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Saint Matthias

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500-1515 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear and coloured glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

  • Credit Line:

    Purchase from Monastery Stained Glass.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case S3

Near St Matthias’s head is part of a scroll with some Latin text on it. Originally, the whole scroll would have been visible, encircling his head. The text, ‘and everlasting life, amen’, was the saint’s contribution to the Apostles’ Creed, which contains the fundamental tenets of Christian belief. At Pentecost, after Christ’s Ascension into heaven, the Apostles began to preach the good news of his Resurrection. In the Middle Ages people believed that on that day the Holy Spirit inspired them to write the Creed, each Apostle contributing one of its 12 articles.

Christ had called the Twelve Apostles during his life on earth. Judas, who betrayed him, was one of them. After the Ascension, St Peter called the remaining Apostles together to choose a replacement. Tradition has it that Matthias was the one chosen. He preached throughout Judea and it was in this region that he was executed (martyred). It was believed that he was beheaded with an axe, and this is the symbol (attribute) that was used in the Middle Ages to identify him.

The windows at Fairford Church were created by English glass painters and by Netherlandish artists working in England. Since the time of Henry VI (reigned 1422-61 and 1470–1), stained-glass workers in England had petitioned the crown in an attempt to prevent foreign craftsmen from infringing on their profession. Their attempts were largely unsuccessful, but the king did prohibit the importation of completed windows. Foreigners therefore had to set up their workshops in England, and probably had to rely on Englishmen for their workforce.

Physical description

Panel depicting St. Matthias (fragmentary), three-quarter length, holding book with clasps and a German war axe as used by the infantry. Fragments of the original stained and painted glass have been leaded up with modern clear glass to form the panel.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1500-1515 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Clear and coloured glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

Marks and inscriptions

[and life everlasting] amen
The full inscription in the scroll around St. Matthias' head would have read:
et vitam aeternam. amen


Height: 91 cm including leads, unframed, Width: 54 cm including leads, unframed, Weight: 6.24 kg

Object history note

The history of the medieval glass between its removal from Fairford Church in the 19th century and its recent re-discovery in the G. King & Son workshop in Norwich is not known. The panels (C.12 & 13-2004) were found during the clearance of the King workshop in October 2003 and were sold to George Wigley.

It is likely that this panel was removed from its original position in the 1860s during Sebastian Evans' (working for Chance Bros of Smethwick) restoration work.

It is definite that this panel came from window s.VIII (CVMA numbering) / window 12 (19th century numbering). Chance Bros. made a replica panel of two saints from this window, Jude Thaddeus and Matthias, and these are still in the church today.

Historical significance: The glass from Fairford Church along with that at King's College Cambridge are major surviving ensembles of what is termed the 'Anglo-Netherlandish school of glass painting.

Historical context note

The ordering of the saints along with their assigned parts of the Apostles' Creed follows that of the Pseudo-Augustine version.

The sponsor of the Fairford windows is unknown. However, given the vastness of the scheme it is most likely to have been undertaken with royal patronage. There are also royal symbols (Prince of Wales feathers and 'Ich dene' motto) scattered in some of the windows which possibly support this theory.

Descriptive line

Panel of stained, painted and clear glass depicting Saint Matthias. Made in England by unknown Netherlandish artists, about 1500-1515.

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

Sarah Brown & Lindsay MacDonald, eds., Life, Death and Art. The Medieval Staind Glass of Fairford Church, Sutton, 1997
H.F. Holt, "On the Painted Windows in Fairford Church," Journal of the British Archaeological Society, XXV (1969)
Fairford, Church vestry, bundle marked 'Lavers & Westlake' (1889-90)
Fairford, Church vestry, bundle marked 'Recovery of old glass' (1889-90)
Gloucester, Gloucester Library, R.R.130.4, Notes on the Fairford Glass, J.D.T. Niblet, 1845
London, British Library, Add. MS.34866, Drawings of Antient Stained Glass I, T.Willement (Fairford visit 1824)
London, British Library, Add. MS.33846, Collections on Painted Glass I, C. Winston (Fairford visit 1843)
London, British Library, Add. MS 33848, Collections on Painted Glass II (Fairford visit 1850)
London, National Portrait Gallery, SSB.42, Scharf Sketch Book, G. Scharf, 1856
Oxford, Bodleian Library MSS. Rawlinson B.323, A Parochial Visitation of the Diocese of Gloucester, R. Parsons (Fairford visit 1680)
F.R. Carbonell, Handbook to Fairford Church and its Windows, Oxford, 1893
S. Evans, 'The glass in Fairford Church, Gloucestershire', The Ecclesiologist, xxvi, no.166 (Feb.1865), pp.16-18
O.G. Farmer, Fairford Church and its Stained Glass Windows, 8th rev. ed., 1968
J.G. Joyce, The Fairford Windows, London, 1872
H. Wayment, The Stained Glass of the Church of St. Mary, Fairford, Gloucestershire, Society of Antiquaries, 1984

Labels and date


The upper half of the apostle Matthias, from a window on the south side of Fairford Church in Gloucestershire. Three windows at Fairford show the twelve apostles, four to each window. Two of the apostles - Matthias and Judas Thaddeus - had been damaged and repaired in 1703 and were taken out and replaced by copies by the firm of Chance Brothers in 1860-61.

England (Anglo-Netherlandish workshop at Westminster or Southwark), about 1500-15
Museum no. C.12-2004 [2004 (PW)]

Production Note

In a Flemish/Brabatine style and to Continental designs.




Painting; Silver staining; Pot metal

Subjects depicted

Halo; Books; Axe; Apostles' Creed; Saints


Stained Glass; Christianity; Religion


Ceramics Collection

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