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600-year-old stained glass window

West window of York Minster

The extensive conservation project has taken a decade and cost millions of pounds

Worshippers at York Minster will again be able to use the Lady Chapel after a project to restore 600-year-old stained glass in the Great East Window came to an end this week.

The window, which is the country’s largest single expanse of medieval stained glass, is complete following an extensive conservation restoration project that has taken a decade and cost £11.5m.

The final panel, depicting the creation and fall of man, was returned to the Great East Window on Tuesday, ten years after 311 panels were removed by York Glaziers Trust to apply a UV-resistant glazing to prevent the windows from sun damage. Centuries of exposure to the elements had left the stone so badly weathered that the window had begun to bow.

The completion of the window marks the start of a multi-million pound campaign in partnership with the York Minster Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund to provide protective glazing to all 128 of the cathedral’s stained glass windows. The Dean of York, The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, said it would take twenty years to achieve but was vital if the “irreplaceable windows”  are to be preserved for generations to come.

“It’s a triumph to have the Great East Window complete once again and we look forward to seeing it in all its glory when the scaffolding is removed and the project formally completed in the spring”, she added.
Sarah Brown, Director at York Glaziers Trust, said: “This has been a once in a lifetime project for the team and it’s a huge privilege to be part of this milestone in the Minster’s history.
“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.”
The window was created between 1405 and 1408 by master glazier John Thornton, who was paid £56 by the Chapter of York, the governing body of the Minster. It depicts the beginning and end of all things from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, known in the Middle Ages as the Apocalypse.

The cathedral’s Lady Chapel will reopen in a matter of months, once the scaffolding surrounding the window is disassembled.

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15 August 2020
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