The Met Museum Presents RADIANT LIGHT: STAINED GLASS FROM CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL, 2/25-5/18
A splendid array of six near-life-size enthroned figures in stained glass from England's historic Canterbury Cathedral will be shown in the exhibition Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral, opening February 25 at The Cloisters-a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. The brilliantly colored panels come from one of the great surviving series of medieval stained glass, and the exhibition represents the first time they have left the cathedral precincts since their creation in 1178-80.
The exhibition completes the celebration of the 75th-anniversary year of the founding of The Cloisters. The exhibition is made possible by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.
Founded in 597, the cathedral is one of the oldest Christian structures in England. Thomas Becket-who is venerated as a saint and martyr both by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion-was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his martyrdom in 1170. He was canonized in 1173. After a severe fire in 1174, the cathedral was extensively rebuilt, and the ambitious series of stained glass windows-in which 86 ancestors of Christ are depicted-was created at this time. No expense was spared in executing this extensive cycle.
The cathedral was an important pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages-as evidenced in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a literary masterpiece from the 14th century-and its popularity increased after the construction of a shrine to Becket. Today, Canterbury Cathedral is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide. Recent repairs to the stonework of the south transept window of this magnificent historic structure necessitated the removal of many of these stained-glass windows, all of unparalleled beauty. While the restoration of the windows has been undertaken, the stained glass has also been conserved.
The windows that will be shown at The Cloisters were originally from the clerestory of the cathedral's choir, east transepts, and Trinity Chapel. The six figures-Jared, Lamech, Thara, Abraham, Noah, and Phalec-were part of an original cycle of 86 ancestors of Christ, the most comprehensive ancestor cycle known in art history. One complete window (Thara and Abraham), nearly 12 feet in height, will be shown with its associated rich foliate border.