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Installation of Durham Cathedral’s newest stained glass window begins

04 April 2019

Work has begun on the installation of the ‘Illumination Window’, the newest piece of stained glass to adorn Durham Cathedral.

The window is the work of Chichester-based glass artist Mel Howse, who, with over 25 years’ experience of creating cutting edge contemporary architectural glasswork, was commissioned by Durham Cathedral to design a piece that would serve as a memorial to Sara Pilkington.   A Durham University student at Collingwood College, Sara died suddenly of a cardiac related condition in February 2012, leaving her family, friends and university colleagues devastated.

Gaye Kirby, Head of Development at Durham Cathedral said: ‘Thanks to the generosity and dedication of Sara’s parents, Jonathan and Jools, we have been able to work closely with them to inform and inspire the window Mel has designed. The piece seeks to capture Sara’s vibrant personality, her passion for learning and the special place that she held in her heart for Durham Cathedral.  Seeing the window being installed is the culmination of many years of planning and we look forward to sharing the beauty of Mel’s artwork with our visitors in the coming weeks and months.’

The window has evolved from a full-size cartoon to a 26 square meter piece of artwork, made using specialised glass sourced from Germany. The vibrant work spills with patterns, shapes and colours, representing the qualities of spirituality, beauty, colour and light which Sara embodied.

With its placement on the north side of the cathedral, adjacent to the Shrine of St Cuthbert, the window will provide a physical link to Durham University, upon whose buildings the window looks.

The installation is being carried out by a specialist works team, who face the enormous challenge of installing a work of this magnitude and scale, in a medieval building which is nearly 1,000 years old.

Mel Howse, glass artist said: ‘The installation process is in itself a beautiful one, as we begin to marry the glasswork with the golden sandstone walls of Durham Cathedral.  You can imagine the intricacy of the work involved and the immense care that needs to be taken when embedding a 26 square metre window into such a historical foundation, but it is a challenge that my team face with enthusiasm. Whilst the process is ongoing, Sara is at the forefront of my mind, as the driving force behind this entire project.’

Those hoping to see the new window won’t have too long to wait, with the scaffolding estimated to come down later this month. This will allow the vibrant hues from the stained glass to illuminate the architecture of the church, just as Sara lit up the lives of those she knew.