WORK has begun on the installation of a new stained glass window at Durham Cathedral reflecting the vibrant personality of a student who died suddenly.

The Illumination Window is the work of Chichester-based glass artist Mel Howse, who, with over 25 years’ experience of creating cutting edge contemporary architectural glasswork, was commissioned by Durham Cathedral to design a piece that would serve as a memorial to Sara Pilkington.

A Durham University student at Collingwood College, Sara died suddenly of a cardiac-related condition in February 2012, leaving her family, friends and university colleagues devastated.

Gaye Kirby, head of development at Durham Cathedral said: "Thanks to the generosity and dedication of Sara’s parents, Jonathan and Jools, we have been able to work closely with them to inform and inspire the window Mel has designed.

"The piece seeks to capture Sara’s vibrant personality, her passion for learning and the special place that she held in her heart for Durham Cathedral.

"Seeing the window being installed is the culmination of many years of planning and we look forward to sharing the beauty of Mel’s artwork with our visitors in the coming weeks and months.’

The window has evolved from a full-size cartoon to a piece of artwork, made using specialised glass sourced from Germany.

The vibrant work will depict a seascape, spilling with patterns, shapes and colours, representing the qualities of spirituality, beauty, colour and light which Sara embodied.

With its placement on the north side of the cathedral, adjacent to the Shrine of St Cuthbert, the window will provide a physical link to Durham University, upon whose buildings the window looks.

The installation is being carried out by a specialist works team, who face the enormous challenge of installing a work of this magnitude and scale, in a medieval building which is nearly 1,000 years old.

Glass artist Mel Howse said: "The installation process is in itself a beautiful one, as we begin to marry the glasswork with the golden sandstone walls of Durham Cathedral.

"You can imagine the intricacy of the work involved and the immense care that needs to be taken when embedding a 26 square metre window into such a historical foundation, but it is a challenge that my team face with enthusiasm.

"While the process is ongoing, Sara is at the forefront of my mind, as the driving force behind this entire project.’

The scaffolding is expected to come down later this month.