York Minster's Great East Window has been described as the English equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. It's the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in Britain, and possibly the world. The window is currently covered up while a £20m restoration of the 15th century artistry takes place and the Minster is taking the opportunity to use a distinctly 21st century way of showing off both the glass and the work to repair it which is taking place.
A giant metal orb has been installed in the building's historic east end. It will stay there for the next three years displaying five of the panels which normally sit high above the Minster floor. Four will be on permanent display and the fifth will change each month. The area where it sits has been closed to the public for the last few weeks while the exhibition is installed.
It is too easy for us to take for granted the amazing architecture and painting of the Great East Window. It is almost impossible to imagine the effect this astonishing wall of glass must have had when it was first unveiled to the medieval public. It is my hope that the superb restoration of the glass, undertaken by the York Glaziers Trust, will reveal anew the marvels of the window, designed and painted between 1405 and 1408 by John Thornton of Coventry.
The metallic exterior of the Orb is subtly illuminated with moving projections of stained glass to add extra colour and movement to the domed roof. Flanking it in St Stephen's Chapel and All Saints Chapel are two interactive exhibitions inspired by the major work taking place on the Minster's east front. The work of both the stonemasons and the glaziers is examined.
The whole restoration, including this new display, is partly paid for by a £10.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The orb will open to the public on Saturday 27 October and following its removal in three years time the Great East Window will be full reinstalled by the summer of 2016.