A new stained-glass window has been unveiled in Rosslyn Chapel to mark the 25th anniversary of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, the charity founded in 1995 to oversee its conservation. The window – the first to be installed in 50 years – is the work of renowned artist Joe Tilson, RA.
Joe Tilson is one of the leading figures associated with the British Pop Art movement in the 1960s. He studied at St. Martin’s School of Art and at the Royal College of Art in the 1950s alongside Peter Blake and David Hockney. In 1955 the Royal College awarded Tilson the Rome Prize, taking him to live in Italy for a year, a country from which he has drawn a lifetime of inspiration. Exhibiting globally since the 1960s, Tilson’s work is held in collections including the Tate, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York and Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome.
The Earl and Countess of Rosslyn, who established Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: ‘We have long admired Joe’s work. His recent series The Stones of Venice and his award-winning stained-glass at the 2019 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition convinced us that he was the perfect artist for this project. We approached him through Marlborough Gallery and his huge enthusiasm has been a delight. He has worked closely with our long-term glass conservator Mark Bambrough, to produce a window which is a joyous celebration of this chapter in the Chapel’s rich history.’
The new window continues a tradition of stained-glass commissions at the Chapel, begun in the 1860s by the fourth Earl of Rosslyn. He engaged acclaimed designers Clayton & Bell to produce the windows in the Lady Chapel in memory of his parents. From 1950 to 1971, three were commissioned by the sixth Earl of Rosslyn, designed by Patrick Pollen, Carrick Whalen and William Wilson. The new window has been created by the Scottish Glass Studios in Glasgow, working to Tilson’s design.
Mark Bambrough, Director of Scottish Glass Studios, said: ‘Scottish Glass Studios have been involved with the conservation and protection of Rosslyn Chapel’s stained-glass since 2009. The Chapel has a collection of windows that has been appreciated and interpreted by the congregation and visitors alike for the last 150 years and so to make a new window, to complement the old, was a delight. Being both a practising artist glass-painter and stained-glass conservator, I have always enjoyed overcoming new design challenges within a traditional craft form. However, realising another artist’s vision brings further challenges, like keeping the sense of the ‘artist’s hand’ and the ‘tension’ of the drawn line. As a functioning place of worship, Rosslyn Chapel uses imagery as a means of liturgical storytelling in the traditional medieval way. Joe’s window design continues this tradition by presenting new ideas and symbolism of relevance for a contemporary religious audience, which will delight and intrigue the congregation and visitors.’
The new window marks the 25th anniversary of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, a charity founded in December 1995 to oversee the conservation and public opening of the Chapel. It is now also responsible for the care and conservation of nearby Rosslyn Castle, Collegehill House and a stretch of Roslin Glen. Since its foundation, it has overseen a major 17-year conservation programme at the Chapel, the construction of an award-winning Visitor Centre and has undertaken a conservation programme at Collegehill House. It is now working to secure the long-term future of Rosslyn Castle. Since 1995, the Trust has seen Chapel visitor numbers increase twentyfold from 9,000 in 1995 to 180,000 in 2019.
Lady Rosslyn said: ‘This anniversary is a significant milestone for Rosslyn Chapel Trust and a chance both to reflect on its achievements during this time and to record our thanks to staff, past and present, our expert team of specialists and all who have contributed to its work. As a charity, the Trust relies on income from visitors and so I am also very grateful to everyone who has visited the Chapel in the past 25 years. I hope that this wonderful new window will attract many more to visit and enjoy this unique building in the months and years to come’.