Stained Glass Window Honours Thomas Becket’s Link to Brewing Heritage

Experts at Canterbury Cathedral have created a unique stained glass window which commemorates the link between Thomas Becket and brewing.

The one-off window incorporates the Worshipful Company of Brewers’ original coat of arms, which featured Becket – who is their Patron Saint – and the current one, which features Becket’s step mother.

The window’s creation was a labour of love for Director of the Cathedral’s Stained Glass Studio, Leonie Seliger, who worked single handedly on the unique design and turned it into a colourful stained glass work of art.

Leonie, who has worked at the studio – which marks its 50th year this year – for 32 years, said the project took nine months from the design stage through to completion of the leaded window.

“It is a bit special. It has been a labour of love for me,” she said. “To create something so unique which incorporates Thomas Becket, for us at Canterbury Cathedral, that is pretty special. It is where he met his grisly end!”

Many thousands of pilgrims visited Becket’s shrine at Canterbury drinking ale at inns en route. His arms were therefore included in the Company’s first coat of arms, but were later replaced with a subtle indirect reference during the Reformation, when direct references to him had to be erased.

Combining both, the new heraldic design features three chuffs, with red legs and beaks, which are on Becket’s coat of arms, along with three gold-rimmed tuns – large beer casks – and a female moor with golden hair, holding three barley sheaves in each hand, who is believed to represent Becket’s stepmother.

Leonie used processes to create the window which have largely remained unchanged for centuries. Her studio contains items such as a swan quill, badger brush and squirrel brush.

“Some processes really haven’t changed for hundreds of years, although we use modern glass cutters,” she said. “But if you transported us back we would know how to use the ancient cutters!”

The completed stained glass window was officially received on behalf of the Company at the Martyrdom in the Cathedral – the spot where Becket met his death – by Jonathan Neame, Shepherd Neame Chief Executive, who holds the title of the Company’s Master this year.

Receiving it in his role as Master, Jonathan Neame said: “It is stunning and a beautiful piece. It perfectly commemorates the connection between Thomas Becket and the brewers. The Brewers’ Company has a long and important heritage within the Brewing industry.”