East End and East Window of YORK MINSTER * CLICK on part of Minster  *   York Area Index

Introduction to York Minster

 

 

THE EAST END, Chapels and the GREAT EAST WINDOW of YORK MINSTER

The Great East Window is the largest window in the Minster and the size of a tennis court! It is the largest stained glass window in the world. It contains 117 panels in rows of nine. These depict the beginning and end of the world. It is situated behind the High Altar and the Choir, in the Lady chapel. In the Lady Chapel is some work by Mousey Thompson. The stalls in the Lady Chapel were the work of a famous Yorkshire carpenter, Robert "Mousey" Thompson. Mousey Thompson got his name as he declared that he had been "As poor as a church mouse" early in his career and always carved at least one mouse into his work as a trademark. Beneath the Great East Window, not much original woodwork remains because most of the east end of the Minster was destroyed in a fire in 1829. The fire was started by a religious fanatic, Jonathan Martin, so what you see today see is the replacement Victorian work.

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: The east end (now three chapels) was completed in 1472 in the Perpendicular style, the 3rd and final stage of Gothic architecture. The Great East Window dominates the east end of the Minster rising high above the Lady Chapel. The East Window contains the largest area of medieval stained glass in a single window. Many of John Thornton's stained glass panels depicts the beginning and end of the world according to the Book of Genesis, Scenes form the Acts of apostles and the Book of Revelations. At the present time (2010-2015+ ?) all the stained glass is removed for extensive renovation work to the stained glass and the surrounding stonework of the east end. A 'photographic' copy of the stained glass (above) is reproduced in place of the now, carefully stored painted glass, but examples of the 'real thing' are shown below. The stained glass windows (painted glass) are the work of the glass-painter John Thornton from Coventry between 1405 and 1408, and a most remarkable feat of brilliant early 15th century art work - can anyone still say we didn't have great Renaissance artists?

The colour in medieval pot-metal glass come from the glaziers using metallic oxides. They are known as pot metals as they were mixed with the molten glass in clay pots. Red or ruby glass could look black in a window, so the colour was 'toned down' by a technique known as 'flashing'. For flashed medieval glass, clear white glass was coated with a thin layer of red on one side. To make medieval painted glass, the medieval glass painters used grey, reddish brown or dark black paint to add detail onto coloured glass. The paint was made from iron oxide and ground glass, bound with gum Arabic, wine or even urine! To stain glass yellow, the glass painters painted on a mixture of silver sulphide [silver(I) sulfide] or silver nitrate and ground clay onto the glass before firing.

The glass panels of the Great East Window are over 600 years old and many are in dire need of restoration, work that is well under way to tackle the problems caused by buckling panels, corrosion of glass, loss of paint pigments, layers of grime and poorer quality of earlier conservation repairs of the Great East Window.

 

Half of the glass of the Great East Window of York Minster has been fully restored and in place.

 

Details of the restored East Window panels

 

Some even more detailed images and notes of the East window are given above and below.


Examples of the panels of the Great East Window

Many of the images and notes were obtained from the special Great East Window display dome, particularly the stained glass panel of the month.


The stained glass panel 'The Merchants Mourn the Fall of Babylon' ... I saw another angel coming from heaven ... He called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" ... And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, ... silver, jewels, fine linen, silk ... wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves - and human lives. The scene depicted by John Thornton is from Revelation 18: verses 1-2 and 10-13 in which an angel wearing a crown and holding a sceptre flies across the top of the panel. Three figures stand at the left of the panel; two wring their hands and look towards the falling city.

 

Details from the glass panel 'The Merchants Mourn the Fall of Babylon'

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: A panel showing the scene is 'David and Goliath' (1 Samuel 17.49) where the boy David slays the giant Goliath with a stone thrown from his sling in his right hand AND David receives divine blessing from the hand of God, shown in the top left of the panel. Goliath seems to look like a great medieval knight?


 

Panels from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: Above: Two conserved panels of stained glass from the Great East Window, York Minster

Left: The panel depicting 'Saint John Glimpses God in Majesty'. The scene is from Revelation 4.1-9 in which Saint John looks through a kind of trapdoor at the bottom left, God, in the centre, has summoned him to heaven to show him eternity. Written on the scrolls are words of eternal praise offered to God by the four creatures.

Right: The panel 'The Seven Churches' from Revelation 1.20 "As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven starts are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches". What John Thornton portrays in the scene from Revelation 1.20 is Saint John being told by an angel to write to the seven churches of Asia about his vision. John Thornton's glazing design is unique as it combines all seven churches into one image. Each church is represented by an archbishop standing in a shrine-like canopied building.

Detail from 'Saint John Glimpses God in Majesty'

 

Detail from 'The Seven Churches'

 


 

Panels from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: Above: Two conserved panels of stained glass from the Great East Window, York Minster

Left: 'The Sealing of the Twelve Tribes' from Revelation 7.4-8 "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and fourty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel.". In John Thornton's interpretation of this passage from Revelations, twelve elders represent the children of the twelve tribes of Israel receive the seal (a sign of God's blessing). Two angels carrying Tau crosses, the symbol associated with Passover, bless each of the elders in turn and mark them with a sign on the forehead.

Right: 'Saint John Sailing to Patmos'. I, John .. was on an island called Patmos .. I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, 'Write in a book what you see ...'. This scene from the 'Acts of John' shows the Roman Emperor Domitian has banished Saint John to Patmos for preaching the Christian Faith. On this tiny island (off the coast of modern Turkey) John will experience his vision of the end of the world. John Thornton portrays the ship as being in danger of being smashed against the imposing towering cliffs.

