Art, Faith and Place in East Anglia

Art, Faith and Place in East Anglia: From Prehistory to the Present

T. A. Heslop
Elizabeth Mellings
Margit Thøfner
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1r2h5k
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Art, Faith and Place in East Anglia
    Book Description:

    The relationship between religious or spiritual artworks and the locality where such objects are made and used is the central question this volume addresses. While it is a well-known fact that religious artworks, objects and buildings can have a power or agency of their own (iconoclasm, the violent defacement of an object which paradoxically testifies to the fear and loathing it has generated, being an extreme example), the sources of this power are less well understood. It is this problem which the book seeks to begin to remedy, using East Anglia, an area of Britain with an exceptionally long history of religious diversity, as its prism. Case-studies are taken from prehistory right up to the twenty-first century, and from a variety of media, including wall-paintings, church architecture, and stained glass; famous sites examined include Seahenge and Sutton Hoo. Overall, the book shows how profoundly religious artworks are embedded in local communities, belief systems, histories and landscapes. T.A. Heslop is Professor of Visual Arts, Elizabeth Mellings a Post-doctoral Research Fellow, and Margit Thofner Senior Lecturer, at the School of World Art Studies, University of East Anglia. Contributors: Margit Thofner, T.A. Heslop, Elizabeth de Bièvre, Daphne Nash Briggs, Adrian Marsden, Timothy Pestell, Matthew Champion, Carole Hill, Elizabeth Rutledge, David King, John Peake, Nicola Whyte, Chris King, Francesca Vanke, Stefan Muthesius, Kate Hesketh-Harvey, Karl Bell, Elizabeth Mellings, Robert Wallis, Trevor Ashwin.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-062-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Margit Thøfner
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: ON FAITH, OBJECTS AND LOCALITY
    (pp. 1-18)
    SANDY HESLOP and MARGIT THØFNER

    East Anglia is a distinct region and has been considered so for over a millennium. This is how one tenth-century writer, Abbo of Fleury, saw it:

    The above-mentioned eastern part attracts attention for the following and other reasons: that it is washed by waters on almost every side, girdled as it is on the south and east by the ocean, and on the north by an immense tract of marsh and fen … But on the side where the sun sets, the province is in contact with the rest of the island, and on that account accessible; but as a...

  6. CHAPTER 2 BUT WHERE IS NORFOLK?
    (pp. 19-29)
    ELISABETH DE BIÈVRE

    Anybody participating in a project dealing with faith should start with a confession of faith, even if the faith in question seems to be related mainly to intellectual inquiry. This essay posits that the geographical and geological situation of a place influences how the people living in that place are directed to give shape to their beliefs and to the material and spiritual artefacts through which these beliefs are represented. In analysing the situation in Norfolk, I will be reviewing several types of data which are essential to such an enterprise.

    The first is foregrounding Norfolk’s geographical position in the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 SACRED IMAGE AND REGIONAL IDENTITY IN LATE-PREHISTORIC NORFOLK
    (pp. 30-49)
    DAPHNE NASH BRIGGS

    This paper will describe some of the ways in which the pre-Roman people of Norfolk in the first centuries BC and AD, known to history as Iceni, seem to have used selected symbols, sacred images and one particular ceremonial monument to express a distinctive and enduring public identity. This had roots in their deeper prehistory but also seems to have made explicit symbolic use of the natural configuration of their land. The same might safely be said of many other European peoples at this time. However, detailed investigation of clusters of disparate evidence in a specific regional context can highlight...

  8. CHAPTER 4 PIETY FROM THE PLOUGHSOIL: RELIGION IN ROMAN NORFOLK THROUGH RECENT METAL-DETECTOR FINDS
    (pp. 50-65)
    ADRIAN MARSDEN

    The religious practices of Roman Britain and the Roman Empire in general have been the subject of many learned books and papers. It is not the intention of this small study to do anything more than consider some of the various categories of material recovered from Norfolk in the last three decades or so, and what that material may tell us about the various gods and goddesses worshipped in Roman Norfolk and the way in which they were revered.¹

    There are practically no inscriptions on stone from the county, which is not surprising given the paucity of anything but flint...

