Stained Glass Summer – The Vibrant and the Sacred

27th June 2023

The vibrant and the sacred – cathedrals will be sharing images of their stained-glass windows as part of a summer campaign by the Church of England to share our stories.

Summer in our Cathedrals. What will you discover?

From Birmingham Cathedral’s famous pre-Raphaelite windows by Burne Jones and William Morris, David Hockney’s The Queen’s Window in Westminster Abbey, to the Mark Chagall Window in Chichester Cathedral, our cathedrals tell their stories and bring the Bible to life through the art and images in their windows.

Stained Glass Summer

See all the stained glass posts on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Birmingham-born Burne-Jones was only supposed to be creating one window for what was then St Philip’s Parish Church but he was so struck with the beauty of his first window

The Ascension – which depicts Jesus parting with his followers and ascending into heaven forty days after Easter- that he was inspired to design two more.

The Nativity and The Crucifixion were the next two windows to be installed in 1887. They were paid for by wealthy Birmingham resident Emma Chadwick Villers-Wilkes. She specifically requested that there should be no oxen in the Nativity scene (as she considered them to be too brutish) and no blood in the Crucifixion scene.

The Last Judgement (1897), is widely recognised as the finest example of Burne-Jones’ work, depicting the return of Christ and his judgement on humanity. The window was a memorial to the Bishop Bowlby of Coventry who was Rector of St Philip’s from 1875 to 1894.

Stained Glass Summer Campaign

Visitors can currently get up close to these windows as part of the Cathedral’s Divine Beauty project with  £641,200 in National Lottery Heritage funding to conserve and protect the windows for future generations.

David Hockney was commissioned by the former Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd Dr John Hall to create a lasting legacy to mark the reign of Elizabeth 11, our longest-reigning monarch.

David Hockney, one of the most influential British artists of her reign, was asked if he would undertake the commission to design a stained-glass window in a space which was then of 19th-century blank glass.

David Hockney’s stained glass window for Westminster Abbey is a vibrantly-coloured contemporary work recognisable of his style. It depicts a country scene featuring hawthorn blossom and uses his distinct colour palette of yellow, red, blue, pink, orange and greens.

Hockney used an iPad to electronically design the window as he considered the iPad a natural design tool for this project because, like a stained-glass window, it is back-lit.

Hockney was also inspired by the work of Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, painters who also worked in stained glass.

Stained Glass Summer

Mark Chagall was the inspiration for a new window commissioned by Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester from 1955-1977

The Dean had seen the windows Chagall had created for the synagogue of the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem at a special exhibition at the Louvre in 1960 and they inspired him to commission the artist to create a window for the Cathedral.

At that time Chagall was too busy, but Hussey contacted him again in 1975 and this time Chagall accepted the commission.

Chagall’s design is a visual interpretation of Psalm 150 “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”

The window contains all the musical instruments mentioned in the psalm, from the Jewish harp played by King David at the top, to the strings (bottom left) and the trumpet (bottom right). There is also a reference to literature and a number of animals and birds appear in the window.

Marc Chagall grew up in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and drew his inspiration from Jewish religious life, especially the mystical Hassidic sects that flourished in his hometown of Vitebsk.

The Chagall window in Chichester Cathedral and windows in the church at Tudeley, near Tonbridge, are the only Chagall glass in Britain.

Stained Glass Summer