Detail from 'Saint John Sailing to Patmos'

 

 

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Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: Above: Two conserved panels of stained glass from the Great East Window, York Minster

Left: 'The Mighty Angel and the Seven Thunders' based on Revelation 10.1-3 ... And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven ... Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. In John Thornton's depiction of the scene Saint John is seen kneeling on the bottom right, as he turns the angel instructs him not to write down what the seven thunders at the top of the panel have said. Two of the original thunders' heads were lost, but conservators have created a new head (3rd from left) based on the others.

Right: ?

Detail from 'The Mighty Angel and the Seven Thunders'

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: 'The Beast Makes War with the Saints'. From Revelations? "The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority fro fourty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation." In this scene John Thornton has a group of figures on the right of the panel being attacked by the seven-hooded beast. One figure is caught in the creatures claws, and others are bitten two of the small heads.

Detail from 'The Beast Makes War with the Saints'

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: 'The Angel with the Everlasting Gospel. Revelation 14:6 "Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on earth-to every nation and tribe and language and people." In this scene John Thornton has an angel with blue wings and a blue cloak flying across the top of the panel holding an open book. Red clouds surround the angel, and seven figures stand on the green ground below, some with fashionable headwear!

 

Detail from 'The Angel with the Everlasting Gospel'

 

Detail from 'The Angel with the Everlasting Gospel'

 

Detail from 'The Angel with the Everlasting Gospel'

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: 'The Harvest of the Earth and the Vintage of the Wrath of God" Revelation 14:14-19 '.. There was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! ... "Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe." "Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth for its grapes are ripe.". In John Thornton's depiction the scene has God sitting in the centre holding a scythe and sickle.

 

Detail from the 'The Harvest of the Earth and the Vintage of the Wrath of God" panel

 

Detail from the 'The Harvest of the Earth and the Vintage of the Wrath of God" panel

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: The panel "The Plague Angels and the Harpers" Revelation 15:1-2. 'Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.". In John Thornton's scene seven blue angels at the top of the panel each carry a green vial. Below them, standing upon a sea of glass and fire, are harpers, dressed in robes of white and gold.

 

Detail from the "The Plague Angels and the Harpers" panel

 

Detail from the "The Plague Angels and the Harpers" panel

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: The panel "The Second Vial", the scene depicting Revelation 16:3 "The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died." Here in this panel, an angel with golden wings stands on rocky ground and pours a vial of red liquid into a river. The liquid kills the fish, which float upside down in the water.

 


 

Panel from the stained/painted glass of the Great East Window, York Minster: John Thornton's panel "The Fourth Vial", the scene depicting Revelation 16:3 "The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch the people with fire; they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory." In the panel scene an angel with yellow wings flies inwards from the left of the panel, and pours the liquid from the vial out over a sun with yellow rays. Four figures on the ground below attempt to shield themselves from the heat with their hats and hands.

 

Four figure details John Thornton's panel "The Fourth Vial",

 


 

The panel of the Great East window depicting 'The Great Whore Riding on the Beast' ... I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, ... and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth's abominations." This scene from Revelation 17:3-5, where John Thornton has a seven-headed beast with yellow horns and walks on all fours. A woman rides the beast and carries a chalice containing a frog and a snake. An angel points towards the woman, and a figure looks on with a sorrowful expression. Its not best photograph the panel, but checkout the details below of this exquisite fine window painting

 

Two images showing detail from 'The Great Whore Riding on the Beast' stained glass panel of the Great East Window.

 


 

East Window, York Minster: Stained glass panel depicting 'The Elders Worship God'. After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven saying "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgements are true and just; he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication .. " .. And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, "Amen, hallelujah". The scene depicts Revelation 19:1-4 and in the centre of the panel sits God in majesty. The head is not original to this panel. Twelve elders, all wearing golden crowns, loo towards the figure of God and praise him.

 

 

Details from East window stained glass panel 'The Elders Worship God'

 

 

 

 

 


Other East Window Images

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: A panel of the great east window more details?

 

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: A panel of the great east window more details?

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: example of unrestored window panel (compare below)  more details Red Sea

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: example of restored of a stained glass window for comparison more details?

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: Stained glass window  in St Stephen's Chapel (healing and peace) northeast chapel?

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: Stained glass window  in St Stephen's Chapel (healing and peace)

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: Stained glass window  in St Stephen's Chapel

 

details of above

 

 

details of above

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: Stained glass window in All Saints Chapel (the Chapel of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment). southeast chapel?

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster: Stained glass window in All Saints Chapel

Displays in All Saints Chapel

There is always a display of some sort in or by the All Saints Chapel

Below are stone carving display in from York Minster's present day stonemasons.

The architecture of the east end of York Minster Display of modern-day craftsmanship: Depiction of toothache, ?, broken bones, bubonic plague.

 

The architecture of the east end of York Minster Display of modern-day craftsmanship: Depiction of ?, ?, crippled beggar, ?

 

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Some of the personal mason's marks from some of the stonemasons who have worked in the Minster Stoneyard.

 

Some of the tools of the stonemason and example of contemporary work reproducing a small section of medieval stonework.

 

The exterior architecture of the east end of York Minster

 

External view of the great east stained glass window and tracery - amazing!

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