Durham Cathedral unveils its beautiful new stained glass window

A new stained glass window has been unveiled at Durham Cathedral in memory of a student.

The beautiful new window at Durham Cathedral.
The beautiful new window at Durham Cathedral.

The Illumination Window is the building's newest feature and has been revealed today in memory of Durham University student Sara Pilkington.

Having been clad in scaffolding since mid-March, the full extent of the window is now revealed, which was specially created by Chichester-based glass artist Mel Howse to serve as an enduring memorial to Sara.

Durham Cathedral.

Sara was a student in her final year at Collingwood College when she died suddenly in 2012.

Her parents, Jonathan and Jools Pilkington, who generously funded the new commission, said: "Illumination means to bring in light and our beautiful daughter, Sara, brought so much love and light into our lives.

"Her smile lit up the world of those around her. The Illumination Window is a fitting memorial to her."

With the strategic placement of the window on the north side of the cathedral, it looks out onto Durham University, providing a physical link to the student community and emphasising the strong connection between academic and spiritual learning.

A new stained glass window has been unveiled at Durham Cathedral.

Canon Chancellor of Durham Cathedral, Charlie Allen, said: "I am thrilled that this astonishing piece of art is now housed within the walls of Durham Cathedral.

"Its vibrancy illuminates the medieval fabric of the church and it is the final piece of stained glass to surround the Shrine of St Cuthbert, a fitting location given Cuthbert’s presence in the work.

"It reminds us of the commitment to academic learning which is deeply entrenched in our Christian heritage, but most of all, the work reminds us of Sara, one of God’s children, whose beauty and youth is now forever encapsulated in permanent form within the Cathedral."

As the first ever winner of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) Award for Excellence in 2013 and the 2016 winner of The Building Crafts Award from the Sussex Heritage Trust, the compositional qualities of Mel Howse’s work are breath-taking, brilliantly capturing the elements of spirituality, beauty and vibrancy contained within the design brief.

While the window is open to interpretation, a natural landscape has been used as a vehicle for Sara’s story. The journey of learning is represented by the physical and ethereal presence of St Cuthbert and Jesus, with rising forms signifying the tangible link between the spiritual journey and life in the current age.

With the flashed glass of the window allowing more than one colour and shade within each piece, visitors will notice kaleidoscopic patterns projected onto the Shrine of St Cuthbert as light passes through.

Mel said: "The window is about a young vibrant person who was here one day and not here the next and that is a very strong story which remained at the forefront of my mind as I worked on the piece. Given its poignancy, the story runs like a thread through my design.

"I’ve worked very hard to achieve synergy between the architecture and glass work. What I didn’t want to do was to create a piece of very contemporary work that would not chime and respond to this absolutely incredible building."

The Illumination Window will be formally dedicated on Saturday, May 11, at the Cathedral's Evensong service at 5.15pm.