  9. CHAPTER 5 PAGANISM IN EARLY-ANGLO-SAXON EAST ANGLIA
    (pp. 66-87)
    TIM PESTELL

    East Anglia has long been recognised as pivotal to our understanding of the Early Anglo-Saxon period. Situated on the frontier of migrationary movements around the North Sea, it witnessed a complex mixing of peoples, cultural traditions and religious beliefs between the late fourth and sixth centuries. Understanding the nature of what constituted faith to those early people we conveniently term the East Angles is therefore challenging and draws upon a variety of evidence. In particular, it relies on us appreciating that a native Romano-British population need not have been passive, mute bystanders to the new ways brought by immigrant Germanic...

  10. CHAPTER 6 DEVOTION, PESTILENCE AND CONFLICT: THE MEDIEVAL WALL PAINTINGS OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN, LAKENHEATH
    (pp. 88-104)
    MATTHEW CHAMPION

    In the spring of 2009, a project took place to conserve a series of medieval wall paintings in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Lakenheath. In addition to the process of physical conservation, this Heritage Lottery-funded project allowed the examination of the documentary and building history of the church. The aim was to examine the wall paintings as more than simple examples of medieval art and to place them within the wider context of the parish’s history.¹ The results were both surprising and more far-reaching than anyone had first anticipated.

    Before work began, the belief was that the paintings...

  11. CHAPTER 7 ‘HERE BE DRAGONS’: THE CULT OF ST MARGARET OF ANTIOCH AND STRATEGIES FOR SURVIVAL
    (pp. 105-116)
    CAROLE HILL

    From the early middle ages onwards, the cult of Margaret of Antioch – the dragon-slaying patron saint of childbirth – was enormously popular across Norfolk. For example, St Margaret is the fifth most frequently found dedication among parish churches in the Norwich diocese, and her name is particularly associated with ancient round-towered foundations. Moreover, the medieval new town of Bishop’s (later King’s) Lynn took her for its patron saint and her cross-defeated dragon still figures on its coat of arms.¹ Currently, the diocese of Norwich retains forty-eight parish churches or ruins of churches dedicated to her.² Because of all of...

  12. CHAPTER 8 THE MEDIEVAL JEWS OF NORWICH AND THEIR LEGACY
    (pp. 117-129)
    ELIZABETH RUTLEDGE

    The first community of Jews in England came over from Rouen in the late eleventh century, probably under safe conduct from William I, who saw them as a source of coin and a bulwark against the hostility of the London merchants.¹ Initially, the Jews settled only in London but during Stephen’s reign they expanded into the provinces under his control. The Jewish community at Norwich is first recorded in connection with the murder of St William in 1144, making it one of the earliest outside the capital.² Norwich, a rapidly growing city and regional centre with a mint and a...

  13. CHAPTER 9 LATE-MEDIEVAL GLASS-PAINTING IN NORFOLK: DEVELOPMENTS IN ICONOGRAPHY AND CRAFT c. 1250 – 1540
    (pp. 130-147)
    DAVID KING

    The late-medieval churches of Norfolk have a distinctive character. This relates closely to the environment in which they were built and the people who commissioned and fashioned them. Up until the late thirteenth century, it was rare to find many window openings and they were generally of small size. In part, this was because of the lack of local building stone to supplement the flint rubble, from which the plain walls were constructed. As a result, the framing of windows and any tracery within them had to be made from expensive imported material. Structurally, too, there was a consequence: walls...

