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Head of the Patriarch Semei

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1180 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Stained glass

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Rev. J. Wheatley

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case S1

This panel comes from the south-east transept of Canterbury Cathedral, where it once formed part of a series of windows depicting the ancestors of Christ. This series has been disrupted, and the seated figure to which this head originally belonged is now in the west window.

Much of the surviving medieval glass was removed from the cathedral about in the mid 1800s and replaced with copies. The original panels were stored in various glaziers’ workshops, and eventually sold off to private collectors. This panel was found in a dealer’s shop in Rochester by the Reverend S. Wheatley, who gave it to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1920.

The patriarchs, or ancestors of Christ, are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons and their descendents.

Physical description

Panel depicting head in profile.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1180 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Stained glass


Height: 354 mm unframed sight size, Width: 245 mm unframed sight size, Height: 379 mm unframed, Width: 284 mm unframed, Height: 398 mm framed (standard display frame), Width: 289 mm framed (standard display frame), Depth: 32 mm framed (standard display frame)

Object history note

This head was removed by George Austin, glazier at the Cathedral, in 1855. it was recovered from a dealer in Rochester by the Rev. S. Wheatley who gave it to the museum in 1920.

Historical context note

This is the only true profile head among the large figures from the clerestory and one of only three un-bearded faces.

Descriptive line

Panel of clear and coloured glass with painted details and later additions. Depicting the head of the patriarch Semei. Originally from the Southeast transept of Canterbury Cathedral. English, about 1180.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
Konrad Hoffman, The Year 1200: A Centennial Exhibition at the Metropolitan I. Catalogue, New York, 1970
M.H. Caviness, The Early Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral circa 1175-1220, Princeton, 1977
M.H. Caviness, The Windows of Christ Church Canterbury Cathedral, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi, Great Britain, vol. 2, London, 1981

Labels and date


This head once belonged to a seated figure of the patriarch Semei in the south-east transept clerestory of Canterbury Cathedral, now much restored and moved to the west window. The figure formed part of a series of windows dedicated to the ancestors of Christ. The head has been set among fragments of old glass, the face, part of the neck and the hair being original.

England (Canterbury), about 1180
Museum no. C.854-1920; given by the Revd. J. Wheatley [(PW) 2003]

Production Note

Originally in Canterbury Cathedral.


Stained glass


Stained Glass; Religion; Christianity; British Galleries


Ceramics Collection

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