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The Great South Window

The Great South Window

As you walk into The Precincts and glance to your right, you will notice scaffolding around the Cathedral’s South West Transept.  

What is behind the scaffolding?

Hidden behind the scaffolding is The Great South Window:

• It was built in the 1420s in Perpendicular Gothic architectural style.

• It is the widest window in the Cathedral: 16.76m (55’) high and 7.56m (24’9”) wide.

• Its beautiful and priceless stained glass dates from the late 12th and early 13th century.

Why has the window failed?

It is complicated! Over time, this part of the building has tilted slightly, tipping the window forward and sideways, causing numerous cracks. Iron bars meant to support the window have rusted, fracturing the stone and causing massive damage.

The window has been repaired several times, but the many cycles of repair, new types of stone, mortar and additional iron fixings do not react in the same way to temperature, humidity and load. The damage is now so widespread that the only solution is to repair the whole window.

What are we doing about it and how?

• The whole window has been dismantled.

• New stone for the lower two thirds, reproducing the original shapes and mouldings, has been carved by hand by our own team of (18!) mason-conservators – including 4 apprentices – to provide a safer structure and frame for the stained glass.

• The new stone is limestone and comes from France, just like the medieval masonry.

• The stones are very large – some of them weigh 0.5 tons – so specialist equipment is required to move them around and work on them.

• We hope to fix the last stoned in the late summer of 2015, after which the stained glass can be reinstated.

• Some of the stained glass is exhibited in the Cathedral Crypt – as well as in America! – and we hope our visitors enjoy seeing these beautiful windows up close.

How much does it cost?

• The repair of the window will cost approx. £2.25million. We are grateful to the Allan Willett Foundation and others whose generous support made this important project possible.

• The Cathedral currently does not receive assistance from the government to help maintain this very special building. We need to raise at least £2million a year on top of ‘normal’ income to fund conservation projects like this.

• If you can help, please leave a donation in one of our boxes, text CATH20 £5 to 70070 or email

In the Press

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

‘Cathedral stained glass ‘unsafe”– BBC News (04/09/2009)

‘Unsafe’ cathedral glass removed’ – BBC News (24/09/2009)

‘Work begins to replace Canterbury Cathedral’s Great South Window’ Kent Messenger (28/09/2009)

‘Canterbury Cathedral : Great South Window’ – The Natural Stone Specialist (09/01/2013)

‘Masonry surrounding Canterbury Cathedral window repaired’ – BBC News (10/12/2013)

‘The fight to save Canterbury Cathedral from disrepair’ Kent On Sunday (06/04/2014)


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