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Stained Glass windows

One of the most famous aspects of Canterbury cathedral is its wonderful stained glass, quite a lot of dating from the 12th century. For more information see the Cathedral website pages by clicking here.

I haven't yet been able to get good photos of much of the glass, but here is an excerpt from Rackham's comprehensive guide to the Genealogical windows, including two drawings of the largest windows (also from his book) to show you where to find them.

(However, I have been sent some good photos of the modern Bossanyi windows - please click here to see them)


Text from Bernard Rackham "The Stained Glass Windows of Canterbury Cathedral"
Canterbury SPCK 1957


THE clerestory windows of the eastern half of the cathedral were designed to illustrate by a series of figures, two in each window, the descent of Christ from Adam, as recorded in Luke 3; eight additional figures were included, from Matthew I, in order to make up the requisite number of eighty-four . The first window, at the west end of the Choir, on the north, showed the Almighty creating Adam in its upper half and Adam delving below; the last, facing it, brought the series to an end with the Virgin Mary and our Lord. All the surviving figures except Adam are seated on a throne or chair. The sequence was interrupted by five windows in the Apse, of which three, each comprising three panels, were devoted to the most important incidents in the Life and Passion of Christ from the Nativity to the Ascension (see p. 36 [of ths book]) ; flanking these one on each side, were two windows by George Austin, relating to Moses and St John the Baptist as the first and last of the Prophets (the subjects of their original glass are not recorded).

There is a perceptible difference in treatment and disposition between the windows in the western part of the series and all, save the first two on each side, in the Trinity Chapel; of the former, all but those in the first six windows were originally set under shrine-like arched canopies, and may be assumed to date from about 1178 ; the remainder, in the Trinity Chapel, though they must have been part of the intended scheme from the first, were evidently executed later, about the beginning of the 13th century, and from cartoons by a different designer; the figures are enclosed in panels of various outlines.

All the clerestory windows retain their original iron armatures; of the figure-panels, only nine now remain in the clerestory, and of these only three (Nos. 15,23 and 61) are in their original places, the rest having been shifted from window to window. Fourteen of the windows still show their ancient borders, which are notable for their powerful foliage design and are entirely Romanesque in feeling. The remaining figures that survive are now distributed in the West window of the Nave and the South window of the South-West Transept (to which they were removed in 1792) and in a window of St Andrew's Chapel. They are described below as in their present several locations and, in each place, in their original sequence in the series (indicated by the numerals in brackets following their names). With the exception of the eight figures mentioned above and fourteen borders the windows were filled with modern glass by George Austin in 1861-2, copying or imitating the ancient glass. Austin's work was partly destroyed during the air attack of 1942 and has now been restored by Mr Caldwell ; he took this opportunity of inserting in the upper half of the first window the original 12th-century face of Adam, which he had come across, and two other heads, reproduced in the author's Ancient Glass of Canterbury Cathedral, pl. 5oa, 648..


Authorís note: Here and throughout this Guide italicized capitals in inscriptions are either interpolations or modem restorations. Deficiencies which can be made good without question are inserted in roman capitals between square brackets []; small italics are used for explanatory insertions.



The original borders remain in the following windows (numbered from left to right) :

Choir, north side-Windows 1, 3, 5.

North-East Transept, west side-Window 1.

North-East Transept, east side-Windows 3, 4. ,

Trinity Chapel, north side-Windows 1,4,5,7 ; in No.5 the groundwork is also ancient, slightly restored.

Trinity Chapel, south side-Windows 6, 7, 9.

South-East Transept, east side-Windows 1, 2.


North-East Transept, west side, Window 3 :

Heber (15). Inscr. (defective) : ..BER. The lower half restored by S. C. Caldwell, 1955.


North-East Transept, east side, Window 4 :

Shem (12), holding a scroll. Inscr.: SEM.

Isaac (23). Throne painted to imitate porphyry. Inscr. (defective )I. ..C. This figure is in its original position.

South-East Transept, east side, Window 1 :

Neri (61). Inscr. : NERI (in original position).

Rhesa (64), holding a scroll. Inscr. : RESA. (Wrongly identified by Westlake as Esaias.)

