Software could reconstruct medieval mosaics
Project to conserve
5,000 stained-glass fragments—some believed to be the work of a master Coventry
By Robert Bevan. Conservation, Issue 237, July-August 2012
Published online: 05 July 2012
Experimental software developed to reassemble Cold War documents may soon shed light on the mysteries surrounding around 5,000 medieval stained-glass fragments from Coventry Cathedral, as well as on the work of John Thornton, one of
greatest stained-glass artists. The British arm of the World Monuments Fund is
funding a project to prevent the glass from deteriorating. England
The glass was removed from the cathedral before German air raids left the building a shattered ruin during the Second World War. The majority of the pieces have remained disassembled ever since, and have been stored in poor conditions next to the building’s boiler.
The chief executive of the World Monuments Fund, Jonathan Foyle, says that, to a medievalist, “it is like rediscovering [a painting from] Picasso’s blue period in fragments in a basement. It is a magnificent puzzle.”
The full history of the glass is not clear, but the fragments were mosaics, rather than complete windows, installed in the clerestory in the 19th century following earlier reorderings of the church.
Although some choice panels have been extracted, many of the fragments remain unexamined, having been catalogued eccentrically by colour and image. The categories include portraits of merchants and their wives, beasts and angels, architectural visions and calligraphy. Foyle describes them as a “medieval encyclopaedia”.