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At the time of its installation in the 1350s, the Great East Window was the largest window in the world. Today, it is still one of the greatest landmarks of English, and indeed European, medieval stained glass.
It measures 22 metres in height and 12 metres in width. In fact, it is as big as a tennis court!
The window was created as part of the reconstruction of the Quire following the burial of King Edward II and fills the entire wall behind the high altar.
Made and assembled in the middle of the 14th century, the colourful glass reflects the hierarchical nature of medieval society as well as the Church’s interpretation of the Divine Order; for the Medieval monks, this window was in practice a massive glass reredos above the high altar.
Depicting a clear hierarchy that rises from heaven to earth, the panels move from shields of nobility, through tiers of bishops and abbots, saints, apostles and angels.
Its centrepiece is the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ in majesty, flanked by the twelve apostles. In the tier below are pairs of saints and martyrs (men and women) and in the next tier are abbots of Gloucester and bishops of Worcester and Hereford. Shields appear in the lowest tier, representing the royal family along with local and national nobles.
Over the six centuries of its existence, the window has survived all the events of history and remains in good condition. It was dismantled for safety during World War II and underwent conservation work in the year 2000.