Canterbury Cathedral - Jesse Tree, Josiah Panel

Canterbury Cathedral - Jesse Tree, Josiah Panel Medieval Times Philosophy Visual Arts

The Jesse Tree Window at Canterbury Cathedral, which dates to circa 1200, is a UK national treasure. It is currently located in the Cathedral’s “Corona Chapel,” which was named after the skull fragment (“the corona”) of Thomas Becket (the assassinated Archbishop of Canterbury). That “corona” was a venerated relic during the Middle Ages.

This image depicts a panel from Canterbury Cathedral's Jesse Tree Window. It is known as the King Josiah (Josias) panel, an extremely rare and valuable piece of art.

What is a Jesse Tree, generally speaking?  According to Leonie Seliger, who is the Head of Stained Glass at Canterbury Cathedral:

... a Jesse tree ... showed the genealogy of Christ.

So a Jesse Tree, renderd as a stained-glass window, pictorially shows the genealogy of Jesus beginning with Jesse (the father of King David) to the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus).  For anyone to be depicted in the tree, that person has to be an ancestor of Jesus.

Only two panels of Canterbury’s medieval-era Jesse-Tree Window survive.  One depicts King Josiah (Josias) and the other depicts the Virgin Mary. Leonie Seliger tells us about these two windows:

...The two surviving panels of the Jesse Tree window (the Virgin and Josias) are an extremely rare and artistically as well as technically sophisticated treasure. Images of the Virgin in particular are rare survivors in England, as they were routinely targeted for defacement and destruction during the iconoclasm events of the Reformation and Puritanism. Indeed, this is the only intact medieval representation of the Virgin in Canterbury Cathedral.

Where does a Jesse Tree have its origin?  Most likely from a verse in the Bible, found in the Old-Testament book of Isaiah:

And there shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (See Isaiah 11:1)

For more about these beautiful windows, see The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral, by Jeffrey Weaver and Madeline H. Caviness, which is available (at least in part) for online reading.

Click on the image to greatly increase its size.

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy the canterbury-cathedral.org website.


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"Canterbury Cathedral - Jesse Tree, Josiah Panel" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Sep 20, 2018.
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