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The Ancestors

The Ancestors

We are currently exhibiting some of the Cathedral’s earliest and most important surviving stained glass in an exhibition entitled The Ancestors.

The twenty-one mostly life-sized figures, created for the Cathedral by some of Europe’s greatest medieval artists, are on show for three months only.

The luminous and monumental treasures, which date from the 12th and 13th centuries, represent the biblical Ancestors of Jesus Christ.

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.

The exhibition allows visitors close access to the unique works of art for the first and probably last time, before they return to the re-built Great South Window in 2016.

The Ancestors are some of the greatest treasures of medieval art in Europe. Their vibrant colours and their incredibly bold designs were ultra-modern then, and they feel modern and daring even now, 800 years later. These artists were the Picassos and Jackson Pollocks of their day. For the first time in over 200 years these monumental figures can be seen up close and in the arrangement they were designed for. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them at their best, and it may never happen again.

Leonie Seliger, The Director of the Cathedral Stained Glass Studio

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of Friday evening lectures, which explore the history and iconography, and the medieval technology that created the Canterbury Ancestors.

Guide looking at Exhibition

The Ancestors exhibition showcases some of the most spectacular medieval glass of Canterbury Cathedral. The panels on display depict the ancestors of Christ, and were originally placed in the top register of windows in the Trinity Chapel, the site of Thomas Becket’s magnificent shrine

Canon Christopher Irvine, Canon Librarian and Director of Education at Canterbury Cathedral.


The pieces have been on tour and in storage ever since the Great South Window which holds them began to crumble in 2009. Since then, six of them have been as far afield as America, where they wowed crowds at the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The Ancestors will run daily from Monday 18 May – Sunday 23 August 2015. Opening times Monday – Saturday 10.00-16.00 hrs. Sunday 12.30 – 15.00 hrs, with the exception of:

Saturday 8 August – closed for wedding

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

The Ancestors Exhibition has been made possible thanks to the support of a donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

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