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New Medieval Books: Making a Medieval Stained Glass Window

Making a Medieval Stained Glass Window: An archaeometric study of technology and production

By Laura W. Adlington

BAR Publishing
ISBN: 978 1 4073 5850 5

Using a case study of the Great East Window at the York Minster, this book examines what we can learn about medieval glass windows through scientific research such as chemical analysis and x-ray fluorescence scans.


Medieval stained glass windows were an important part of, and a valuable clue about, medieval culture, serving practical, aesthetic, religious, cultural and even political functions. Their heyday occurred against the backdrop of a boom in ecclesiastical construction, the development of the Gothic style, and advances made in technology and art. They present a rare opportunity to study medieval technology and craft organization, as they hold within their cames the output of a workshop over an extended period of time. The craft of glass painting in particular is known to have been carried out within the guild system which is an important subject in medieval history both in the ongoing debate on whether guilds were regressive or progressive, and as a key stage in the economic development of Europe. A Materials Science approach has much to offer this field of study, and yet these treasures of cultural heritage are rarely studied by these techniques, due to practical obstacles related to their architectural context.


The GEW of York Minster, painted and constructed between 1405 and 1408 by John Thornton of Coventry and his workshop, has recently been the subject of an extensive, comprehensive, state-of-the-art conservation project, York Minster Reveal. This project has been an exceptional opportunity for research, including this project as well as extensive art historical research. Although this research has focused on only one window, the Intensive analysis of the GEW has yielded results with wider significance, regarding medieval glassmaking technology, the organization of production in glass painting workshop, and the development of a robust, sensitive methodology for the study of medieval stained glass windows by handheld pXRF.

Who is this book for?

This book is a very technical study, and readers can expect to find dozens of graphs and charts related to the scientific findings on its pages. Therefore, it is aimed at an audience of particular researchers. However, it also offers quite a lot of information about medieval stained glass in general as well, so it is something that many medievalists will want to consult. Also, those involved in making stained glass would want to have a copy too.


The author:

Laura Ware Adlington did her PhD in Archaeological Materials Science at University College London, completing it in 2019. She describes herself as “a materials scientist who specialises in the use of elemental analysis (including XRF, SEM-EDS and electron microprobe, amongst other techniques) to study historic and archaeological materials, especially glass.” You can learn more about her work on her LinkedIn page. Her page also has some of her articles and the detailed Table of Contents for this book.

You can learn more about the Great East Window at the York Minster with this video:

You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website

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