David & Goliath (Pre-Restoration)
Detail of the great east window of York Minster, currently being restored by the York Glaziers Trust. This panel of David & Goliath comes from the shorter Old Testament sequence at the top of the window, and is shown here in its pre-restoration state. With work on the Apocalypse sequence (89 panels) this series of 27 panels will form the final part of the project.
The east window is the World's largest expanse of medieval stained glass, filling most of the east wall of the cathedral. It is divided into over a hundred square panels, most of which illustrate scenes from the Apocalypse, with a shorter sequence from Genesis above. The window was made by John Thornton of Coventry and his workshop and dates from 1405-8.
York Minster is England's largest medieval cathedral and almost impossible to do justice to. It has an awesome presence that cannot fail to impress.
Uniquely the cathedral was spared the ravages of the Civil War that decimated the medieval art of most English cathedrals and churches, and it thus possesses the largest collection of medieval glass in Britain throughout most of it's vast windows.
Sadly this fortune was not matched by the Minster's vulnerability to fire which has ravaged the building in 3 major outbreaks, the worst in 1829 when a madman set fire to the precious medieval furniture of the choir, which was destroyed along with the organ and the high vaulted ceiling of the eastern half of the church. Only 11 years after this tragedy a careless workman accidentally set fire to the nave roof, which also lost it's vault. Both roofs were rebuilt in replica, but a further fire caused by lightning strike in 1984 destroyed the south transept roof (rebuilt 4 years later).
Most medieval cathedrals were provided with stone vaulted ceilings precisely to avoid the problems suffered here, but York's builders found that building on such an unprecedentedly large scale brought limitations, thus all the Minster's high ceilings had to be built of wood in imitation of stone. An Achilles' Heel, but a beautiful one!
The Great East Window
The largest expanse of medieval stained glass in Britain, the Great East Window was made between 1405 and 1408 by a team of artists and craftsmen led by master-glazierand glass-painter John Thornton of Coventry. Its subject is equally ambitious, depicting the beginning and the end of all things, arranged under the feet of God the Father and the company of heaven at the top of the window.
The beginning, the seven days of Creation, as told in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, opens the main narrative sequence. The end and the Second Coming of Christ, basedon the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, (also known as the Apocalypse), fills the largest section of the window. The bottom row depicts historical and legendary figures associated with the history of York Minster itself, with the window's donor, Bishop Walter Skirlaw of Durham (d.1406) in the centre panel. The window was conserved and protected by the York Glaziers Trust between 2011 and 2017.
THE GREAT EAST WINDOW, YORK MINSTER, UK
Executed in 1405-08, the window is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in Britain, with over 300 glazed panels, and is one of the most ambitious windows ever to have been made in the Middle Ages. Walter Skirlaw, bishop of Durham (c.1330-1406), has been recognised as the donor of the Great East window. He had been the Chapter of York's preferred choice as archbishop in succession to Alexander Neville (c.1340-1392), archbishop of York (1374-1388), although with the support of King Richard II (1367-1400), Richard Scrope (c.1350-1405) was instead enthroned in 1398.