  14. CHAPTER 10 GRAFFITI AND DEVOTION IN THREE MARITIME CHURCHES
    (pp. 148-162)
    JOHN PEAKE

    ‘Images occupied an active place in individual and collective religio-cultural responses and were one of the means by which selfhood and communal identities were constructed …’¹ Here, Richard Marks refers to devotional figures that have largely disappeared from English parish churches. These images provided a religious and physical presence, yet their defining features were more functional than structural. Other graphic representations with similar characteristics include both wall paintings and stained-glass windows, and in selected cases, it will be argued, graffiti. This contribution explores the latter in three parish churches in north Norfolk, united by their proximity to a shared harbour,...

  15. CHAPTER 11 NORFOLK WAYSIDE CROSSES: BIOGRAPHIES OF LANDSCAPE AND PLACE
    (pp. 163-178)
    NICOLA WHYTE

    In recent years, theories of landscape and place have encouraged greater understanding of how previous societies gave meaning to the visible traces of the past on the ground. It is no longer sufficient to categorise monuments, earthwork remains and entire landscapes within the chronological parameters set by modern preoccupations with periodisation. Proponents of this recent view emphasise the centrality of material evidence for understanding the workings of memory and formation of social identity.¹ In the light of this perspective, one of the most striking yet often overlooked features of estate maps, dating from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth...

  16. CHAPTER 12 LANDSCAPES OF FAITH AND POLITICS IN EARLY-MODERN NORWICH
    (pp. 179-193)
    CHRIS KING

    The cultural landscapes of religious belief and practice have emerged as a topic of central importance to any understanding of the process of Reformation and to the development of a Protestant civic culture in the towns of early-modern England. In some respects, this period witnessed a significant attack on the material and sensory setting of medieval religion, including the destruction of religious imagery and the re-organisation of church buildings, attacks on relics and icons and the abolition of many traditional religious practices such as processions, all of which had served to create space as ‘sacred’. However, recent scholarship has challenged...

  17. CHAPTER 13 PRACTICE AND BELIEF: MANIFESTATIONS OF WITCHCRAFT, MAGIC AND PAGANISM IN EAST ANGLIA FROM THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT DAY
    (pp. 194-208)
    FRANCESCA VANKE

    What are the links between the supposed beliefs and practices of those denounced as ‘witches’ in East Anglia in the seventeenth century and later manifestations of folk witchcraft and ‘cunning craft’? How do these historical phenomena relate to the beliefs and practices of the growing communities of Pagans in the region over the last fifty years and into the present? The present chapter explores these questions as well as distinctions between past and present definitions of magic and their fluctuating relationship with religion.

    Historically, East Anglia has been particularly associated with witchcraft, mainly due to the activities of Matthew Hopkins...

  18. LIST OF PLATES
    (pp. None)
  19. CHAPTER 14 PROVINCIALITY AND THE VICTORIANS: CHURCH DESIGN IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY EAST ANGLIA
    (pp. 209-222)
    STEFAN MUTHESIUS

    Norfolk and Suffolk are cherished for their old churches. They all look medieval, in contrast to many other regions of Britain where most churches look Victorian. However, the ecclesiastical world of the nineteenth century did leave its mark in these counties, too. The Anglican Church Revival saw that old churches were restored and new churches built where needed, with modest ones in the country but more prominent ones in towns. The new stress on a more artful ritual required new fittings and more striking décor, for instance with the help of colourful stained glass. As everywhere else in Britain, Roman...

  20. CHAPTER 15 MAHARAJAH DULEEP SINGH, ELVEDEN AND SIKH PILGRIMAGE
    (pp. 223-239)
    CATHERINE HESKETH-HARVEY

    Why has Elveden, a country estate in East Anglia, become part of the Sikh imagination in the twenty-first century? Why has it emerged as a place of Sikh pilgrimage?

    Fully aware of their long connection with the British people through their shared colonial past, Sikhs started to arrive in Britain in the 1950s.¹ Citing the Sikhs who had served in the British army during two World Wars, they used these associations to acquire jobs and to become an integral part of British society. In adapting to their new lives, these immigrants have had to accord with the legacy of their...

