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The Ancestors

The Ancestors

Canterbury Cathedral is preparing to stage a major exhibition of some of its earliest and most important surviving stained glass.

Canterbury Cathedral’s great treasure of medieval stained glass is crowned by a series of life-size figures representing the Ancestors of Christ, which date to the late 12th and early 13th centuries. An exhibition in the Cathedral’s Chapter House, entitled The Ancestors, will provide a unique opportunity to view these major works of medieval art at close quarters. The exhibition will run from Monday 18 May – Sunday 23 August, 2015*.

After two hugely successful exhibitions in the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the exhibition now gives British and continental audiences the opportunity to ‘meet the Ancestors’ face-to-face, before they return to the re-built Great South Window later this year.

Designed to be seen at great height, the panels are usually only visible from a great distance. These monumental designs, executed in vigorous brush strokes, were created by some of Europe’s finest and most avant-garde artists and, amazingly, their vibrant colours have not faded in over 800 years. The series originally numbered eighty-six life-sized seated patriarchs of the Old Testament, largely based on the list of names contained in the Gospel of St Luke (III, 23–28), interpolated with additional names from the Gospel of St Matthew (I, 1–17). It is the largest number of Ancestors of Christ ever produced in any art form.

Today forty-three survive; twenty-two of which will be exhibited as they had to be rescued from crumbling stonework in 2009. There is very little comparable stained glass of this quality and age in the world. Recent research indicates that amongst the late Romanesque glass there may even be a few survivors that pre-date the great fire of 1174. This would make them by far the oldest painted windows in Britain. Detailed examination has always been hard as such windows are installed at a high level. Its removal has created a unique opportunity to see the dazzling medieval art displayed at ground level.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a number of Friday evening lectures.

*The Ancestors will run daily from Monday 18 May – Sunday 23 August 2015.
(The exhibition will take a short break Monday 13 – Friday 17 July for University graduation week)

Opening times: Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 16.00 and Sunday 12.30 – 15.00.

Entrance to the exhibition is free but Precinct charges will apply.

In the Press

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

The Ancestors at Canterbury Cathedral Visit Canterbury 18/02/2015

First Look: Canterbury cathedral’s stunning stained glass windows up close Canterbury Times 18/02/2015

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