Stained glass depicting pilgrims making the journey to Canterbury has been discovered in the cathedral as part of a study into the world-renowned Miracle Window.
Researchers believed they were examining Victorian artwork, but were amazed to find the glass dates back to the 12th century, 200 years before Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales.
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Director of Canterbury’s Stained Glass Studio, Leonie Seliger said: “This discovery is terrifically exciting.
“We are delighted to have this opportunity for close-up analysis of the panels which has provided us with fresh information such as being able to read the inscriptions which had previously been deemed illegible.”
The mistake may have occurred as many of the heads had been replaced by a modern restorer, but tests prove the majority of the glass is mediaeval and is now thought to have been fashioned within 20 years of the death of Thomas Becket.
One of the panels shows pilgrims on horseback, pilgrims on foot, and even a disabled pilgrim on crutches. A second panel depicts pilgrims queuing to receive a mixture of Becket’s blood diluted with water in the hope of miraculous healing.
The panels are currently undergoing further tests, but will be restored to public view when replaced in the window.