Skip to main content

Canterbury goes to Hollywood

Canterbury goes to Hollywood

The city’s J. Paul Getty Museum is housing six of the Cathedral’s earliest and most important surviving examples of stained glass in its current exhibition ‘Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister’.

The exhibition celebrates two rare masterpieces of English medieval art: stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral’s ‘Ancestors of Christ’ series and pages from the St. Albans Psalter, on loan from the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany.

The GettyRunning from 20 September 2013 until 2 February  2014, ‘Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister’ explores how specific texts, prayers, and environments shaped medieval viewers’ understanding of pictures in the era of artistic renewal following the Norman Conquest of England. Life-size paintings on glass depict the ancestors of Christ, and richly ornamented illuminations translate biblical texts into luminous pictures.

The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The medieval splendour of its current exhibition has been embraced and welcomed with keen enthusiasm by its visitors.

We were delighted to hear of the city’s interest and buzz at the arrival of our stained glass – images of which have hung from huge banners in some of the city’s most popular boulevards. To complement the opening weekend, the Getty invited the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis; Andrew Edwards, Chief Executive of the Canterbury Cathedral Trust; and Heather Newton, Head of Stone Masonry and Conservation, as guests of the museum. They were received with great warmth and in turn provided a number of talks about the working life of the Cathedral and hands-on demonstrations of the skilled crafts employed to maintain Canterbury’s World Heritage Site.

It was a great privilege to be part of the little party which arrived at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in time for the opening reception which launched the exhibition of our six huge pieces of mediaeval glass which had travelled there under the careful eyes of the Cathedral’s Leonie Seliger, Director of Stained Glass, and Laura Atkins, Conservator. I think all of us present from Canterbury were amazed at the quality of the exhibition and also the excitement of the staff at the Getty in receiving this priceless 12th century glass. We were their guests for several days and the friendliness of that community made us feel totally at home despite the fact that we were on the other side of the world and the glass had made a very long pilgrimage. I was able to speak both at the Reception and also to tell Canterbury’s story at a Sunday afternoon event in the Getty Auditorium. All of us were aware of the huge interest shown by the hundreds of people and we are told by members of the Getty staff that that interest continues day by day with large numbers of people visiting the Museum

The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis


Nothing had prepared me for the sheer beauty of the place, both natural and man-made. The architecture shimmers in the brilliant sunshine and has been devised to offer the most spectacular views of the mountains, the desert and the distant ocean. Trees provide welcome shade in café areas, there are formal gardens with streams and pools and everywhere there is art. Walking into the exhibition containing the stained glass panels and pages of the St Alban’s psalter was an overwhelming experience. Somehow, on a sun-drenched mountain top in California, the exhibition designers had managed to capture an essence of Canterbury. The glass, expertly conserved in our Cathedral Studio before its journey and skilfully displayed on its arrival at the Getty by Leonie and Laura, glowed along one wall. The psalter, echoing the designs and colours of the windows, was in long rows of lit cases in front of the glass, each page a perfect masterpiece, truly breath-taking

Heather Newton, Head of Stone Masonry and Conservation.

Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister runs until Sunday 2 February 2014. Admission to the Getty is free and the opening hours are Tues – Thu, Sun: 10:00 – 17:30, Fri: 09:00 – 21:00 Sat: 10:00 – 21:00.

If you happen to be visiting LA, we would welcome your thoughts on the exhibition. Please email us at

In February 2014, the stained glass windows will travel to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York City  before returning home to Canterbury and the Great South Window.

We would love to hear your thoughts

In the Press

Click below to view related coverage from the local, national and international media

‘Cathedral Stained Glass Opens Window On Medieval World’ – Voice of America (18/11/2013)

‘Through a Glass Brightly’ – The Wall Street Journal (29/10/2013)

‘Canterbury’s Windows at the Getty’ – The New York Times (28/03/2013)

’12th century Canterbury Cathedral stained glass exhibited in Los Angeles’ – BBC South East (20/09/2013)

‘Dean of Canterbury Cathedral Offers Tales of Art and Creativity’ – The Getty Iris (20/09/2013)

Panels from Canterbury on Display at the Getty Museum Los Angeles – Vidimus (Issue 68)

Getty Museum hosts Ancestors of Christ – Travel Mole (23/09/2013)

‘Two masterpieces of medieval English art at the Getty Museum’ – AMA (23/09/2013)

Pilgrims new and old share UK-LA exchange – The Episcopal News Service (24/09/2013)

Back to top of page