East Harling

St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, England



1. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, from southeast.

2. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, south porch.

3. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel, south aisle.

4. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, nave and south aisle, c.1430-50.

5. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel from inside looking north west.

6. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel, detail of screen from outside, wood, about 1435-50.

7. St. Peter and Paul Church. East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel, detail, doors from inside.

8. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, nave roof, c.1450.

9. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel, Sir Robert Harling’s tomb, c.1435.

10. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel, tomb sculpture of Sir Robert Harling in full armor, c.1435.

11. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Harling Chapel, Sir Robert Harling
tomb, detail of Pelican in its Piety on arch.  The Pelican, believed in the Middle Ages to pierce its breast to feed its young in time of crisis, was a symbol of Christ’s act of self sacrifice.  This image of saving grace is placed directed above the face of Sir Robert.

12. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Chancel from nave, c.1450.

13. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, pulley for rood veil.

14. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, north side of the chancel, Tomb of Anne Harling and her first husband, Sir William Chamberlain, Knight of the Order of the Garter, died 1462, mentioned in the Holinshed chronicles.

15. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, interior, Tomb of Anne Harling, detail.


16. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Sir Robert Wingfield, second husband of Anne Harling. Controller to the Household to Edward IV, Knight of the Shire for the county of Hertford, died 1492 and buried, according to the provisions of his will, in the church of the Black Friars in Thetford.

17. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, The Joys and Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1463.  The window is ascribed to the patronage of Anne Harling, wealthy and well educated heiress of the Gonville and Harling families.  Anne Harling married three times but died childless.  The study of her will and the calculated patronage of the church indicates that placement and subject matter defined issues of gender and needs.

18. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Annunciation, 1480.

 The angel Gabriel, announced the birth of Christ. As he explains to the Virgin Mary that the Holy Spirit will descend upon her and overshadow her with the power of the Most High, the dove floats down amidst the golden rays emitted from the pink cloud above.  The Virgin Mary, standing reverently behind the prayer desk and opened book, accepts her chosen role as the handmaid of the Lord with head solemnly bowed and arms folded complacently across her chest.

19. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Visitation, 1480.

In light of the Lord’s will, anything is possible.  When the angel Gabriel descends upon Mary to announce her conception, he informs her that the miracle is not hers’ alone.  Her relative Elizabeth, thought to be barren, is also with child.  Mary travels hastily to the town of Judah to visit Elizabeth.  Upon hearing her greeting, Elizabeth is so filled with the Holy Spirit that her child, later to be known as John the Baptist, jumps in her womb.  Dressed in her maternity clothes with a laced front and veiled under a hood, Elizabeth blesses Mary for believing in the word of the Lord.  The two women share in the news of their motherhood, both knowing that they are guided by divine Providence.

20. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Nativity, 1480.

With no room left at the inn in Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to Jesus in humble quarters.  Surrounded by an ox and an ass, with hay at their feet, all look on in wonder at the radiant child lying in the manger.  The luminous glow of the baby Jesus is equally reflected in the face, hair, and halo of his mother, kneeling before him in admiration.  The magical bond between mother and child is clearly represented by this mirroring effect. Set directly below the guiding light of the star, the central figures of mother and child are flanked by Joseph, on the right, and two women, on the left.  Joseph, whose face has been lost, is the less curious of the two.  The women, poised with their hands folded in prayer, quite possibly represent midwives.  Second century legend postulates a midwife at the scene of the Nativity.  A bit later, two midwives named Zebel and Salome are proposed to have assisted the Virgin at the Nativity.

21. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Adoration of the Shepherds,  1480.

Descended upon by angels while in the fields, the shepherds heard the news of the savior’s birth and traveled to Bethlehem to see the great miracle for themselves.  Encountering Mary and the Christ child, the shepherds are depicted in an identical state of adoration as the Kings.  The shepherd in the forefront doffs his cap on bent knee before the Blessed Virgin and her child.  The striking blue piece of glass used for his cape is unique and not found in any other part of the window.  The two other shepherds stand behind him.  The rightmost shepherd plays upon pipes while the one closest to Mary holds a lamb.  The proximity of the two nurturing figures and their uncanny similarity emerges as the central focus of the window.  The shepherds bow not only to the child, but also to the protective mother figure.

22. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Adoration of the Magi,  1480.

Juxtaposed to the preceding window, the Adoration of the Magi is much like the previous adoration - reversed.  The baby Jesus is poised upon the Virgin’s lap in the same standing position, only here the admirers are grouped on the left side, and mother and child are on the right; the opposite is true in the Adoration of the Magi.  One constant, however, is the dramatic attention focused on the child, a child that Anne Harling was never to bear.  The kings show the expected contrast of youth, maturity and age, bearing the symbolic gifts listed in Matthew 2:11:  gold (kingship), frankincense (divinity), myrrh (mortality).  The infant stands upon his mother’s lap as the eldest of the three kings, kneeling before him in admiration, offers up a cup of coins marked with crosses.  The other two kings await their turns in the background; one holds an incense boat and the other has a cup with a pyramidal cover. Notice that the face of the Blessed Virgin is different than that of the other scenes.  Her head has been lost and replaced with that of an angel.

23. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Presentation, 1480.

Devout Jews and faithful followers of the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph take their child to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord.  The Law dictates the consecration of every male child to be accompanied by a sacrifice of two turtledoves or pigeons.  The figure of Joseph and his two male companions clearly represent the ceremonial significance of the scene.  Each hold a candle and Joseph carries two doves in a basket.
Simeon, the figure wearing the red mantle and holding baby Jesus, was designated to perform this custom of the Law  (Luke 2: 21-38). Recognizing the child as the Messiah whom the Holy Spirit had promised Simeon he would encounter before death, he calls the baby “Master” and blesses the parents looking on in amazement.  Assuring Mary and Joseph that their son is destined to redeem the people of Israel, Simeon holds the child who leaves Mary’s arms for the first time in the sequence.  Although both parents are present, Mary is placed in the front and central portion of the scene, while Joseph stands behind her.  Baby Jesus, out of his mother’s protective grasp, has his head turned fully around to look at his mother.  The intimate connection between mother and child, although physically altered, is still visibly apparent.

24. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Boy Jesus in the Temple, 1480.

When the Passover caravan leaves Jerusalem following the culmination of the feast, Jesus is not among them.  Much to the surprise of his parents, Jesus has stayed in the temple, surrounded by teachers who answer his questions, amazed at the way he completely understands them.  After three days of worrying and frantically searching for their son, Joseph and Mary find him in the temple with the elders.  When Mary vocalizes the agony she and Joseph have endured while searching for their son, Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
     Although Jesus obeys his parents and returns to Nazareth with them, he has acquired a new understanding of parental terminology.  Retaining the bond between mother and child cemented in the scenes leading up to the discovery in the temple, Jesus gazes not on the elders, but upon his mother, pleading her agony from below.  Joseph is not present in this scene.  His role as father has clearly been superseded as Jesus addresses his divine sonship for the first time.  Knowledge gained in the temple has elevated his sense of parental obedience to his heavenly father, taking precedence over Joseph.  The relationship between mother and child, on the other hand, remains unaltered.  The prevailing object of the child’s gaze is his mother.

25. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Miracle at Cana, 1480.

With his mother standing at his side, Jesus performs his first, public miracle at a wedding celebration in Cana.  Running out of wine, the host of the feast (John 2:9, the figure on the bottom, left-hand side holding a palm and a cup) is instructed by Mary to listen to her son and do whatever he asks.  At the request of his concerned mother, Jesus orders that the six, ceremonial jars be filled with water.  The server in the center of the scene obeys Jesus’ command while the bride and bridegroom are seated patiently at the table to the left of Jesus.  The jugs of water turn into wine and Jesus’ first great miracle is observed.  His compassionate mother, the miracle’s catalyst, stands lovingly by him.

26. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Mary Magdalene, 1480.

