Friday, 6 April 2018

The Pugin Floor Tile

There was a tangible golden ambience in Stanbrook Abbey chapel created by morning sunlight streaming through the windows, bouncing off the woodwork, and dancing across the floor tiles.
These exquisite floor tiles made by Mintons were designed by Edward Welby Pugin, the eldest son of eminent architect/designer, Augustus Welby Pugin.
The design of this tile captured our attention. It was used in the floor area separating the Eastern Chapel from the main body of the chapel known as The Choir

Originally the Eastern chapel had an elaborate metal screen which afforded privacy to The Choir area. A visiting priest could give his sermon from behind the screen unseen by the nuns sitting in The Choir. When the nuns stopped being an enclosed order during the early 1970s the screen had been removed.

   I found the design intriguing - what did it represent?
 

What was the bird - a Raven or a Crow

What did it carry in it's beak and was it of any significance?  
After exploring several blind alleys, I considered the fact that the nuns belonged to a Benedictine Order,
  and happily discovered that I was finally travelling along the right road.


 St. Benedict lived as a hermit, in spiritual isolation in a cave. Upon the death of an abbot in a nearby monastery, St. Benedict, who was known for his sanctity, was asked to become the new abbot. However, the strict discipline and obedience that he demanded so angered the other monks that they added poison to his bread. Each morning St. Benedict would feed pieces of his bread to a raven, but detecting the poison Benedict taught the bird to fly away with the deadly bread to a place where it could do no harm. St. Benedict decided to leave the monastery and returned to live in the wilderness that he loved. 

courtesy wiki
Saint Benedict of Nursia 480-543 Detail from a fresco by Fra Angelico (c. 1400-1455) in the Friary of San Marco, Florence
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Nursia has now been renamed Norcia. It is a remote Italian town surrounded by the Apennines in Umbria. Norcia was at the epicentre of the Italian earthquake 18 months ago. Norcia is reknowned in Italy for its wild boar hams and sausages, along with its much sought after black truffles. We travelled there many years ago, but did not realise the significance of St. Benedict to the town at that time

43 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Rick - glad you enjoyed seeing it.

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  2. Stanbrook Abbey Chapel really is the most glorious place. The floor is absolutely wonderful, and how fascinating is that tile with the black ravens. Thank you for sharing the story of St Benedict, which I had never heard before.

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    1. The story was unknown to me too Patricia, but finding out about it took me on quite a lengthy journey.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, Beautifully tiled floors are an English trademark. Even many American homes are tiled with beautiful patterns that are claimed to be genuine Minton tiles.

    I wonder how St. Benedict trained the bird to discard the bread without eating it? While it is not surprising that the other monks could not imitate his rigor and sanctity, I am currently reading a history of the Shakers, who sometimes suffered great deprivations in order to follow the dictates and example of founder Ann Lee, who came from England to America to lead the sect.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - Mintons exported their tiles all around the world - I know that there is a Minton tiled floor in the Capitol building Washington.
      The same thought struck me about the poisoned bread Jim, but although there maybe an element of truth in this tale, I think that it is best taken with a large pinch of salt!

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  4. An amazing building and good research. Like you I love going on internet journeys like that as that kind of breadcrumb detective path would never have been possible before without a lot of legwork, records offices and public libraries. My own cyber travels are usually focused on more mundane subject matters though but when it happens its wonderful :)

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    1. Whatever would we do without google Bob - I, like you, love to find the answer to questions I have, and when it is successful then it is a eureka moment. I also think that it good to stretch your mind in different directions, you are never too old to learn new things.

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  5. The tiles are gorgeous, I love the designs and the colors. The back grid tiles that surround them seem to be leading you down the aisle. They are all in perfect harmony with the rest of the chapel.

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    1. I have long had a love affair with Pugin designed tiles for Mintons, so seeing this wonderful display in the chapel was the icing on the cake for me.

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  6. A magnificent church!

    I've heard of the technique of screening off a section like that- a former convent here had that when it was a convent. It's now used as an administrative college overseeing medical students and doctors in our area, and the original sanctuary now serves as a large meeting space, while the former choir area is the building's library.

