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Abbey to have new Marian windows

24 May 2013

Pane-filled: the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, festooned with the banners of the senior Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath

Pane-filled: the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, festooned with the banners of the senior Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Most Honourabl...

WORK began earlier this month on the installation of two new stained-glass windows in the Lady chapel at Westminster Abbey.

They will be dedicated on 4 June in the presence of the Queen, during a service marking the 60th anniversary of her coronation at the Abbey.

The windows, each 25 feet tall and ten feet wide, have been made by the stained-glass artist Helen Whittaker, to a design by Hughie O'Donoghue. They are either side of the chapel's east window, which was designed by the artist Alan Younger, and installed in October 2000.

The chapel was built for Henry VII as a royal mausoleum and is one of the great examples of late Gothic architecture in England.

The panels are the third set of glass in the windows since they were completed in 1519. The original medieval glass, by Bernard Flower, was badly damaged in the 17th century during the Common wealth, and its replacement was almost totally destroyed by a bomb during the Blitz.

The panels incorporate emblems that relate to the Blessed Virgin Mary, including several varieties of lily, the symbol of the annunciation and of purity; stars, a symbol of her conception; and the fleur de lys. 

"My strong feeling was that my design should be in line with the Gothic tradition of carrying the eyes upward," Mr O'Donoghue said. "The ceiling is golden, literally, with the gilded Tudor emblems, which are close in tone and colour to the warm stone of the vaults.

"My decision was to make the windows predominantly blue - a rich range of blues, from blue-green to violet - but essentially complementing the golden ceiling.

"My design considers the two windows as one piece of work whose colour scheme relates to each other, whilst framing the central Alan Younger window like wings of an altarpiece."

Ms Whittaker said: "Hughie was inspired by the glass at St Mary's in Fairford, in Gloucestershire, where I have done restoration work, which is of a similar date to Westminster's. He liked the blues and reds of Fairford, and his image includes flowers, which is a reference to Bernard Flower.

"There are 15 lights in each window, and 32 traceries in each. We have incorporated the few fragments of Flower's glass that has survived in the traceries. It was both an act of conservation, and a continuing link to Flower."

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, said: "The Lady Chapel is one of the most stunning ecclesiastical spaces in the world. It is exciting to receive this further reglazing of the chapel in sympathy with the existing glass and as a tribute to its status as a chapel in honour of our Lady."

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