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29 October 2014

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You are in: North Yorkshire > History > Local history > Window cleaning with a difference!

St William Window, York Minster

Part of window after restoration work

Window cleaning with a difference!

Glaziers have restored one of the most important pieces of medieval stained glass in the world. It's taken ten years of painstaking work to clean and reveal the beauty of the St William Window in York Minster.

St William Window

One of the most important pieces of medieval stained glass in the world

Found in the North Quire Aisle of York Minster

Window finished in 1414

Shows the miracles of St William of York

Restoration carried out by York Glaziers Trust

"The huge window, as restored, is amazing" says the Dean of York the Very Reverend Keith Jones.

Over the centuries the St William window has been mended many times, using lead that has gradually obscured the beauty of the window.

This huge expanse of medieval stained glass, in the North Quire Aisle of the Minster, was created by John Thornton, of Coventry, around the start of the 15th century. It has been hidden from view for the last decade whilst experts from the York Glaziers Trust have worked to clean and restore it.

Part of window before restoration

Before restoration

The window shows the miracles of St William of York, including what is said to be the only miracle attributed to him that took place during his lifetime: when St William returned triumphantly to York, a crowd gathered on Ouse Bridge, the bridge collapsed under the strain of the crowd, but no one was hurt as St William blessed the crowd.

 These "before" and "after" images show how much difference the restoration work has made to just one of the window's many panels. These images, as well as those in the St William Window picture gallery, are by Nick Teed, who is Senior Conservator at York Glaziers Trust.

Mediaeval window

Over the last ten years skilled craftspeople from the York Glaziers Trust have cleaned and restored panels within the overall window. They have removed many of the heavy lines created by the lead which had been used over the past five hundred years to repair the window.

The St William Window now looks much as as it was when it was new in the early fifteenth century.

"The huge window, as restored, is amazing."

The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of York.

The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of York said: "This is an epoch in the art of conservation. The huge window, as restored, is amazing, and sets the scene for the even greater challenge of the East Window.  It shows what we can do!"

Officials from the Minster and the York Glaziers Trust describe the research and new techniques which have been used as "ground-breaking" and say it will prove invaluable as the Dean and Chapter of York prepare to restore York Minster's Great East Window, which is the largest expanse of medieval glass in the world.

York Minster's archive of photographs are a vital part of the conservation process. In the case of the St William Window, the Stonegate based glass painter John Knowles took photographs of the window in 1895. He also made full-scale paintings of each panel which show which parts of the glass were original. These were used as evidence for decisions on which parts of the window to restore and how much work should be carried out.

You can find out more about how this painstaking conservation work has been carried out, as well as the importance of the paintings and photographs taken by John Knowles, in our conservation gallery.

Who was St William?

  • William Fitzherbert, Treasurer of York Minster 1112-1114.
  • Became Archbishop of York in 1143.
  • Deposed as Archbishop in 1147.
  • Reinstated as Archbishop in 1154.
  • William died in 1154.
  • The cult of St William grew during the 1200's as pilgrims visited his tomb and reported miraculous healings.

last updated: 31/03/2008 at 11:02
created: 19/06/2007

You are in: North Yorkshire > History > Local history > Window cleaning with a difference!



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