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Festival in the Chapel

Carola Hicks takes a seasonal look at the stained glass of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, the subject of her new book.

However, the service is not an ancient ritual, for it was instituted in 1918 by the Dean, Eric Milner-White, to commemorate the first Christmas of the peace, just six weeks after Armistice Day. The annual broadcasts began in 1928. Milner-White was a Fellow of the college for more than twenty years, and his other great legacy to the Chapel was complementing its famous stained-glass windows by installing in the side-chapels other examples of sixteenth-century glass from England and the Continent; he established a major collection which is still being added to today.

These smaller panels can be seen at eye-level, and so provide an opportunity to appreciate the glaziers’ skills and techniques close-up. This gives a key to understanding the great windows above, whose stunning colours, dramatic figures and epic narrative were created by a team of designers and glaziers who were the supreme masters of their art – despite being unpopular economic migrants from Flanders who were seen as a threat to English craftsmen.

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