Thursday March 27, 2014 | by Paulina Switniewska

Twelfth-century stained-glass windows from the Canterbury Cathedral on display at The Cloisters

The Canterbury Cathedral, whose name many will recognize from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as a famed pilgrimage destination, and one of the oldest Christian structures in England, has been the site of stained glass windows of staggering historical importance and beauty. For the first time, six of these priceless windows, have been temporarily removed from their home of nine centuries, and are on view for a limited time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters Museum. Through May 18th, 2014, six life-sized stained glass panels depicting Christ’s ancestors and created in 1178-80 make up the "Radiant Light: Stained Glass from the Canterbury Cathedral" exhibition, which will be on display as part of the Upper Manhattan institution's 75th anniversary year.

Canterbury Cathedral has been a fixture in English history since its founding in the year 597. As one of the oldest structures in England, it has seen Thomas Becket’s reign as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his martyrdom in 1170. The six glass panels, which depict the ancestors of Christ—Jared, Lamech, Thara, Abraham, Noah, and Phalec—were created during an extensive restoration period following a devastating fire that occurred in1174, and were originally part of an 86-piece cycle. Their display at The Cloisters (and prior to that, only the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles) marks the first time the panels have been exhibited at a location other than the cathedral in over 830 years.

As described in the exhibition announcement: “[t]hese imposing figures are masterpieces of Romanesque art, and exude an aura of dignified power. The angular limbs, form-defining drapery, and encompassing folds of the mantles all add a sculptural quality to the majestic figures, which are remarkably legible, even at a distance.” The pieces are from the east transepts, the clerestory of the cathedral’s choir, and the Trinity Chapel.

An interactive panorama of the Canterbury Cathedral that provides visitors with a 360 degree view of the cathedral’s interior, which shows the panels in their original locations, is also available.

—Paulina Switniewska


February 25th, 2014-May 18th, 2014
"Radiant Light: Stained Glass from the Canterbury Cathedral"
The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
99 Margaret Corbin Drive
Fort Tryon Park
New York, New York 10040
Tel: 212-923-3700

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.