The figure of Mary Magdalene, whose lower portion  is damaged, is set upon a background of quarries painted with baskets and aprons.  These heraldic motifs, called badges or charges are associated with Sir William Chamberlain, Anne Harling’s first husband.   He is buried with Anne in the elaborate tomb to the north side of the chancel.  The quarries showing flowers with wings attached were added at a later date to complete the panel.
Mary holds a jar of ointment in her right hand and tresses of hair in her left hand.  These attributes come from her identification
as the woman in the Gospel who asked for forgiveness at Christ's feet..  "Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he (Christ) was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them
with ointment.  (Luke 7: 37-38; Mark 14: 3-9)

27. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Kiss of Judas, 1480.
This scene, in which the Blessed Virgin is not depicted, is one of hostility and betrayal.  Soldiers amass in the background holding spears and halberds.  The two central figures, Christ on the left, embraced by Judas, are crowned by the fierce, red flames of the lantern burning above.  The violent temper of the surroundings is personalized by the portrayal of St. Peter cutting off Malchus’ ear with a sword.  The face of disobedience is one of a deep flesh color, reserved only for Malchus and Judas.  At the center of this fiery anger, however, the halo atop Jesus’ head emits the more powerful light of forgiveness.  He is above the madness, comforting his betrayer in an understanding embrace.

28. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Lamentation, 1480.

The Virgin Mary, accepting of the destiny divinely planned for her son, cannot help but be overcome by the emptiness experienced by any mother who loses a child.  Weeping over his body (the upper part of which is of modern glass) for the last time, Mary is not portrayed as the saintly figure of immaculate conception through which the Messiah came into the world.  She is a mother agonizing over the death of her son, crying tears of an emotion that is human, not divine.  The figures standing in the background, Mary Magdalene on the left and John on the right, comfort the grieving mother.  Both are connected to Jesus in special ways.  John, who calls himself,  “the disciple whom [Christ] loved” was given charge of the Virgin while they stood at the foot of the cross, Christ saying: “Woman behold they son,” and to John “behold thy mother” (John 19: 26-27).  Mary is identified as the woman who washed Christ feet with her tears and anointed  his head with precious oil,  (Luke 7:36-49) preparing him for death.  This human “trinity” convene to witness Jesus’ death.  They bridge the distance between the worshipper and the divine by first inviting the viewer to empathizing with their human sorrow.

29. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Resurrection, 1480.

Shown with a crossed staff in hand, Jesus emerges from his tomb much to the disbelief of the four soldiers who surround him.  With his robe slightly agape to reveal the wound in his side, Christ escapes from the tomb in Resurrection. A brilliant nature of his glorified body is indicated by the yellow rays surrounding him.

30. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Ascension, 1480.

Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:46-7)
After uttering reassuring words to his Apostles gathered around the Virgin Mary, Christ blessed them all before ascending into heaven.  The colorful harmony of the central portion of the window quickly attracts the eye’s attention.  The intimate connection established between Mary and Jesus at birth, continuously represented throughout the scenes of this window, is not dissolved by death.  The unique bond between a mother and her child never dies. As Jesus ascends into heaven, aglow in the light of divinity, Mary mirrors his grace with a similar, earthly radiance - the two remain forever connected.  The footprints on the rock between them further signify the permanence of the indissoluble bond between mother and child.

31. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Pentecost, 1480.

The Apostles remain positioned around the central figure of the Virgin in the scene depicting Pentecost.  Just as Jesus had ascended into heaven with a glow shared by his mother, the Dove descends from above in a similar fashion.  Like the Dove that came to Mary at the Annunciation and filled her with the Holy Spirit, one returns in the end with the same grace, bestowing it upon the Virgin and the Apostles.  Once again, the striking blue shade of the clouds is also found in the robe worn by the Blessed Virgin, vividly the center of the story.  The golden rays and the pure, white hue of the dove shine in harmony with the face of the mother below.

32. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Virgin in Glory, 1480.

The eye’s journey through the scenes of the window culminates in the brilliant adoration of the Blessed Virgin: the ideal mother.  In essence, the mother always has the last word.  Standing in the center with a gold crown hovering above her halo, Mary exudes a radiance that seeps from her every pore.  The angels surround the mother who is revered in all her glory before her Assumption into Heaven.  Although Anne Harling never had the experience of motherhood, the understanding of the incomparable bond between mother and child is vividly depicted in the scenes of the East Window.  The journey of the Virgin and Christ is an accurate portrayal of the love of a mother and child.


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Last Updated July 22, 1997
Gavin Mac Carthy