Stained glass experts at Canterbury Cathedral have just finished work on a magnificent 19ft high medieval-style window, described as one of their most challenging commissions for many years.
The window has
been created for a church in Dallas, Texas but before jetting off to
the States panels from the window is on public display in the Treasury
area of the Cathedral Crypt from now until until 22 February.
Cathedral's team of glaziers has been working on the window, which is
based on Canterbury's Redemption window in the Corona, for the last two
Commissions are undertaken by the Stained Glass Studio to offset
the cost of conserving the Cathedral's own historic glass but the Dallas
project was not going to be without its headaches for the experienced
Director of the Stained Glass Studio
Leonie Seliger explained: "It was important to the Episcopalian clergy
that the design should pay homage to the original stained glass of
Canterbury Cathedral. This was a massive undertaking because the windows
here were produced by the greatest stained glass artists of the time so
to replicate their work would require an incredible amount of talent
"First and foremost we wanted to make sure it would
be as true to the original as possible, not only in the design but in
the iconography and stories. I had long phone calls with their
theological adviser about the exact content of the cartoons, different
attributes and colours, and it occurred to me this is the same
conversation that would have taken place 800 years ago between the Prior
and the Glazier - it was as if the distance in time collapsed upon
It was not going to be as simple as copying what went before
as the new window incorporates different geometric shapes, which meant
repositioning many of the features whilst making sure that they told the
Areas of Canterbury's Redemption window have been
damaged and replaced over the centuries so to be true to the medieval
period, the design of elements - as intricate as faces and wings - had
to be borrowed from other medieval glass in the Cathedral and even from
Getting the actual glass right was to be another
challenge as Leonie explained: "Due to building regulations in Texas all
new public buildings must include a special energy saving glass. This
outer layer of glass has a distinct greenish-brown hue, which meant that
we had to choose brighter colours for the stained glass to counteract
that. Another challenge was that modern production is so refined that
there are very few imperfections in the colours or thickness and we
worried that this would deaden the final design. So we contacted the
glassblowers who supply us and asked them if it was possible to recreate
those lovely variations that you can see in the original medieval
glass. And they did. It meant a lot of unlearning for them and some
trial and error, but eventually they managed to un-refine their process
and produce this marvellous glass."
The final design features
three narrow arched windows with three rosettes above. The central
lancet depicts the end of the Passion story from the Crucifixion to the
Resurrection and then the Ascension with stories from the Old Testament,
including Abraham sacrificing his son (pictured right), on either side.
Every minute detail has been important as the window is to be used by
clergy in Dallas to illustrate Bible stories for young members of the
congregation and they plan to use cameras to blow up sections as small
as a 50p coin on to large screens during services.
up the work: "There is an irony in that aspects of the final window are
probably closer to the original work of the medieval stained glass
makers than the actual window it's based on. Also, we did not
artificially age the new work, so what you see now is very close to what
the windows in Canterbury Cathedral looked like 800 years ago - before
surface corrosion and repairs changed their appearance significantly.
The completed Dallas window contains a huge number of tiny pieces of
glass, more pieces than any other window we have produced in my time
here. It was a very ambitious project and one that every member of the
stained glass workshop was involved in."
Maurice Billingsley writes: As I left the Crypt of
Canterbury Cathedral today, I was drawn into the treasury room. Often
there is one precious, ancient object to gaze upon. Today it was
something old, something new.
The Church of the Incarnation in
Dallas has commissioned from the Canterbury Cathedral glaziers, new
windows taken from old - eight hundred years old - windows in
Canterbury. A selection is now on display including this panel of the
sacrifice of Isaac, the angel risking his hand and wing to withstand the
blow Abraham is about to deliver.
The new windows, made using
mediaeval techniques, are vibrant and unmarked by the centuries of
weather and pollution that have damaged the originals. Unlike the old
monks of Canterbury, the ministers at Dallas will be able to bring every
detail of the windows to the scrutiny of viewers using modern IT. The
monks would have embraced IT, of course, as an aid to spreading the Good
News - as Agnellus Mirror does in our own small way.
I shall return more than once before the windows are parcelled up and dispatched to Texas.
display can be seen in the Treasury area of the Crypt between 10am and
4pm during the week and on Saturday and between 12.30 and 2.30pm on
Sunday. Normal Precincts charges apply.
Always check the Cathedral
website www.canterbury-cathedral.org for details of any special events or services which may alter visiting times.