The stained glass at a cathedral in eastern France will no longer produce a distinctive green ray seen just twice a year, on the spring and autumn equinoxes, after the precise pane was replaced during a recent renovation.
Admirers learned of its loss when they hoped to see the phenomenon at exactly 4:33 pm on Sunday, when the Earth’s axis was directly perpendicular to the sun — marking the first day of spring.
But the website of Strasbourg’s gothic cathedral warned visitors that, as of March 16, the pane’s replacement meant there would no longer be any “green ray” illuminating a stone carving of a crucified Christ.
The light had fueled speculation of a divine blessing on the cathedral completed in 1439, with hundreds of people coming to witness the twice-yearly event, though church officials insisted it was a pure coincidence of celestial geometry.
The stained-glass window in question was installed in 1876, and the sun would pass through the left foot of Judah, a son of Jacob, to produce the famous ray.
But according to the cathedral’s internet site, the phenomenon probably began after a previous renovation in 1972, when the pane showing Judah’s foot was replaced with a more transparent glass.
That year it was first observed by Maurice Rosart, an engineer and surveyor, who denounced its demise as a “scandal.”
“This is a hard blow for the people of Strasbourg, for culture, for secularism and the Enlightenment,” he said in a statement to AFP.