St Albans – stained glass and medieval paint

st albans january hols 027

The very first time Stuart came down to visit, long before we had any idea we were at the beginning of an adventure and even longer before we had even thought about writing together, I had stopped outside the tiny village church of Little Missenden on the way back from the station.

st albans january hols 033

I would say, ‘don’t ask me why’ as we had never visited a church together before…and I knew so little of him then that he might have been completely uninterested… but the truth is, I do know why. It is a very special place, a good way from my home, and one I used to visit when I was working out that way, just for the peace and beauty… and it has beautiful stained glass like a Tree of Life…and ancient pilgrims crosses graffitied into the walls… and fabulous medieval wall paintings… But that wasn’t it either. I was being prodded.

st albans january hols 088

It was something we would get used to, working together, but at that point it was a nameless, almost imperceptible, but very insistent nudge. So I opened the heavy oak door and let him into the church…and on the wall, right in front of the door, is a huge medieval painting of St Christopher, carrying the child and bearing the knobbed club that was to lead us down so many strange pathways and eventually lead to our first book together, The Initiate.

collage

We’d been prodded to come to St Albans too… had put it off a long time, for one reason or another… yet here, once more, we were faced with huge medieval paintings within the nave. A female saint, dark clad and standing on some kind of platform that put me forcibly in mind of certain depictions of the Egyptian goddess Isis… Saints Alban and Amphibalus at their parting, with Alban holding the tall cross surmounted by its disc, that looks remarkably like an Egyptian ankh… St Thomas Beckett at least looked normal…. and, the hardest to decipher of the paintings… we were back to St Christopher. Once again he is depicted as a giant, carrying the club, though only the tiny figure of the Child remains clear.

st albans january hols 121

““WEN,”
“Now,”
“I know now,”
“What do you now know?”
“I know the spark of Christ begotten at the Baptism is the key to universal consciousness.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because that is not St Christopher…”
“It’s not?”
“No it’s not…it’s every traveller who bears the light of Christ across the waters of the personality.”” – The Initiate

st albans january hols 105

And here we were, once again, trying to decipher the forgotten language of symbols painted half a thousand years ago and long hidden beneath the whitewash. Around us light streamed in through centuries of stained glass, each panel telling its story  to those without the skill to read… and to those with a mind to seek understanding from such images.

st albans january hols 039

In places, paint and glass come together, seeming to erase the centuries between the artists who painted them… Victorian windows in Norman embrasures delicately painted with medieval foliage… while seekers of 21st century understanding look on. It is a dialogue between past and present… a whisper of the future… the images a wordless communication across the ages… and we, privileged to be part of that process, no more than tiny links in a chain that reaches both backwards and forwards beyond our sight. There is a beauty in that.

st albans january hols 066

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Churches, Photography, Spirituality, Stuart France and Sue Vincent, The Initiate, travel, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to St Albans – stained glass and medieval paint

  1. Reblogged this on Life in the Realm of Fantasy and commented:
    I have enjoyed this journey through the history and architecture of St. Albans so much! I can’t thank Sue Vincent enough for sharing it with us, through both her camera and her eye for the poetry in things. What I’ve learned from observing her as she experiences this place, is that writers must see the world through the eye of the artist.

    Like

  2. Wish I’d known you were visiting. I’m in St Albans 2 days a week minding Little G – who lives 2 minutes away!!…next time!

    Like

  3. macjam47 says:

    The stained glass is gorgeous, but the fact that those paintings have survived for so incredibly many years, is mind boggling.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.