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Durham Cathedral Reveals the Name of its New Stained Glass Window

This autumn, a new stained glass window will be installed in Durham Cathedral to honour and celebrate the unique and special link between the Cathedral and its neighbour on the Durham World Heritage Site, Durham University. 

‘The Illumination Window’, designed by glass artist, Mel Howse, is being donated by the parents of Sara Pilkington, who died suddenly from a cardiac-related condition in February 2012 during her final year studying Combined Arts (BA Hons) at Durham University where she was a member of Collingwood College. 

Sara, who would have celebrated her 27th birthday today, has been the inspiration for the window, which will express and interpret qualities she embodied; spirituality, beauty, colour, learning and light. 

Sara’s parents Jonathan and Jools Pilkington, have worked closely with Mel Howse and staff at Durham Cathedral, including the Cathedral’s Conservation Architect Chris Cotton of the firm Purcell, to develop the window design. They said, “Our wish has always been to install within the Cathedral a lasting memorial to our beautiful daughter in a place she loved so much. As human beings, we each take our own journey of learning and we hope that by expressing this acquisition of knowledge and understanding through a beautiful work of art, the Illumination Window will be something in which everyone from children and students to adults can find meaning.”

Chichester-based glass artist Mel Howse has spent the last six months working on a 24 square metre full-size artwork for the new window. The cartoon was recently revealed to the Cathedral team and to Jonathan and Jools Pilkington.  It was a thrilling moment where the detailed design was seen at its full scale for the first time, marking the transition to commencing the glass work.

Mel is a designer and maker, bringing with her 25 years of experience in creating progressive and contemporary architectural glasswork. Mel said “A project like this is a rare opportunity; not only is it a privilege to be creating a window that will become part of the fabric of such an iconic and much-loved building, but also it is hugely inspiring to be asked to do so to honour Sara’s memory; a young and vibrant personality.”

The Illumination Window will be installed close to the Feretory in the Cathedral’s North Quire Aisle providing a physical link to Durham University, which was founded by the Cathedral in 1832 and upon whose buildings the window looks.  Nave Canon of the Cathedral and Chair of the Durham World Heritage Site Management Committee, Rosalind Brown, said, “The engagement with academic study and the commitment to godly learning has always been part of our Christian heritage here in Durham.  As well as overlooking the University, The Illumination Window will also look towards Jarrow which links with one of our greatest ever scholars, The Venerable Bede, whose Shrine is housed in the Cathedral.  We are hugely grateful to Jonathan and Jools for their generous gift and ongoing commitment to this project and look forward to the installation later this year of what will be a very poignant work of art and one which will bring glory to God, who is the source of all illumination, and contribute to the beauty and meaning of our magnificent Cathedral.”


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