Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Stain glass restoration at York Minister

While in York my husband surprised me by signing me up for a class at the York Minster on Stain Glass restoration.  I love stain glass and we have seen so much here in the UK.  The York Minster is undergoing a 20 million pound project on restoring the 311 stain glass panels in the east wing.

Before I left for my class my husband found a free map and took the kids on a walk thru York looking for the hidden cat statues throughout the city. 

 I think they found 19 or 20 out of the 27 cats before tiring out and heading back to the hotel to wait for me to finish with my class.  I found the first cat with them:)
York Minster East Window is undergoing a massive repairs.    Unfortunately for us the window won't be completed until 2016 so we won't  be able to see the entire stain glass window when it is completed:(.  

For this special tour we were able to go inside the studio and see how the work was being done.   No photos were allowed inside but fortunately there was a small exhibition in the minster that shows the results of all the hard work.

Many of the window are undergoing repairs and the minster is doing conservation work on the windows.  We were told that many window have over time been worked on but many of the repairs were haphazardly done with poor workmenship or even adding glass that didn't match to the original design.  Some work done during the Victorian times even wiped away valuable images off the glass due to the harshness of the chemicals being used. The motto of this repair and conservatorship is that no work can be done that can't be undone by future repairs should improved methods be discovered.  If any piece of glass is to be replaced  it must be identified and recorded precisely.  On average it takes 350 to 600 man hours to complete one glass panel.

Here is a panel that was recently worked on.  As you can see the red cape and white robe are completely made of small pieces of glass.  Also some of the of faces of the figures are almost completely washed away. 

This is the finish piece and it is amazing to see the end result.  They had documentation that said the original robe was purple.  We were told any changes done to the window first had to go thru a panel of historians who search for any known documents or drawings of the windows from the past.  This version they believe is more accurate to the original panel.

Here is another panel before conservation.  Also look at the faces at the top and how they are blurry and difficult to see.

And after repair-- in this panel in order to get rid of the extra lead lines in the white robe they glued the glass together and you can still see the faint mended lines in the white robe.  Also in this panel the faces above, one had to be completely redone

Can you tell which is the reconstructed face?

the Conservation uses two ways of letting future generations know if a piece of glass is not an original.  First all new piece of glass has to be signed and dated(you can just barely see that on the side of the face)

Next they add very faint lines (stripes) to the glass-- the top piece is not the original

This was a fun tidbit that was discovered when removing the panels.  Many of the glass panels had graffiti on them: I found this one which was dated 1801.  Many of them are left on the windows as they are not noticeable once the windows are up.

I had an excellent time looking at all the hard work the stain glass artists were doing while working on the windows.  While I will be disappointed that I won't get to see the finish work, I will always remember this afternoon as I learned so much and am much more aware how why it costs so much to repair old stain glass windows.


  1. That was so SWEET of your hubs!!! What a romantic guy! I honestly would have had trouble choosing between the stained glass workshop and looking for hidden cat statues! Why do they have hidden cat statues? I totally thought that your picture was of a real cat! It is so weird, but so cool! If I ever make it over there, I'm definitely going to look for the hidden cat statues!

  2. Another awesome post! I loved seeing the pictures of the stain glass windows. I always learn so much from you. In our temples we have various stain glass windows. They usually follow the style of the area the temple is built in. One of our temples had a stain glass window being put together in Los Angeles. A true story was told about a earthquake that hit the area and all of the companies stain glass windows were destroyed except for the one for the temple.
    Blessings for another super outing for your family!

  3. Wow, I love how these turned out! I am feeling motivated to give etching a try...I don't know why it seemed so 'scary' to me. LOL interior glass doors