BBC History Magazine

A window on the past


This stained-glass image of the prophet Nathan is one of a series of panels in the windows of Canterbury Cathedral depicting the Ancestors of Christ. New analysis has revealed that they are much older than previously thought – and may be among the oldest stained-glass windows in the world.

University College London experts used a “windolyser” – a specially adapted portable X-ray fluorescen­ce device – to analyse chemical clues in the glass and more accurately date the windows. The results suggest that, rather than being created in the 13th century as previously believed, some of the panels were made between 1130 and 1160, before being removed and then reinstalle­d along with the other, later sections. They would therefore have been in place when Thomas Becket was killed in the cathedral in 1170.

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