Ely Cathedral has a very nice stained glass museum which you access by climbing the stairway to the clerestory on the left side of the cathedral. It is an interesting collection of ancient and modern stained glass, much of it taken from now defunct churches and preserved here. For reasons I do not understand, this was the one part of the cathedral they would not allow pictures in, though they only told me this after I took the first picture… below.
The most ancient stained glass was in fact made of white and yellow glass, as you can see above. The practice of making such windows seems to have begun in the Middle Ages at some point, though most windows you see today were made in the last two hundred years. Since there could be no more pictures in this part of the cathedral, I concentrated on the actual stained glass windows of Ely Cathedral, and was able to get very near some of them when we climbed the octagon.
There are a series of windows about the life of St. Paul, the one just above shows his encounter on Damascus Road.
This is Paul being lowered out of the city of Damascus. One of the interesting features of the windows in Ely cathedral is that it is in a sense a three story cathedral, with the middle story being clear glass— hence clerestory, so some of the windows are very high indeed and some are more nearly ground level, but the middle level lets in light all down the nave of the cathedral…
Notice the fine Norman arch in the picture above.
In an age before mass literacy, stained glass windows were the picture books for the illiterate, telling them the stories of the Bible.
When you combine the paneled ceilings with the stained glass windows both of which tell the stories of the Bible (and some saints) the effect is spectacularly beautiful.
A cathedral is a place where beauty, truth (if there is good preaching and good liturgy), and love (if there is a caring congregation) have an opportunity to come together and provide a picture of what the new creation will be like, in the Kingdom