York Minster: Restored panels from historic St Cuthbert's Window to go on display

The medieval stained glass may have dimmed over the passing centuries, but it remains a glorious testament to one of England’s most significant saints.

Towering nearly 70ft high and more than 16ft wide, the St Cuthbert Window in York Minster is among the most prized examples of stained glass in the world.

Charting the life and death of St Cuthbert, a multi-million pound project is under way to conserve the window in the cathedral’s East End.

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And visitors to the Minster are being given an unprecedented chance to see parts of the window close up as stained glass panels are going on display.

Kieran Muir, Trainee Conservators for York Glaziers Trust with Nick Teed, Conservation Manager for York Glaziers Trust, taking great care with the top panel

The latest four restored panels are being included in an exhibition at the cathedral.

The Minster’s head of heritage, Dr Helen Rawson, co-curated the exhibition, which is featuring a total of 12 of the window’s 152 panels, along with Dr Katie Harrison, whose thesis at the University of York was on the St Cuthbert Window.

Dr Rawson said: “The window is an exquisite example of the skill and craftsmanship of medieval stained glass makers and stonemasons. It tells the story of the life of St Cuthbert, who was renowned for his good works and deeds and for his spirituality.

“He devoted his life to serving others, and had a special connection with nature, themes that still resonant today and have meaning for our own society.”

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The window was created in about 1440 and shows scenes from St Cuthbert’s life, including miracles he performed and his death.

His birth is also featured, showing a heavenly light bathing the scene, prompting neighbours to run to fetch water as they feared a fire had broken out due to the godly illuminations.

Work to restore the window and surrounding stonework began in 2021, and will take five years to complete.

The £5m project has been partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, while the York Minster Fund is continuing to raise money.

Work includes installing protective glazing to replace external quarry glazing installed in the 1930s, to provide a barrier between the medieval glass and the elements.

The work is part of a 20-year project involving the York Glaziers Trust to ensure all 128 of the Minster’s mostly medieval windows have protective glazing to shield the delicate glass from decay.

The trust’s director, Professor Sarah Brown, has been overseeing the conservation of the St Cuthbert Window.

She said: “York Minster is one of the world’s great treasure houses of stained glass, and the St Cuthbert Window provides a sophisticated narrative from the medieval era. It is a real privilege to be involved, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Born near Melrose in the Scottish Borders in 634AD, St Cuthbert became one of medieval England’s most prominent figures, although he never lost touch with the public.

He travelled widely to often remote communities, and carried out a series of miracles to heal the sick.

He spent just over eight years of his life on Inner Farne where he found the closeness and communion with God he so longed for.

He died on the island off the coast of Northumberland in 687AD.

The exhibition, called Light, Glass and Stone: Conserving the St Cuthbert Window, is running at York Minster through until 2024.