Windows to the Past

The Cloisters Museum is one of my favorite places to visit. When I heard they had a special exhibition called “Radiant Light” featuring stained-glass windows from Canterbury Cathedral from the Middle Ages, I had to go (Medieval Studies was a major of mine in college).


This past weekend, my husband and I went with a couple friends to see the exhibit. The large windows were spectacular with their size and vivid colors. Each one depicted ancestors of Jesus, and each was created between 1178 and 1180. Although not a Catholic cathedral, it was an important pilgrimage site—it is highlighted in the well-known Canterbury Tales.


This window shows Thara and Abraham and is almost 12 feet high.

stained glass


What is important in the depictions is the use of color and other methods of art to tell the story to a highly illiterate population. If you look closely at Thara (the father of Abraham), you can see that he is wearing yellow, which was associated with evil, and his body is twisted in form. Abraham, on the other hand, is wearing rich green and is seated normally on his throne.


I’m glad that I went to the exhibit because it reinforced my belief that Jesus was a concrete, flesh and blood person. Sometimes it is easy for me to forget that Jesus is not just an abstract concept of a God who is way above me. He was here. He experienced life. And he experienced death. It was a good way for me to start the time leading up to Holy Week.


Are there any pieces of art that showed you a new way of looking at, or reinforced how you look at part of our faith? Please share!


4 thoughts on “Windows to the Past”

  1. Hi! what a great question! the exhibit sounds wonderful — i must get up there to see it.

    i think Michelangelo’s Pieta is the first thing that comes to mind. it is so beautiful and so heartbreaking…

    Happy Easter…


  2. Hi:

    I believe Canterbury Cathedral was a Catholic Cathedral until after 1558 when Henry VIII broke away from the Church. I think all cathedrals in the United Kingdom that pre-date the reformation started out as Catholic cathedrals.


    1. That is an excellent point, Ron! Thanks for bringing it up. It was a Catholic Cathedral, and when the windows were made, it was during the time when the Cathedral was Catholic.


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