More than half of England’s medieval stained glass is held in York Minster’s 128 windows, making the cathedral custodian of some of the most important and irreplaceable art from this period.
Great East Window
The Great East Window, which is the size of a tennis court, is the single largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the country. It was created between 1405 and 1408 by master glazier John Thornton and shows the start and end of all things, from the world as described in the book of Genesis, to the events that will presage the end of the world and the second coming of Christ as told in the visionary Book of Revelation, know in the Middle Ages as the Apocalypse.
The window is currently part of a huge restoration and conservation project, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, as part of York Minster Revealed. All 311 panels from the window have been removed and are being painstakingly restored by York Glaziers Trust. Work to return the 600-year-old stained glass to the window started in June 2015, but it will be another three years before the fully restored window is completed.
Five Sisters Window
The Five Sisters Window in York Minster’s North Transept is the only memorial in the country to women of the British Empire who lost their lives during the First World War. The window, which dates from the mid-1200s, was restored and rededicated between 1923 and 1925 after it was removed during the First World War to protect it during Zeppelin raids.
The window is filled with grisaille glass (from the French for ‘greyness’), hand-painted and set into intricate geometric designs. The central panel features one more colourful section, taken from the Norman Minster and inspired by the Crusades.
More information about the Five Sisters Window and its significance is available here.
Great West Window
Created and installed between 1338 and 1339 at a cost of £67, the Great West Window shows the authority and purpose of the Church through a hierarchy going up the window. The base level features eight Archbishops of York, above who are the Apostles from who the Archbishops derive their power, followed by panels showing the life of Christ and the Virgin – the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection and Ascension. The top panels show Mary crowned as Queen and sitting beside Christ in Heaven.
The window is known as ‘the heart of Yorkshire’ due to the shape of its upper stonework, which was completely replaced in 1989-90 due to erosion.