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Medieval Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral







Canterbury Cathedral

A Walk Around Canterbury Cathedral

Inside Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral Zodiac Signs, Labours, Sins and Virtues Roundels

Canterbury Cathedral Stained Glass Windows (this page)

Limoges Reliquary Ch‚sses made to contain relics of Thomas Becket

Images of the Saint Thomas Becket story





This dramatic north ambulatory window image representing Thomas Becket was made in the early 1900s by Thomas Caldwell, using rescued pieces of medieval glass.

An all too rare example of a simpatico "modern" addition to a medieval building.







The Italians (in this case Scala) are finally into the large hard cover art book scene for English cathedrals.  This book on the stained glass of Canterbury includes photo and descriptive material on the 8 lancet windows in the ambulatory walls which illustrate the medieval miracles of Thomas Becket and which you won't find below.


 Buy from Amazon USA

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There are also photos of some of the surviving Edward IV family panels on the north side of the west transept.  Edward IV himself is shown on the left.


Little Malvern Priory has a slightly more flattering portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, and also the only known portrait of her son Edward V - the "Prince in the Tower". 



There is an excellent page in the Sacred Destinations website with good photos and a location map of the main stained glass in Canterbury Cathedral


photo © Sacred Destinations



Second Typological Window


Part of the medieval "poor man's bible" of Canterbury Cathedral was a group of 12 stained glass windows illustrating stories from the bible.  Not simply a scene by scene narrative, but a combined artistic and intellectual tour de force in which the panels in the centre columns related to the new testament, and the supporting panels in the columns on either side showed scenes from the old testament which predicted the coming of Christ. 


"they represented the most successful marriage of intellectual inventiveness and artistic expression found anywhere in Europe in the 1100s" (Scala Book)


Wear and tear and the destructive thuggery of Cromwell's men and others have reduced the windows from 12 to 2 over the years.  The top two thirds of the best of these is detailed below.  Note that English stained glass is usually read from top to bottom, as opposed to the bottom to top convention of France.






The three Magi follow the star.  On the left is Balaam on his ass, and on the right is Isaiah prophesying.




The Magi meet up with Herod, who asks them to drop in on their way home (so he can cunningly find out where Jesus is and kill him).  On the left the Israelites escape the clutches of the Pharaoh.  On the right a non biblical scene showing Christ leading punters from pagan images towards the true church. 




The (Matthew) Magi join the (Luke) shepherds in the stable, thus giving the artist the chance to capture two adorations in one scene.  To the left, Solomon receives the Queen of Sheba.  To the right Joseph's 12 brothers pay homage to him without realizing who he is.






The angel warns the dreaming Magi to avoid Herod.

On the left, Lot's wife looks back and as a consequence is turned into a pillar of salt.  On the right the prophet in Bethel is warned to take another route back to Judah.   




The presentation of Christ in the temple in Jerusalem.  On the left is the presentation of Samuel in the temple.  On the right is an unrelated scene from another window illustrating the parable of the sower.




The bottom two rows are connected to other windows / stories.



Some other Canterbury stained glass







Adam digs (left) and Methuselah thinks - amongst the oldest window panels at Canterbury, these are down to the same artist who did his thing in the east end rebuild after it was burned down in the great fire of 1174.


Photos from the Canterbury Cathedral Stained Glass book shown above -  Buy from Amazon USA  -  Buy from Amazon UK




King (Henry II) meets Archbishop (Becket) - photo from the Cathedral Guide - how did this survive Henry VIII one wonders? - the answer being that it did not have to as it was a post WWI creation by Thomas Caldwell !  (see below))





The apparently medieval stained glass window in Trinity Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral, shown on the cover of this book, is in fact a creation of Samuel Caldwell Jr, (1862 - 1963 (101)) who looked after the cathedral's glass for over half a century and did not subscribe to today's much more strict renovation rules.  So when you read on the back cover of the book that it's a c14th century window  be aware that in this case c means give or take 600 years.



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