Art History: Stained Glass in the English Cathedrals

Ref: C3740060

Part of the stunning experience in entering our cathedrals is the colour and imagery of the stained glass, medieval through to modern. We will examine outstanding examples of this glass to see how it was made and how it related to the architecture for which it was designed.

Course aim

To enable course members to recognise the key stages of development in the use of glass in the English cathedrals, from the medieval to the modern.

Who is the course for?

The course will be taught at Level 3 but there are no specific requirements apart from an interest and enthusiasm for art and architecture.

What topics will this course cover

We will investigate the development of the materials and methods used in making stained glass, and then trace the forms of glass in the English cathedrals from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (for example the Miracle Windows in Thomas Becket's shrine chapel at Canterbury) through into the late Gothic period (for example the Great East Window in York Minster). We will then look at the development of painted glass from the sixteenth century, the great nineteenth century revival in glass manufacture and finally at the extraordinarily varied use of modern glass in these great churches.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Recognise the key periods and forms of stained glass in the English cathedrals. 2. Understand the use of materials and the methods of production of glass used in the cathedrals.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Your tutor will ask you to take part in group discussion and give you informal feedback, but there are no formal texts or exams.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?


Reading and information sources

These books would make useful background reading, but this is not essential for the appreciation of the course. Virginia Raguin, The History of Stained Glass- the Art of Light, Thames and Hudson Sonia Halliday and Laura Lushington, Stained Glass – The Pitkin Guide, Pitkin

What could the course lead to?

Study visits to see glass and sculpture in the cathedrals, in particular the National Stained Glass Museum in Ely cathedral, and to the Victorian and Albert Museum in London for their collection of stained glass.

Download full course outline

Art History: Stained Glass in the English Cathedrals Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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