Work starts on country’s largest medieval jigsaw
600-year old stained glass returned to York Minster
A monumental milestone has today (15 June) been reached in a major conservation and restoration project at York Minster, one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
The first piece of restored stained glass has been returned to the 600-year-old Great East Window, seven years after the panels were originally removed for conservation.
Conservators from the York Glaziers Trust have returned the panel ‘God the Father’ to the apex of the window, which is bigger than a tennis court and the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in the country.
311 stained glass panels were removed from the medieval masterpiece in 2008, which the trust’s experts have so far spent more than 70,000 hours working to restore and conserve.
The trust has already conserved 157 panels depicting the Apocalypse of St John, the last book of the Bible as well as historical figures and parts of the Tracery, which each take between 400 and 600 hours to restore, and over the next three months these will be painstakingly returned to the Great East Window.
“It is a fantastic achievement by the team to have reached this milestone and to begin returning the stained glass to the window marks an important date in York Minster’s history,” explained Sarah Brown, Director at York Glaziers Trust.
“The Great East Window is one of the great artistic achievements of the Middle Ages, a stunning expanse of stained glass of unparalleled size and beauty in Britain. The work undertaken as part of this project will ensure this masterpiece is preserved for hundreds of years to come.
“In terms of returning the glass to the window, it seemed fitting to start with God the Father and work downwards, with the medieval perception of human history unfolding beneath his feet.”
God the Father is the uppermost panel in the Tracery section of the window and features the words Ego sum Alpha et Omega – I am the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end, from the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).
The window was made under the direction of medieval master glazier John Thornton of Coventry between 1405 and 1408, who was paid £56. The current restoration work has been part of the York Minster Revealed project, a £20million investment over five years, generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and scheduled for completion in spring 2016.
York Minster’s stonemasons and carvers have worked alongside York Glaziers Trust, conserving and replacing nearly 3,500 stones on the cathedral’s East End, including a badly weathered figure at the apex of the window believed to represent St Peter, to who York Minster is dedicated.
As well as being one of the largest projects of its kind in Europe, it has involved using groundbreaking new material, with the Minster being the first building in the UK to use a revolutionary new UV resistant glass in its external protective glazing.
The sheer size of the Great East Window has meant the conservation and restoration of all the stained-glass could not be completed as part of the five-year York Minster Revealed project.
Work to restore the remaining stained glass from the window will begin in August and will take around two years to complete, before being returned to the window in early 2018. However, from early next year visitors to the Minster will be able to see the Great East Window free from scaffolding, with the already completed panels returned to their rightful places and clear glazing protecting the areas being worked on by the trust.
- Nick Teed, Senior Conservator at York Glaziers Trust, with ‘God the Father’, the first restored stained glass panel to be returned to York Minster’s Great East Window.
- Conservators from York Glaziers Trust return the first stained glass panel - ‘God the Father’ - to York Minster’s Great East Window.
Notes to editors:
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