Perhaps the most striking feature of any ecclesiastical building, from parish church to cathedral, are the stained-glass windows, and St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze has examples dating back more than six centuries.
The glorious 17th century East window is the work of Abraham van Linge and was commissioned by Sir John St John in 1630. Abraham and his brother Bernard came to England from Emden, Friesland in around 1623. Examples of Abraham’s work can be seen in the V&A, Lincoln College, Oxford, Queen’s College, Oxford and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Or closer to home, in the Blue Closet or Diana Room at Lydiard House.
At the opposite end of the church the vibrant West window, erected in 1859 to the memory of local farmer John King by his two sisters Ann and Mary, was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘Large figures, strident colours, bad.’
But the jewel in the stained-glass crown at St Mary’s has to be the fragments of 15th century glass found in practically every window. Executed by long forgotten itinerant Flemish glass workers, these stories in coloured glass reveal yet more history.
“In the tracery lights of the south aisle windows are depicted four prophets, possibly Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, or they may be the four Doctors of the Church – Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great, who were not often depicted in ecclesiastical vestments. One holds an open book and two hold scrolls; in each case they have hands raised in warning or have fingers pointing upwards or forwards in teaching;” Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report 38 published 14 May 2008
In the north aisle there are angels holding scrolls with the opening words of the Gloria – Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will
The window to the East of the church has been the subject of several interpretations. One figure holds a shield with a rose en soleil, one of the badges of Edward IV, and they were at one time believed to represent three Seraphim. However, it is now thought more likely that these are characters from Daniel Chapter 1-3 and represent Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were consigned to a fiery furnace. The angel with outstretched hands is the angel of God who delivered them from their ordeal.
It is believed that when the Flemish glass workers arrived at a commission they cast their eye around the local villagers for models to sit for their work, choosing those with strong and particularly beautiful features. So could the image of the Virgin crowned and holding a sceptre, and the Christ child possibly be modelled on a beautiful young mother from medieval Lydiard Tregoze with her own child.
What a thought that as we gaze up at these works of art the residents of medieval Lydiard Tregoze are looking down on us.