A reflection by Alice Latham from Chana Projects on working on the Divine Beauty project.
Located in the bustling heart of Birmingham, a city teeming with life and modernity, there lies a sanctuary that transcends time, adorned with breathtaking beauty that has echoes of the past and present, weaved together in the intricate stained-glass tapestry on display. Birmingham Cathedral, a haven nestled in the centre of an urban jungle, stands as a testament to human creativity. Among its many treasures, the Burne-Jones Stained-glass windows tell a story of craftmanship, conservation and connection that renovates deep with both the local community and any traveller.
My involvement in the Divine Beauty Project was the cause for my first visit to both the City and Birmingham Cathedral. Upon crossing the threshold, a sense of awe enveloped me. The grandeur of the Cathedral itself was enough to captivate my senses, but it was the windows that held the power to truly transport me. Once on the scaffold, I found myself caught in the interplay of light and colour that danced across the historic glass. I confess, that whilst I work within the Heritage sector, I possessed a limited appreciation for the painstaking skills required in stain-glass conservation. As the project has progressed, I am amazed by the transformation that the conservation efforts have been able to achieve. The before-and-after quality of the windows is nothing short of astounding. My understanding of the craft has been consolidated by attendance at one of the Meet the Conservator events held within the Cathedral and attended by many other members of the public. The restoration has breathed new life into these fragile panes, allowing for their radiance to illuminated once again. The sheer dedication and meticulousness required to preserve these masterpieces is a testament to humanity’s commitment to preserve its cultural heritage.
Beyond the artistry, the project has allowed for a greater understanding of the captivating history of the Burne-Jones windows. Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a luminary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, has left an indelible mark on the Cathedral. I now appreciate his intimate connection to the city, as Birmingham was his birthplace, the place that cradled his early dreams is now home to his immortal creations. The intricate stories woven into the glass seem to echo his personal journey, breathing life into his legacy with every passing moment. My frequent visits to Birmingham Cathedral, as the project progresses, each unveil a new aspect of its splendour, such as the discovery of the Bit Box. It is a personal joy to be play a part in the ongoing conservation and documentation of new knowledge for future generations. In addition to the conservation works, the Cathedral has an unwavering commitment to opening its doors to all, transcending religious boundaries, and breathing new life into its ancient stones. From solemn ceremonies that resonated with timeless devotion to inclusive events, such as the scaffold tours, that have welcomed people from all walks of life. The Cathedral has become a living testament to the power of unity and connection.
As I reflect upon my encounters with Birmingham Cathedral’s stained-glass windows, I am reminded of the intricate threads that weave our past with our present. From the masterful strokes of Burne-Jones to the dedicated hands that now preserve its brilliance, these windows are more than mere adornments. They are vessels of history, conduits of emotion, and windows in the very essence of our shared humanity. In their iridescent glow, I find hope, inspiration and enduring power in the divine beauty that unites us all.