds, very near to Hardwick, and other representations of the same saint in stained glass and alabaster confirm the indentification.
Bernard Rackham, 'English Glass Paintings of St Edmund at South Kensington and Dorchester', Burlington Magazine, vol. XLVII, August 1925
Annual Report, National Art Collections Fund, 1930, p.21
The head shows a striking similarity to one of those in the Bedford Book of Hours, c.1423
Kerry Ayre, Medieval English Figurative Roundels, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Great Britain - Summary Catalogue 6, published for the British Academy, Oxford UP, 2002
p.74 The roundel could be St Edward the Confessor
Hahn, Cynthia, “Peregrenatio et Natio: The Illustrated Life of Edmund, King and Martyr,” Gesta 30 (1991), 119-39

Labels and date

SAINT EDMUND THE MARTYR

The roundel was removed from the now-demolished Hardwick House in Suffolk in 1924, together with the angel roundel alongside. The bust-length king is identified by inscription as Saint Edmund, who was especially venerated at nearby Bury St Edmunds. It is likely that the roundels were originally set in a simple trellis or quarry pattern in a window of a private chapel or oratory.

England (Suffolk), about 1420-40
Museum no. C.111-1924 [(PW) 2004]

Production Note

Known to have been in Hardwick Hall near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Materials

Glass

Techniques

Painting; Silver staining

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns; Scrolls; Saints; Kings; Crowns; Monarchs; Edward (Saint Edward the Confessor); Edmund (Saint Edmund the Martyr, King of East Anglia); Ermine (fur)

Categories

British Galleries; Royalty; Religion; Christianity; Stained Glass

Collection code

CER

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Qr_O7650
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