On View: Medieval Masterpieces from England’s Canterbury Cathedral at the Cloisters

Canterbury is one of England’s most historic cathedrals and one of the oldest Christian structures in Europe. Founded in 597, it is best known as the setting for the infamous murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. It became a popular pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages and today is home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England.

Jared from the Ancestors of Christ Windows, Canterbury Cathedral, England, 1178-1180. (Photo: © Robert Greshoff Photography)

Jared from the Ancestors of Christ Windows, Canterbury Cathedral, England, 1178-1180. (Photo: © Robert Greshoff Photography)

The cathedral is also known for its breathtaking stained glass windows. Six of Canterbury’s exquisite full-life figures in stained glass, circa 1180, are currently on loan to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens for the exhibit Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral. This marks the first time the figures have left Canterbury since their creation. The exhibition also completes the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

Radiant Light represents one of the great surviving series of medieval stained glass windows. Masterpieces of Romanesque art, the six figures — Jared, Lamech, Thara, Abraham, Noah and Phalec — were part of 86 works called the Ancestors of Christ.

Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral is on view at the Cloisters Museum and Gardens, located in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tyron Park, until May 18, 2014.