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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Canterbury Cathedral stained glass


Stained Glass



“I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay their foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”

Isaiah 54:11-12

An immense wealth of stained glass can be seen throughout Canterbury Cathedral. Many of its jewel-like medallion windows survive from the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The Miracle Windows depict stories often involving ordinary local people, whose names are still known today.

Canterbury Cathedral also has a number of important Victorian windows, as well as 20th century works including the vivid stained glass crafted by Erwin Bossanyi in 1957.

The Oldest Window
The oldest window at Canterbury shows Adam delving. It dates to about 1176 AD and is the first in a series of ancestors of Christ that used to fill the clerestory of the quire. In the 18th century these early windows were moved to the West Window and to the South-West Window. Adam delving now lives in the centre of the bottom tier of the West Window. The panels that can be seen in the quire clerestory today are 19th century copies of the originals.












Why Stained Glass
Light, as the first act of God’s creation, was seen as the purest manifestation of God’s presence, and stained glass windows come to life only when illuminated by light. To medieval theologians, the vibrant holy images depicted in the windows were therefore brought to life by God’s presence.

Few people were able to read or write in the Middle Ages. Stained glass windows told the stories of the Bible and of the Saints in pictures, and guides, perhaps the monks themselves, would explain their content to the pilgrims. The Latin inscriptions in many panels acted as aides memoires to those literate guides.

Restoration and Conservation
Like most other historic glazing in the country, the famous late 12th and 13th - century windows suffered substantially through iconoclasm, vandalism, neglect and environmental impact.






After a long period of decline, the first stained glass restoration studio of its kind was established here in the early 19th century. The damaged windows were repaired, missing elements reconstructed, and new windows were made in the mosaic style of the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Today, the cathedral has its own stained glass conservation studio. Established in 1973, it has a team of seven highly trained conservators. The emphasis now is on the consolidation of the fragile glass and its painted decoration, and on preventive conservation by installing protective glazing.

The studio has become a centre of excellence in stained glass conservation and restoration, and also works on the windows of other churches and cathedrals around the country. The team considers ecclesiastical and private commissions and will advise and help in all matters concerning the creation of new and the restoration/conservation of historic stained glass and lead light glazing.

The Conservation Process
Stained Glass Conservation today follows ethical guidelines that are completely different, sometimes directly contradictory to those of the past. Priority is now given to the historical material - glass, lead and ironwork, all of which are respected equally as part of the object and kept as long as possible.


All work has to be reversible and all interventions and materials are recorded for future generations.

1. The glass is carefully cleaned

2. Then glass, paint pigments and leadwork are consolidated and stabilized

3. All work is recorded

4. Protective glazing is designed and made for the historic window

Click here to see the Canterbury Cathedral webpage where we found this fascinating information.

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