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THE SITE Saint-Jean-des-Vignes (founded 1076) was the motherhouse of a major regional order following the Augustinian Rule. Little-studied until excavations began in 1982, the abbey owned more than 40 parishes and 20 farms. Today, only the façade of its church remains standing. The now-destroyed building was, however, more than 90 meters long and was thus a major monument of Gothic architecture.

Permission to excavate at Saint-Jean-des-Vignes is given by the Direction des Antiquités historiques de Picardie now led by M. Jean-Olivier Guilhot, assisted by M. Bruno Desachy, Conservateur régional de l'archéologie. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and support of M. Denis Defente, Conservateur du Patrimoine, and M. Dominique Roussel, Conservateur du Musée municipal de Soissons and head of Soissons's archaeology service.

THE GLASS PROJECT The Wesleyan-Brown Monastic Archaeology Project (MonArch), under the direction of Professors Sheila Bonde and Clark Maines, began systematically excavating the monastic site of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes, Soissons, France in 1982.

During the 1998 study season, approximately 1,500 fragments of glass (137,000 cm2) unearthed during 1951/52, 1978 and by the MonArch project, were studied by Patricia C. Pongracz. The glasses were categorized according to color, painting style, grozing technique, thickness, and weathering; a selection was measured and drawn. These broad categories, based on visual examination, allowed a tentative glazing chronology to be established. The extant fragments suggest at least three glazing campaigns, possibly four, dating from the 13th through the 17th centuries at Saint-Jean-des-Vignes.

CLASSIFICATION CRITERIA An intact grisaille panel and the glasses collected in 1951/52 formed the basis for comparison of the glasses excavated at Saint-Jean-des-Vignes. The triangular grisaille panel, now in the Soissons Municipal Museum, was found on the north side of the choir with its tracery and leading intact. The panel is composed of 14 pieces of aqua grisaille glass painted with foliate and crosshatch design. The grisaille pieces are arranged around a small purple, unpainted medallion. On the basis of style and context the panel may be securely dated to the middle of the 13th century. This panel was available for direct comparison of the glasses analyzed on site in 1996.

SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS In July 1999, Patricia C. Pongracz, funded by a Rakow Grant for Glass Research from the Corning Museum of Glass, selected glasses to send to Corning for scientific analysis. These glasses were chosen as representative of the various colors, states and types of weather found on site. From these, Dr. Robert Brill, research scientist at the museum, sampled 76 glasses for analysis to determine their chemical compositions. The glasses were examined microscopically to assess weathering characteristics. Scientific analysis is now in progress; results will be ready in the fall of 2000.

The Corning Museum of Glass has analyzed in a long-term project 350 samples of stained glass from various locations in Britain and Europe. The Saint-Jean-des-Vignes' glasses will be the most comprehensive analysis of glass from a single site. The analyses will be compared with the library of compositional groups that Corning has assembled.

It is our hope that the scientific analysis together with art historical and the archaeological analyses will allow us to reconstruct the glazing campaign of this major Gothic abbey and to asses its place in the history of stained glass.

THE GLASS On the basis of visual analysis in the field and microscopic examination in the United States, the glasses were separated into the nine categories established by Patricia C. Pongracz in 1998. The categories are illustrated and described below.

 

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