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The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral

  • Jeffrey Weaver and Madeline H. Caviness

    Eighty-six near-life-size figures of the male ancestors of Christ once looked down on the choir and eastern extension of the medieval cathedral and priory church of Canterbury. Made of colored glass, with the details of the faces and costumes painted on the surface, the ancestors of Christ windows illuminated the liturgical areas during all but the earliest services in the depths of winter, glowing pale blue at dawn and yellow and red at noon. Dating from the twelfth century, the surviving windows from this series are among the oldest panels of stained glass in England, and they are significant examples of what was at the time a relatively new art—monumental stained glass. They are also considered to be among the most famous works of English medieval painting.

    This luminously illustrated book discusses the original context, iconographic program, and stylistic development of these windows. It also explores how the windows were perceived by various medieval viewing constituencies, including royals, peasants, princes of the church, the local Jewish community, and monks resident at Canterbury.

    The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral was published on the occasion of the exhibition Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum September 20, 2013, to February 2, 2014.

    Jeffrey Weaver is associate curator in the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Madeline H. Caviness is Mary Richardson Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art and Art History at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.

    "The power of art and history fuse in an exhibition at the Getty of the Canterbury Cathedral's stained-glass windows and the St. Albans Psalter."
    —Los Angeles Times

    “The exhibition catalogue speculates on the identities of the glass artisans and the extent of restoration over the centuries, and it explains how medieval churchgoers were expected to interpret the portraits. The clearly legible names of Christ’s male forebears, starting with Adam, were meant to reinforce British patriarchal inheritance traditions. The passage of light through dark glass symbolized religious miracles, like the miraculous conception.”
    —New York Times

    “Filled with excellent colour pictures and a wealth of detailed information.”
    —Western Mail

    “Richly illustrated.”
    —Antiques Diary

     “A virtuoso demonstration of how to communicate highly sophisticated scholarly insights to bring this remote material bang up to date."
    —Institute of Historic Building Conservation

    “In July 2009 structural damage was discovered in the stonework of the Great South Window of Canterbury Cathedral. The stained glass was immediately removed and safely stored, to be returned once the repairs to the stonework are complete, but this has afforded the J. Paul Getty Museum a unique opportunity to photograph and study in detail some of the cathedral’s famous Christ Windows.”
    —Church Building & Heritage Review

    104 pages
    7 1/2 x 10 inches
    63 color and 5 b/w illustrations
    ISBN 978-1-60606-146-6

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum