John Thorton

During this period, art and architecture were not high priorities for England. With the amount of war surrounding them, the Renaissance would not have a chance to enter England until Henry VII brought it from Europe. There was art happening, it simply wasn’t yet embracing humanism. One major art form of the time was glass staining. Stained glass has been around since at least 2700 BC considering we found stain glass beads from what would have been ancient Egypt. The oldest known glass window pieces were found in St. Paul’s Monastery in England, and date to around 676 AD. They were once decor for the rich during Roman times, but were used for religious houses throughout Europe (in theory not much changed, only the rich could afford stained-glass). 

During the 15th century England, John Thorton dominated the stained-glass market as a glazier. We do not know much about John, besides that he was once part of Coventry Cathedral. His first commission came in 1405 by the Dean of the York Minister to stain the east. It appears both the Dean and the Archbishop of York hired him based on previous works they had enjoyed, telling us he had been staining for a while. There are rumors that his father had been a royal glazier for Edward III, but there is no evidence to support this. The reality is, like most non-nobles in this period, the evidence simply isn’t there, it was never recorded. We do know that John was an avid teacher because his unique style (white glass with yellows, greens, and blues) was soon multiplying across England. His works introduced the Gothic style to England, which was already dominating Europe, and he was popular enough to save his works. During the Reformation, his works from Coventry Cathedral were pulled and preserved, and it is imagined he did some work in Hampton Palace and the Church of St. Mary Magdelene. 

These are part of his most infamous work, the Great East Window of York Minister:

King William I, Edward the Confessor, and Edward III

St. John Glimpses God in Majesty

The Lamb on Mount Zion and the Redeemed

St. John the Baptist

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