Flemish Predella Tapestry
Church of St Mary’s in Easton Neston is currently hosting some very interesting treasures that help to illuminate its long history. The church itself dates back to the 13th Century, as the Easton Neston Parish website states: “where royalty, from Queen Elizabeth the First to Charles the First, stayed at the Manor House.”
One of these treasures is the Flemish predella tapestry that dates back to the beginning of the 15th Century. The tapestry is currently hanging behind the altar in a 20th century oak reredox, although many may not realise its significance.
This tapestry was bequeathed for the use of the Church by John Breckinridge Fermor-Hesketh (1917-1961). The Major was key to the restoration of St Mary’s in 1959.
A predella was used mostly in Italy from the 13th to the 15th Century. This decorative peice was often supporting the main theme of the altarpiece. Predella panels would generally consist of narrative scenes. In St Mary’s, it is the Passion of Jesus. Often the artist was able to be more creative with the predella than with the larger, static scenes.
Predella Tapestry at the Church of St Mary
Detail of the Predella Tapestry: the kiss of Judas
Flemish tapestries were often made in Brussels from the middle of the 15th Century, but also produced in Northern France and Southern Netherlands from early 14th Century to the beginning of the 15th century.
The tapestry is not the only treasure that is hidden at St Mary’s. There are the unusual 18th Century box pews. These pews had the congregations sitting and facing each other rather than the front. According to St Mary’s curate Reverend Paula Challan, “it was a cozy and intimate way to worship. You got in and then closed the door, your entire family, possibly your neighbours as well, in one place.”
According to PCC Secretary Helen Garton there are other ‘finds’. “Another hidden treasure in the church is the small 15th Century Nottingham alabaster in the chancel next to the squint* that depicts the Garden at Gethsemane. If you look closely you can still see traces of decoration.” She went on to say, “These carved scenes were an early example of mass-production, alabaster being relatively easy to carve and light to transport – a far cry from the current mass-produced tat!”
St Mary’s box pews
The Church of St Mary’s is filled with interesting pieces. More about the history of the church here.
St Mary’s is open for the monthly Saturday Eucharist service at 6 pm. St Mary’s invites you to have a have a look around the church and enjoy the many lovely features.
A panoramic view of the choir of the Church of St Mary’s with the tapestry is available here: http://www.hugha.co.uk/StMary/St-Marys-Choir.htm
*A squint is also known as a Hagioscope, according to Merriam Webster “an opening in the interior walls of a cruciform church so placed as to afford a view of the altar to those in the transept”.