News / Arts & Entertainment

Canterbury Stained Glass Opens Window on Medieval World

Canterbury Stained Glass Provides Window Into Medieval Worldi
X
November 18, 2013 10:57 PM
A display of stained glass art, now in Los Angeles, opens a window on life in medieval England. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, the art work from Canterbury Cathedral conveys the color and drama of an earlier era.
Mike O'Sullivan
A display of stained glass art, now in Los Angeles, has opened a window on life in medieval England.  The art work from Canterbury Cathedral conveys the color and drama of an earlier era.

The color and pageantry of medieval England has been portrayed on the big screen, from jousting knights to historical tales like that of Thomas Becket, the 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his cathedral at the instigation of King Henry II.  In the 1964 Hollywood version of the story, Richard Burton played Becket and Peter O’Toole was King Henry.

Some of the color from that time and place has come to the Getty Museum, a few kilometers from Hollywood.  Six of the cathedral’s stained glass windows have been brought here while workers in Canterbury repair its surrounding stonework. 

It's a first, says the Dean of Canterbury, Robert Willis, who oversees the cathedral.

“It has never happened before, and so this is a unique experience for us, and also for the characters portrayed in the stained glass," he said.

Those characters are from the Bible, but the images were based on people in 12th century England.

The windows are being displayed along with a 12th century prayer book called the St. Alban’s Psalter, a collection of psalms from the Bible. It's on loan from the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany. 

The colors are as vibrant as those in the windows, says the Getty’s Kristen Collins.

“Around 1130, when this book was created, there was an explosion of illuminated book production and book painting," she said.

The impact was dramatic, says Leonie Seliger, who oversees the stained glass at Canterbury Cathedral.

“You had wall paintings, you had textiles, you had mosaic floors, you had these illuminated manuscripts, works in metal and stained glass.  So it would have been a riot of color and form and information and imagery," she said. "And for your average medieval person who lived in a little mud house, this would have been seriously overwhelming."

Dean Willis says the windows have been a source of inspiration.

“And the light shining through means that you get a completely different view every time that the sun changes or it’s cloudy, and there’s that kind of almost cinema effect, which must have been wonderful for folk in those days, and still is for us today," he said.

They're less flashy, perhaps, than Hollywood spectacles, but Willis says these 12th century art works are still inspiring.

The windows are on display in Los Angeles through February 2. They then move to The Cloisters, a branch of New York's Metropolitan Museum, before returning home to Canterbury.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”