We’re far from the most active churchgoers, but we do like to visit now and again just to see these historic buildings’ gorgeous designs. And to see the most beautiful and precious stained glass windows in the world, we only have to travel to Birmingham Cathedral. Because its glistening windows have finally been restored to their former glory.
Created in the workshop of William Morris by the Birmingham-born artist, Edward Burne-Jones, these windows were installed between 1885 and 1897. Back then the cathedral was still a parish church, but the windows’ beauty was instantly recognisable. They depict recognisable scenes from Jesus’ life: the Ascension, the Nativity, the Crucifixion and The Last Judgment.
During WWII, however, in 1939, courtesy of the Birmingham Civic Society, the windows were removed for safekeeping and placed in a slate mine in Wales for safekeeping. More recently, the windows underwent a restoration to preserve them for future generations. This has now almost been completed, thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
It took over 500 days – with more than 20 panels removed – to clean, repair and restore the stained glass windows at Birmingham Cathedral. New protective grilles have also been added, which will improve the view of the windows from the outside as well. There is some final work to be done, which is expected to be completed before Christmas, with east-end windows completed for Christmas in Cathedral Square (November 15).
This means the windows will be back to their former glory in time for the return of Luxmuralis’ Divine Beauty at Night in January 2024. The stunning immersive sound and light show wowed audiences at Birmingham Cathedral at the start of this year. With the immersive experience projecting sections of windows across the cathedral walls, accompanied by ethereal music.
“It has been a privilege to oversee the works to preserve these four remarkable windows, it really has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to Burne-Jones’ master works,” said Jack Clare, Director at Holy Well Glass, who were behind the restoration. “The project has clearly gripped the imagination of visitors, and we have greatly enjoyed interacting with them throughout the extensive programme of public engagement events.”
During the five months of conservation work, Birmingham Cathedral ran scaffolding tours free of charge – seeing 3000 visitors – as well as school workshops, drop-in sessions and more. Further events celebrating the restoration of the windows are expected to continue into the summer of next year.