The First Miracle Window: Becket’s Earliest Pilgrims in Canterbury Stained Glass by Rachel Koopmans is a new 35 page booklet.
It has beautiful illustrations of the windows made just fifteen years after the murder of Thomas Becket.
The stained glass is found in the ambulatory embracing the Trinity Chapel where the Becket shrine stood.
But the scenes depicted are before this shrine was created in 1220. The pictures are thought almost certainly to be based on the records of Abbot Benedict of Peterborough who had been part of the Canterbury priory community in 1170 and witnessed the first pilgrims arriving a few years later.
There is a sense of crowd comprising of all classes wishing to throng the narrow streets and cathedral crypt. Already the early arrivals are wearing yellow pilgrim purses. One window depicts the queue for pilgrim water.
There is a lovely collection of pilgrim boots looking like Christmas stockings.
Until recently these lights were thought to be maybe Victorian. Such a conclusion was partly because they had been taken out occasionally and slightly altered. Heads were replaced and one even improved as a women’s head.
Leone Seliger, director of the cathedral’s stained glass studio, adds a handy afterthought with a digital correction suggesting how the windows probably appeared when new.
Medieval historian Dr Koopmans is an expert on Becket’s miracles.
You may wish to buy this booklet on arriving at Canterbury. It is light enough to carry and much cheaper when purchased on site than buying by post which almost doubles the price.
The First Miracle Window by Rachel Koopmans is published by Out of the Box Publishing; £6.99.