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Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral

Lamech (detail), from the Ancestors of Christ Windows, Canterbury Cathedral, England, 1178–80. Colored glass and vitreous paint; lead came. Images © Robert Greshoff Photography, courtesy Dean and Chapter of Canterbury

"Seemed to have been beamed down from on high"—New York Times

"As bold and imaginative as any modern works…. Go see them."—New York Sun

The exhibition is made possible by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.

Exhibition Objects

Featured Media

Sunday at the Met—Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral

Program information

Journey to Canterbury Cathedral to learn about ongoing conservation efforts to preserve the structure and its stained-glass windows, and hear a recitation from The Canterbury Tales.

Welcome and Introduction:
Timothy B. Husband, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Speakers:
"Canterbury Pilgrims"
The Very Reverend Dr. Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral

"Age-Old Splendor—Splendor's Old Age: Preserving Canterbury Cathedral's Medieval Stained Glass"
Léonie Seliger, Director of Stained Glass, Canterbury Cathedral

A Reading from The Canterbury Tales
Tom Lee, storyteller

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral at The Cloisters.

Recorded March 2, 2014

Radiant Light

Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral at The Cloisters

February 25–May 18, 2014

Accompanied by a book and an Audio Guide

The Cloisters museum and gardens

This exhibition of stained glass from England's historic Canterbury Cathedral features six Romanesque-period windows that have never left the cathedral precincts since their creation in 1178–80.

Founded in 597, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest Christian structures in England. It was an important pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages—as witnessed by Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a literary masterpiece from the fourteenth century—and is also the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide. Recent repairs to the stonework of the magnificent historic structure necessitated the removal of several delicate stained-glass windows of unparalleled beauty. While the restoration of the walls has been undertaken, the stained glass has also been conserved.

The windows shown at The Cloisters are from the clerestory of the cathedral's choir, east transepts, and Trinity Chapel. The six figures—Jared, Lamech, Thara, Abraham, Noah, and Phalec—were part of an original cycle of eighty-six ancestors of Christ, the most comprehensive stained-glass cycle known in art history. One complete window (Thara and Abraham), rising nearly twelve feet high, is shown with its associated rich foliate border.

Masterpieces of Romanesque art, these imposing figures exude an aura of dignified power. The angular limbs, the form-defining drapery, and the encompassing folds of the mantles all add a sculptural quality to the majestic figures. The glass painting, which is attributed to the Methuselah Master, is striking for its fluid lines, clear forms, and brilliant use of color.

See the V&A website for a related video about making a stained-glass panel and The Cathedral Studios' website to learn more about the stained-glass conservation program at Canterbury Cathedral.