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    1. I should imagine your former covent must have been a closed order of nuns too William. Even though buildings such as these are becoming more and more redundant it is important that their integrity is saved for future generations.

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  7. Fascinating! I did not know this story about St Benedict either. And all those tiles are gorgeous.

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  8. Glorious floor tiles. It looks a very impressive place particularly in the sunlight. B x

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    1. Augustus Pugin and his sons certainly made a huge contribution to our Victorian Gothic heritage.

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  9. The floor tiles are gorgeous, as is the light pouring into the chapel. I sometimes wonder what thoughts went through the minds of the people who came to these magnificent places, often from much simpler and less colourful places.
    Great research. I enjoy digging around to find the back story, too. Google is a wonderful too.

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    1. Stanbrook Chapel has been hidden from the public eye since it was built due to it belonging to a closed order of nuns. We felt priveleged to have the opportunity to stay there now it has just been sensitively restored and opened as an hotel.

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  10. Fascinating - thank you for sharing.

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  11. What a wonderful picture and the tiles are beautiful.I appreciate all of the research that you do...amazing. We will return to Italy next year and I may just put Norcia on our list since we will be on the Umbria border.

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    1. If you cannot make it to Norcia, which is reached via a long high road up through a wonderful gorge, then I would recommend that you do try and visit Spoleto known as one of the loveliest of Umbrian hill towns.

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  12. Beautiful and most interesting post Rosemary. I love that part of Umbria. Spoleto in particular with it's flower baskets hanging from every wall and door. The tiles are spectacular and show how truly long lasting they are.

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    1. I love that area too Gina - so undiscovered and beautiful compared with the 'hot spots' that most tourists tend to flock to.

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  13. Lovely and clear photo of the inside and it's really golden, just beautiful.

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  14. The first photo is beautiful. Such a lovely warmth about it. No doubt it would have felt cold when the nuns were worshiping there in days gone by.
    Tiles - each one a work of art, with more stories to tell. Well done with your discoveries via the Internet.

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    1. Thanks - I was happy to discover the meaning behind this lovely tile Betty.

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  15. Hello, Rosemary! How so beautiful the floor tiles! I think I can’t walk on them. I have Minton tea cups but have never seen Minton tiles in person.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - Mintons were famous for their floor tiles during the Victorian era, and they were in fact popular in many other countries around the world too.
      There is no problem walking on them - the ones that I have shown here have been in daily use for over 100 years.

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  16. Fabulous floor and with the sun shining on them it gives a golden reflections, really beautiful !

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    1. I thought that the floor was stunning Jane.

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  17. I thought the ravens were carrying eggs - bread is much more likely

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    1. Yes, Ravens have much larger beaks than crows, but eggs I think would even be too big for them.

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  18. I've been interested in all your posts about this place. It must be rare indeed to have the chance to experience a little-altered Pugin interior. I had never heard of it but if travelling in the Malvern area will remember, and see if I can stay there.

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    1. It is certainly a different experience staying at Stanbrook Abbey, and if you like the work of the Pugins then it is definitely worth keeping in mind.

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  19. Thank you for another informative and very interesting post Rosemary. Most people, like me, would just see pretty tiles decorated with birds. We are surrounded by historical stories, most of us don’t look hard enough to uncover them. Your first photo is stunning. I have also read your posts about Kashmir, it has been on my bucket list for a few years.

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    1. Thank you Polly for your comments here, and for letting me know that you have seen the posts from Kashmir too. We absolutely loved Kashmir, in fact, I love everywhere and everything that we have done in India, I am a bit of an India enthusiast.
      Hope that you can manage to travel there at sometime in the future, and I am confident that you too would also love it.

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  20. Dearest Rosemary,
    Oh, what a heavenly sight all the wood and beautiful tiles!
    Sure that is a legend about St. Benedict but how sad that they tried to poison his bread in order to get rid of him.
    One wonders how often in those days that tactic was used very successfully...
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. I have nodoubt that it has always been a human condition from down the ages for some to be envious of others.

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  21. Really wonderful photos !!!!!!!!!

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