Lincoln Cathedral: Stained Glass

There’s a lot of stained-glass in Lincoln cathedral. Many different dates and styles from medieval (†13C) to the mid-nineteenth century. The nave is lit by intense colours from the mainly mid-nineteenth century windows such as these memorial windows.


Several different studios made the windows on the south side of the nave, which explains the variations in style. The windows in the Chapter House were all by one studio, Clayton & Bell, to give a more cohesive look.

Memorial to Lincoln mathematician Dr George Boole
Memorial to Lincoln mathematician Dr George Boole: Jesus conversing in the Temple (Ward & Hughes after 1864)

Boole is a name that I am very familiar with and not in a good way! It was George Boole who devised the Boolean Logic system, based on the idea that a thing cannot simultaneously have a set of properties and not have them. The power in an electronic circuit is either on or off. Sounds pretty simple. Boole converted this concept into abstract symbols to help solve complex problems. In the Boolean system ‘true’ or ‘on’ is represented by 1 and ‘false’ or ‘off is 0. Known as Boolean Gates. His ideas laid the foundation of mathematical logic and provided the theoretical underpinning for all modern computer logic.

So why do I dislike Boole? Because part of my computer degree was in mathematics, more precisely, Boolean Algebra. Not only did I find it impossible to understand, it almost caused me to fail my first year math’s exam! But I did seek out his memorial window.

Boole Memorial window

At the crossing you find the Dean’s Eye to the north which contains some original pieces depicting the Last Judgment. This window survives from the time of Hugh of Avalon’s re-building between 1192 and 1235.


To the south is the Bishop’s Eye filled with a kaleidoscope of ancient glass.  It was most likely rebuilt circa 1325–1350 after the completion of the Minster and shows the beginning of the decorated style with the flowing tracery representing leaves – a unique pattern.

The Bishop's Eye
The Bishop’s Eye

The impressive West Window is from 1859 and contains Old Testament kings and prophets. (Augustus and Frederick Sutton)


The Great East Window was only the second nineteenth century window to be installed in the cathedral and subject of a great debate. Such is its size that it is not possible to photograph it without tilting the camera upwards – hence the peculiar angle.


The nearby Service Chapels allow a contrasting glimpse of modernism on stained glass in the twentieth century.

And in the Chapter House an oculus showing ‘The Council at Jerusalem, surrounded by various other scenes from The Acts of the Apostles’. In memory of Jacob Clements, (1820-98) sometime SubDean at the Cathedral. (Clayton & Bell).


And another window in the Chapter House depicts the 12th century cathedral burning (Clayton & Bell 1874)



So many scenes catch my eye, and the colours are incredible.


Below, Dean Kaye escorts John Wesley on his last visit to Lincoln Cathedral in 1799 (Clayton & Bell 1909) in the Chapter House.


Familiar Old Testament and New Testament scenes are depicted. My eyes are drawn to the different styles, the stylised flowers, the geometric shapes and patterns.

And finally I have a question for you, the viewer. I’m not entirely happy with showing the full length of the windows, because they are narrow and not very easy to see, which is why I select portions to enlarge. However I do realise that it is nice to see the whole window as then you get a sense of the patterns and tone. So I would be grateful for any feedback you can give me on this subject. In future should I just select samples of the windows so you get a better view, or not?

Thanks 🙂

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

40 thoughts on “Lincoln Cathedral: Stained Glass”

  1. Wonderful windows. The colors are so rich. Did you use a tripod? I enjoy seeing the whole window as well as details. It gives the detail more context.

    1. Probably the last for a while – I do have some beauties from Shrewsbury! And I will give you a mix of full window and partials. I can only thank Sue for introducing me to a prime lens. Works a treat inside a dark space.

  2. Great photos and fabulous windows. I must confess to not being particularly religious but I love to see stained glass windows in churches and have taken many photos myself while on my travels. A photo of a whole window plus pics of one or two sections to show the detail is a great idea. 🙂

    1. I am not in the least religious myself, but can’t help admiring the craftsmanship that goes into these religious buildings. And of course they are a big part of our history. Seems the consensus is for a mix of styles. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Ah, now – this is the post I have been waiting for! It didn’t disappoint. I’m in consensus with your other commenters: it’s good to see the full window as context for the detail. I think you have the mix right.

  4. I agree with the others. It’s nice to have a mix – with the wonders of the internet we can scroll around, and zoom if we feel inclined.

    I’m blown away by the quality of these pictures. Stained glass is so hard to get right, especially the long panels.

  5. Like some of the others, I have struggled with stained glass in the past. In York Minster, I used a tripod for every shot, but was never 100% happy with the exposures. (Using film back then)
    I err on the side of the close-ups and crops myself, as the details are wonderful to see. After all, most of us know what a stained glass window looks like in its entirety, but the individual panels are the real gems.
    As for Booleian Algebra, that gave me a headache! But I only got a Grade 4 CSE in Maths…
    Best wishes, Pete. x

  6. I’ve never seen as many windows in one place as this, it’s incredible. Difficult question to answer. Like you I’m not religious, and I prefer patterns and colour rather than people and religious scenes. So I guess I prefer the effect of a large view, but then close ups of little details are always good. Here my favourites are the second three, because of the colours. Not much of an answer, sorry!

    1. It seems as though most people enjoy seeing both the full view and the extracts. Colours and patterns always appeal to me. Though I do have a soft spot for angels 😉

  7. This is mind-blowing art. Magnificent. Stunning. Unbelievable work. I can spend hours and hours looking at them one at a time.
    I do like to see the whole window but some close-ups make the experience more exciting. Wow. I have to go back up and scroll through again and again. ❤ ❤ ❤

    1. I could probably dedicate the entire blog to stained glass windows if I was to extract all the wonderful details! Probably time to move on I think….

  8. Goodness, my mind was whirling after I read the paragraph about Boole. How confusing. It’s difficult to photograph windows well but I think you’ve done a great job. I like the mix of full length and close up photos. How wonderful to have stained glass dating from the 12th century.

  9. What beautiful stained glass – I think these are some of the best examples I’ve seen that are that old. The colors are so vivid with the light shining through. I think my favorite was the one of the burning cathedral, with the flames coming out of the windows. It’s such an unusual image for a religious stained glass window.

  10. So beautifully captured. Stunning. I like a mixture of both – it’s awesome to see the scope of the full window but also easier to see the snippets as well. I think it’s good to give context with the overall shot.

  11. I thought you said there weren’t many??? 🙂 I prefer the close ups for the details, but I agree it’s nice to see the overall effect. Lovely stuff, Jude! It’s all breaks of serve in the tennis 🙂 And you bamboozled me with Booble!

  12. Jude, you’ve touched on exactly the problem I have when confronted with stained glass windows – the whole vs the parts tell different stories. Where to focus?!! Even worse for you – there were soooo many different windows with different styles!! The challenge with the detail of course is that there is simply so much of it.

    Personally, I like the vignettes of individual scenes within the window, otherwise I find it overwhelming. It makes it possible to really enjoy the workmanship and colours within that piece.

    Each of these windows are treasures that I’m sure are priceless at this point. I learned something new about Boolean logic. Not only are you a fountain of knowledge about history, but also math!

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