Ranworth Rood Screen
The art and music of 15th century Norfolk will be explored and celebrated at a day long symposium dedicated to the medieval treasures of Ranworth Church.
The church’s famous rood screen and Antiphoner, or service book, will be at the centre of the informal conference and singers from Oxford University will recreate the vespers, or evening prayers, originally sung by medieval monks.
Visitors to the symposium will learn about the rood screen paintings, which date back to 1470. Canon Nick Garrard, Rector of Ranworth, will also explain how the Victorians, with their fascination for historic textiles depicted on the screen, are partly to thank for the preservation of the 500-year-old artwork. Other speakers include Dr Spike Bucklow, senior research scientist at the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge, who will talk about the alternating use of red and green colouring in the rood screen paintings.
The Ranworth copy of the music for the St Helen’s Vespers appears in the church’s illuminated Antiphoner which was produced by scribes in Norwich around 1460. It is the only copy to have survived destruction during the Reformation and be returned to its original parish church. The plainsong chant will be sung by medieval singers from Oxford, led by Dr Matthew Cheung Salisbury, at the close of the conference. Matthew will also talk about the importance and significance of the Ranworth Antiphoner.
Prof John Harper, Director of the International Centre for Sacred Music at Bangor University, will bring to life the experience of churchgoing in medieval times. A re-enactment of an evening service will help visitors to understand how a medieval congregation might relate to worship.
“The symposium gives us a chance to travel back in time to find out more about the precious treasures we are so lucky to have in Ranworth church,” said Canon Garrard, who has organised the event. “It will bring a real insight into the sights and sounds of the church in the mid-15th century and help us connect imaginatively with people who worshipped here 500 years ago.”
The symposium follows a major restoration of the nave roof at Ranworth Church, generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and completed in 2015.
Tickets for the day are £20 with an optional lunch offered at £5 per head.
For more information, to arrange an interview or to book a place, please contact Revd Nick Garrard.
St Helen’s Church, Ranworth is also known as the Cathedral of the Broads and stands in a commanding position overlooking the River Bure, with panoramic views of the Norfolk Broads from its tower. It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and has recently been the subject of a major restoration project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Ranworth Rood Screen dates from the mid to late 15th century and is said to be one of the finest surviving examples of its kind in England. Its paintings date to around 1470. Rood screens were a common feature in late medieval church architecture, and were designed as a partition between the nave and the chancel of the church, separating the congregation from the clergy and the choir.
The Ranworth Antiphoner is a large, illuminated manuscript, written on parchment and decorated in a highly ornate and colourful style. It is thought to have been produced by professional scribes in Norwich, which was a renowned centre for such books, in around 1460. It contains the music for the St Helen’s Vespers which would have been sung in churches around the south of England at the time. No other copy of these vespers exist. The Antiphoner was probably intended as much for display as for daily use and went missing from Ranworth from the mid-16th century until the 19th century. It is the only example of its kind to have been returned to its original church, following the Reformation.
Prof John Harper is RSCM Research Professor of Music and Liturgy, and Director of the new International Centre for Sacred Music Studies (ICSMuS) at Bangor. He is also Emeritus Director of The Royal School of Church Music and a Visiting Scholar at Sarum College, Salisbury.His teaching has been wide ranging (from the 10th to the 20th centuries), and has included historical, applied and practical courses, including opera studies at both Birmingham and Bangor. His earlier research was in early 17th-century ensemble music. However, music in the liturgy has always been a central concern. This has manifested itself in choral direction, choral composition, liturgical innovation, and historical research. His guide to Western liturgy (1991) is used worldwide.
Dr Spike Bucklow is Senior Research Scientist at the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge. His book entitled, The Riddle of the Image, published by Reaktion Books, London, has been awarded the ACE/Mercers' International Book Award, 2015. He is internationally recognised for his scientific examination of paintings and his recent book delves into the materials and methods that lie behind the production of historic works. By examining the science of the materials, as well as the techniques of medieval artists, he adds new aspects to our understanding and appreciation of these paintings, and of medieval art in general.
Dr Matthew Cheung Salisbury lectures in music at Oxford University and is a trustee of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society. He specialises in the pre-modern period and is currently researching the texts and plainsong found in existing sources of medieval liturgy.
Revd Canon Nick Garrard is Rector of the Broadside group of parishes, which includes Ranworth, Panxworth, South Walsham, Upton, Woodbastwick and Fishley. He is also a Research Student in the Art History Department of the Open University, examining four Reformation-era objects from Ranworth Church and their implications for understanding the reconfiguration of devotional memory in parish life.