Image for Britain's Most Fragile TreasureNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Duration: 1 hour

Historian Dr Janina Ramirez unlocks the secrets of a centuries-old masterpiece in glass. At 78 feet in height, the famous East Window at York Minster is the largest medieval stained-glass window in the country and it was the creative vision of a single artist - a mysterious master craftsman called John Thornton, one of the earliest named English artists.

The East Window has been called England's Sistine Chapel. Within its 311 stained-glass panels is the entire history of the world, from the first day to the Last Judgment, and yet it was made 100 years before Michelangelo's own masterpiece. The scale of Thornton's achievement is revealed as Dr Ramirez follows the work of a highly-skilled conservation team at York Glaziers Trust. They have dismantled the entire window as part of a five-year project to repair centuries of damage and restore it to its original glory.

It is a unique opportunity for Dr Ramirez to examine Thornton's greatest work at close quarters, to discover details that would normally be impossible to see and to reveal exactly how medieval artists made images of such delicacy and complexity using the simplest of tools.

The East Window of York Minster is far more than a work of artistic genius, it is a window onto the medieval world and the medieval mind - telling us who were once were and who we still are, all preserved in the most fragile medium of all.

Last on

Thu 16 Jan 2014 01:00 BBC Four

  • Handmade in Britain: a BBC and V&A Partnership

    Handmade in Britain: a BBC and V&A Partnership

    Britain's Most Fragile Treasur is part of Handmade in Britain - a year-long season exploring the history of British decorative arts.

    Victoria and Albert Museum website

Credits

Producer
Paul Tilzey
Director
Paul Tilzey
Executive Producer
Jonty Claypole
Presenter
Janina Ramirez

Broadcasts

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