South-East Transept, east side, Window 2 :

Judah (25), holding a scroll. Inscr. : IVDA. Phares (26), with scroll. Inscr. : PHARES.

South-East Transept, east side, Window 3 :

Unidentified, perhaps Matthat (52) or Maath (70). Inscr. (defective) : M. ..AT. Unidentified.


The references preceding the names are to the diagram of the window

L4 Adam (2), girt with a fleece and delving with a mattock, Inscr. : ADAM. The figure may be compared with that closely similar but on a miniature scale at the beginning of the Bible of Robert of Battle (de Bello), Abbot of St Augustine's (1224-53), which was doubtless copied from it or from an original common to both; in later MSS. Adam commonly wears a shirt.

L.1 Esrom (27), with scroll. Inscr. : ESROM.

L.7 Aram (28), with scroll. Inscr. : ARAN(sic).

L.6 Aminadab (29), with scroll. Inscr. (defective) : ...H(?) A...AD.

L.2 Naasson (30). Inscr. : NAASON.

I.2 Obed (33), with scroll. Inscr. : OBETH.

I.6 Jesse (34), with scroll. Inscr. : IESSE.

I.3 Rehoboam (37), with scroll. Inscr. : ROBOAS.

I.5 Abia (38), with scroll. Inscr. : ABIAS. I 19

I.1 Perhaps Jechonias (41), holding a book and a bowl full of coins. Inscr ..illegible. .ft~

1.7 Perhaps Salathiel (42). Inscr. (defective) : SI. ..C

L.5 Joseph (67). Inscr. (partly restored) : IOSEPH.

L.3 Semei (68), holding a book or scroll (exceptional in being beardless). Inscr. (incorrectly restored) : SETH.


The references preceding the names are to the diagram of the window (below)

Q4 Jared (7). Inscr. : IARETH.

Q.8 Enoch (8). He looks up towards the hand of God extended from a cloud and seizing his wrist for his "translation" to Heaven. Inscr. : ENOCH.

Q.5 Methuselah (9). Inscr. : MATVSALE.

Q.l Lamech (10), on throne with high arcaded back. Inscr. (restored) : LAMECH.

Q.2 .Noah (I I). Inscr. : NOE.

Q.6 Phalec (17), with scroll. Inscr. : PHALEaH.

Q.7 Ragau (18), with scroll. Inscr. : RAGAV.

Q.3 Terah (21), with scroll. Inscr. : THARE.

M.l Abraham (22). Inscr. : ABRAM (the usual form of M may be noted).

H4 David (35), supporting a scroll inscribed: DAVID.

H.S .Nathan (36), holding a sceptre topped with a dove. Inscr. : NATHAN. )

M.5 Hezekiah (39). He holds the Dial of Ahaz, in allusion to the shadow turning backward on the sundial ( 2 Kings 20. 8-1 I). Inscr. : EZECHIAS.

M.6 Josiah (40), holding the Book of the Law (in the form of a long scroll inscribed with mock Hebrew characters), in allusion to its re-discovery (2 Kings 22. 8-23. 2). Inscr. : IOSIAS.

H.6 Unidentified, possibly Jonan (47). In "Phrygian" cap. Inscr. (defective) : ACLC(?).

H.3 Unidentified, with sceptre, possibly Joseph (48). Inscr. (disordered, and perhaps belonging to another figure) : IOSEP.

H.7 Jose (55), with scroll. Inscr. (mutilated) : LESV.

H.2 Er (56). Inscr. : HER.

M.8 Zorobabel (63). Inscr. : ZOROBABEL.

H.I Joanna (63). Inscr. : JOHANNA.

H.8 Juda (66), with scroll. Inscr. : IVDE.

M.2 Unidentified, perhaps Salmon (31).

M.7 Unidentified, perhaps Boaz. Head modern.


Cosam (58), beardless, with scroll. Inscr. (defective) : CO. ..(?) .Restored and set in its present place in 1928.


The bearded head of an unidentified figure from one of the earlier windows of the series.



Copyright Stephen Bax 1999-2003