The Canterbury Cathedral was founded in 597 and was founded by Augustine. He was sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great a year ago and converted to Anglo-Saxon Christianity with a group of missionaries. Today, one of the most famous associations in the Cathedral is with Archbishop Thomas Beckett. He was assassinated on the high altar on December 29, 1170, while on night service. That was by four knights angered by a confrontation between Beckett and King Henry II. Shortly after his violent death, reports of miraculous healings in Beckett’s name spread throughout England, highlighting the importance of the Cathedral and attracting visitors from all over Europe. In the early thirteenth century, Beckett’s relics were removed to a large church built in the Trinity Church, which became the center of pilgrimage for the Cathedral. This place was the most important place of worship in the country until it was destroyed during the dismantling of the monastery. After a fire, in 1170 the Cathedral was largely renovated. The construction of the Corona Church, which was built to place the crown on Bekot’s head for reconstruction, was cut down during his assassination. The church is adorned with ornate glass windows, including a tree by Jesse, and was a popular medieval work depicting the lineage of Christ. Today the Cathedral attracts more than a million devotees and visitors every year.
The dismantling of monasteries under Henry VII, the seventeenth-century Puritan icon, and later re-ordering of panels caused many of the original stained glass windows of Canterbury Cathedral to be lost, leaving only two panels of the Jesse Tree. More recently, the harmful effects of wind, rain, snow, heat, and pollution have become a serious threat. In 2010, WMF began extensive conservation of the Jesse Tree Window. Evidence of active degradation was found, and many pieces of broken glass were at risk of falling with the help of lead frames. In several places, previous attempts to provide additional assistance eventually led to new and faster corrosion, allowing water to penetrate the interstitial space, doing more harm than good. In addition, the panels are covered with dirt and dust, which provides a basis for microbial attacks. To combat these problems the panels were first cleaned under a microscope, the broken pieces re-bonded and fixed with copper wire supports. Later, conservationists created a clear protection board to protect the historically stained glass from harmful external elements.
The two remaining panels of the Jesse tree are extremely rare and artistic and technically modern treasures. Glass is an integral part of the pioneer Gothic architecture designed to glorify Thomas Beckett’s Church, and is of great interest to historians, theologians, and stained glass students. Thanks to the conservation work done at Canterbury Cathedral, these windows are now protected from the harmful effects of the weather and pollutants, and future generations can enjoy them.