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Circular stained-glass window showing two groups of figures facing each other

Circular stained-glass window showing two groups of figures facing each other Desc: In the center left side of the window is a light-skinned man in colorful robes and a decorative headpiece sitting on a golden throne with carved animal heads. He is grasping the right hand of a light-skinned man kneeling across from him. Behind the pair are other groups of figures, three on the left and two on the right, with simple dress. The figure directly behind the kneeling man holds a gold cross in his right hand. The figures are on a dark blue background surrounded by red, purple, black, and black-and-white dotted rings.

Gallery Text

Thomas Becket (c. 1118–1170), the archbishop of Canterbury, was declared a saint just two years after being murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by allies of the English king. This panel was once part of a window depicting the saint’s life and miracles from the ambulatory of Trinity Chapel, a devotional space within the cathedral. Though its subject remains unclear, this section is the only one to have survived, since it was removed from the cathedral in the nineteenth century and was spared from World War II. Stained glass was one of the most prized art forms of the Middle Ages; the development of Gothic architecture, with its tall, pointed arches and vaults supported by web-like ribs, enabled the inclusion of large windows. Often comprising a series of iron frames supporting glass medallions like the one seen here, the windows brought colored light into the church and provided new opportunities to illustrate Christian stories.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Scene from the Life of Thomas Becket
Stained Glass
Work Type
stained glass
c. 1190-1205
Creation Place: Europe, United Kingdom, England, Canterbury
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2440, Medieval Art
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Pot-metal glass, white glass with silver stain, vitreous paint
71.5 cm diam. (28 1/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury, England; (family of Miss Gell?); by descent to her son, Sir Francis Grayling, Sittingbourne, Kent, (late 19th century-1923) ; dispersed by his stepson Bertram Christian, sold; [through Professor Kirsopp Lake]; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1924.

See box 86, Harvard Art Museum Archives. Grayling's family may have acquired the window from Canterbury Cathedral when the glass was replaced at the end of the 19th century.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Madeline Harrison Caviness, "A Panel of Thirteenth-Century Stained Glass from Canterbury", Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1964 (Cambridge, MA, 1965), pp. 27-33, pp. 24-33, repr.
  • Madeline Harrison Caviness, "A Panel of Thirteenth-Century Stained Glass, From Canterbury, in America", The Antiquaries Journal (London, 1965), vol. XLV, part II, pp. 192-199, pp. 192-199, repr. as plate LV
  • Madeline Harrison Caviness, The Early Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral, Princeton University Press (Princeton NJ, 1977), pp. 67-70, repr. as figs. IV, 115, 118
  • Madeline Harrison Caviness, Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass from New England Collections, exh. cat., Busch-Reisinger Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1978), no. 3, repr.
  • Madeline Harrison Caviness, The Windows of Christ Church Cathedral Canterbury, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, England, 1981), no. 5 pp. 313-314; pp. 16, 158, 175, 177; repr.
  • Madeline Harrison Caviness and Jane Hayward, Stained Glass Before 1700 in American Collections: New England and New York, National Gallery of Art (Washington DC, 1985), p. 50, repr.
  • Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting 1800-1940, exh. cat., Palmer Museum of Art (University Park, PA, 1996), p. 177
  • Medieval Illumination, Index Magazine ([e-journal], June 24, 2016),

Exhibition History

  • Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 04/25/1978 - 06/10/1978
  • 32Q: 2440 Medieval, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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Verification Level

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