The Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross,


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Bale Stained Glass


Stained glass

With the exception of two panels (which are C14) the south-east nave window is a collection some 2,000 pieces of C15 stained glass which Dennis King, head of the well-known Norwich firm of glaziers rearranged in 1938 to fill the three main and six tracery lights. Dennis King published an account of his work in the Journal of Stained Glass Volume VIII pp 58-62 entitled 'Re-leading of Ancient Glass at Bale'.

Glass originally in nearly every window in the church is gathered here,and we can find parts of at least five Annunciation scenes which must come from five different windows.

Detail Christ in window



Tracery left: Annunciation (1) Tracery central: Annunciation (2) Tracery right: Two angels
Mary here is quite fragmentary and the scroll is illegible; she has wide eyes and seems to pointing a finger at Gabriel, who smiles at her with patient amusement.

The scroll above Mary's head which is broken by the tracery may read Ecc[e anc]illa d[omin]i (Behold the Handmaid of the Lord). The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, whispers in her right ear.

What may look like Mary's hand from a distance, is in fact a discreet piece of glass with a woman's hand, holding a scroll(?)

Gabriel on the Right, has a scroll which reads Ave m[ari]a plena (Hail Mary full...)

The angels are sitting on a chequered floor, and both have ermine collars.The left one has its hands in an attitude of prayer, and the right in an attitude of praise. Both were probably originally designed for tracery lights.

Top part of main window


Left Panel: Annunciation 3a; Gabriel Centre panel: Annunciation 3b; Mary Right Panel: St Philip

The scroll reads maria plena d[omin]us tecum (Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you).

Gabriel holds a sword in his right hand, and is half kneeling on a chequered flood similar to that of the angels in the Tracery right (above).

The scroll reads Ecce ancilla fiat mihi, which is part of Luke 1.38 Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to your word).

She wears and ermine robe with a scarlet band. Her feet have been cut off.

The large bearded figure of St. Philip , is incomplete and is possibly the only survivor of a set of the twelve Apostles. Each apostle was allotted a portion of the creed, and the scroll over his head is traditionally Philip's: i[nde venturu]s est judicare v [ivos et mo]rtu[os] ( from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.)

Middle part of main Window


Left panel: Angels Centre Panel: Samuel (?) and ? Right Panel: Angels
There are two angels here, with fragments of others indispersed. The angel on the right has a cittern (another copy of which is in the top right hand corner) and stands on what may be rush or wooden flooring - a characteristic of Norwich glass. The other angel stands on a chequered floor and the hands seem to be clapping.

This panel and the one below are C14 pieces (the other panels are C15). The background to the figures is deep red.

Figure on left who, considering the quotation, may be Samuel, points with his left hand to the other person, and with his right hand points to the scroll or possibly to the feet of the person on the right.

The scroll reads ascendit reptas ma[n]ibus et pedibus. j.reg'. xiii:

Figure on right has been suggested as both David and Daniel; it could also be a donor. His clothes are blue with a golden silk border, and his clasped hands rest on his chest. He wears expensive shoes .

The scroll reads post ebdomade sexagitaduas occidet' xpc. daniel. ix:

See note at the bottom of this page.

Between the two figures is a fragment of the head of Christ, identifiable by a cross on the halo.

Two angels; Like the one on the left panel playing cittern, the one on the left here with the harp, stands on a rush or wooden flooring. The other angel with its hands in the air, stands on a chequered floor - could it be that one angel claps and another dances?

Another cittern with a lions head is just above the angels.

The angel on the left has four feet - there is another pair on rushes placed just below it.

Bottom part of main window


Left Panel: Annunciation 4 Centre Panel: Abbess and Crucifixion Right Panel: Annunciation 5

The scroll reads: ancilla v'm (verbum)

There is a lily by the Virgin's feet in an earthenware jar, though the two pieces are from different windows.On the left of the jar there is one of four shields of the arms of Wilby; sable a fess dancetty between 3 escallops argent. The Wilbys helds manors here and at Gunthorpe in the early C15.

This panel is C14. The splendid figure of Christ in the middle of the picture is enlarged at the top of the page.

The abbess may be S Etheldreda, but the face is a modern replacement.

There are some sections of oak leaves and acorns in this panel which seems quite approrpiate for Bale.

Notice the similarities between the left and right panels. During the 15th century glass painters often re-used successful designs. This panel was irreparably damaged by being fixed painted side out at a Victorian restoration.

The bottom right has a compete Wilby Shield.

A Note on the centre panel

The scroll on the left reads ascendit reptas ma[n]ibus et pedibus. j.reg'. xiii: (He climbed up on his hands and feet, I Samuel 14 v 13 vulgate:Ascendit autem ionothas manibus et pedibus reptans ) and refers to Jonathan attacking a Philistine camp. This has lead people to associate the other figure with David, though if any association should be made, it would be Saul who was the king at the time. The figure on the left may well be Samuel.

The scroll on the right reads post ebdomade sexagitaduas occidet' xpc. daniel. ix: (After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, Daniel 9 v 26 vulgate:et post hebdomades sexigenta duas occidetur Christus).

The division between the two figures is an amalgam of various pieces of glass, so they may not originally have had the close connection they have now. The two partial quotations are to say the least unusual and one speculates as to whether they had a local connotation to persons or events in the area in the C14 - someone perhaps who died in the plague?