  21. CHAPTER 16 SUPERNATURAL FOLKLORE AND THE POPULAR IMAGINATION: RE-READING OBJECT AND LOCALITY IN MID-NINETEENTH-CENTURY NORFOLK
    (pp. 240-252)
    KARL BELL

    In early 1844 the Devil was seen dancing on the walls of Norwich Castle. Earlier that year, two men had started prophesying to the residents of west Norfolk that the world would end on 21 March. Fearful rumours carried their prediction eastwards to Norwich. Ballads and sermons from the time recount how a sense of fatalism swept Norfolk that spring, with farmers neglecting their ploughing and others abandoning their work. The Devil’s supposed appearance only seemed to confirm the prediction. A later ballad, mocking the fact that the world had not ended, indicated that some still fervently awaited the delayed...

  22. CHAPTER 17 PRO PATRIA MORI: CHRISTIAN RALLIES AND WAR MEMORIALS OF EARLY-TWENTIETH-CENTURY NORFOLK
    (pp. 253-272)
    ELIZABETH A. MELLINGS

    This chapter explores a range of artefacts made or used in Norfolk in the early twentieth century to show how official Christianity was infused with a measure of militarism, spanning many aspects of life, before and during the First World War. This was most clearly articulated within the landscape, which became a stage for the officially promoted association between religious art and public patriotism in response to war. Norfolk’s history is one marked by pilgrimage, which actively connects open spaces, communities and religious constructions. This chapter asserts that a growing, pro-patriotic militancy changed the dynamic of largely insular and nationalistic...

  23. CHAPTER 18 PAGANS IN PLACE, FROM STONEHENGE TO SEAHENGE: ‘SACRED’ ARCHAEOLOGICAL MONUMENTS AND ARTEFACTS IN BRITAIN
    (pp. 273-286)
    ROBERT J. WALLIS

    A small, early-Bronze Age timber monument, from c.2050 BCE, was discovered near Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk in 1998. It quickly became the focus of controversy concerning spirituality and locality.¹ Threatened by sea erosion, the site was excavated in 1999. Pagan protestors tried to stop the dig, believing that ‘Seahenge’ (or ‘Holme I’) belonged in situ. Some argued that the site was destined to be eroded, others that its alleged situation on a ley line meant that its meaning was dependent on its relationship to place. Pagan approaches to the past are diverse but sites from the iconic Stonehenge to the less...

  24. CHAPTER 19 ART, SPIRIT AND ANCIENT PLACES IN NORFOLK
    (pp. 287-297)
    TREVOR ASHWIN

    The Art of Faith project as a whole has drawn on archaeological evidence and the work of artists past and present, in its exploration of faith and belief in East Anglia since prehistoric times. Many individual papers in this volume present archaeological and art-historical analyses. As an archaeologist, I have a special interest in prehistoric geography and ‘sacred sites’ but I have also felt drawn, over time, to explore Norfolk’s historic landscape as an artist. This chapter starts by considering the essential character of that ‘historic landscape’ as it survives today, and some of the issues involved in imagining what...

  25. CHAPTER 20 SACRED SITES AND BLESSED OBJECTS: ART AND RELIGION IN CONTEMPORARY NORFOLK
    (pp. 298-314)
    ELIZABETH A. MELLINGS

    David Morgan’s assertion that art institutions have excluded ‘almost all’ openly religious contemporary art¹ is no longer supported internationally, as indicated by numerous recent exhibitions, including Traces du sacré (Pompidou Centre, 2008).² Neither does it apply regionally, as evinced in Norwich Castle’s Art of Faith exhibition and by numerous shows generated by faith-groups, including A Brush with Faith (Norwich Cathedral, 2005).

    Vitally, the curators of Traces du sacré claimed to explore, through objects, the ‘conjunction of art, religion, spirituality, self-consciousness and enlightenment’, working with the premise that ‘art … is the answer to the question “What becomes of religion in...

  26. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 315-348)
  27. INDEX
    (pp. 349-352)
  28. Back Matter
    (pp. 353-353)