Thursday, November 11, 2010

Visit to St. Mary's Church, Fairford.

As my long-suffering family and friends will testify, I have a bit of a "thing" about Renaissance stained glass. Whenever we are travelling about and I spot an interesting-looking church, I am prone to stopping the car and begging everyone else for "just five minutes" whilst I look to see whether there is any original glass left. Nine times out of ten I come out again looking disgusted (plain glass or some horrible later replacement) but now and again there is something really beautiful to see.
I became interested in the subject after researching the stained glass of Steinfeld Abbey (featured in the English ghost story "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" by M.R.James). Up until that point I had no idea how little glass of that period (1500s) survives. It is also very rare to see it in its original setting. The Steinfeld glass, and the equally gorgeous Mariawald glass, are now mostly the inmates of museums.
It was therefore a rare and fabulous treat for me to visit St. Mary's Church in Fairford, Gloucestershire, last week whilst I was in England. The Fairford glass is of the same period as the Steinfeld glass but amazingly, it is still in its original setting and virtually undamaged (a few windows were damaged by a storm in the early 1700s but most of the windows are perfect). The great west window includes one of the most stunning Last Judgement scenes I have ever seen, complete with demons.
A big vote of thanks to William Bond for taking me to Fairford, and also for taking a brilliant set of photographs of the glass for use in the upcoming book trailer for The Glass Demon. As the Fairford glass is of exactly the same period as the fictional Allerheiligen glass in my book, it was ideal - there is even a fire-belching "Bonschariant". If you are ever in the area, take a look - a unique chance to see real glass demons!

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