Stained Glass Windows In Medieval Cathedrals

Stained Glass Windows In Medieval Cathedrals


TOC o “1-3” h z u Introduction PAGEREF _Toc377227941 h 1Stained Glass Windows PAGEREF _Toc377227942 h 1Preparation of the Glass Stained Windows PAGEREF _Toc377227943 h 3Importance of Glass Stained Windows to Individual Cathedrals PAGEREF _Toc377227944 h 4Stained Glass Windows and the Medieval Churches PAGEREF _Toc377227945 h 5Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc377227946 h 6

IntroductionThere are many uncertainties surrounding the issue of the fall of the Roman Empire with many believing that the cause of the fall was due to the rise of Christianity. Regardless of the reasons that led to the fall of the Roman Empire, one this is evident, that Christianity came thereafter. Not only did Christianity affect the operations of the empire but it also spread throughout the continent hence the reason claim that Europe became extremely religious (Cowen, 2011). Cathedrals grew all over the continent and they employed different styles to enhance sophistication. With the advent of the Cathedrals came the glass stained windows to enhance the beauty of the churches. However, as their usage progressed they found more significance other than appearances. In the following essay, there is discussion of the application of the stained glass windows and their relevance to different churches throughout the continent in the medieval era.

Stained Glass WindowsWhen Theophilus started making glass he did not know the level at which they would find application in the continent (Michelli, 2011). To him it was just an art of preparing the glass using sand, wood, and fire. Nonetheless, his invention not only found usage in homes but also at churches that rose during the medieval era. The reason given by many people for using the stained glasses is the beauty and utility it brings to art. In Europe, the period between 1100 and 1500 saw heightening of the usage of the art (Cowen, 2011). In churches, the application was rather different since they not only presented beauty but were also ways of conveying messages. Cathedrals included biblical stories in the windows to send different messages to the congregation of the churches and those not part of the churches. Accordingly, to churches the art was more that what people saw.

The windowpanes of the cathedral churches contained different stories. For instance, considering one of the windows at the Clermont Ferrand Cathedral, it has messages concerning Mary Magdalene and her relevance in the bible. Others contain the stories about the birth of Jesus. Hence, taking a walk in a cathedral and focusing on the messages contained in their windows individuals were able to have a crash program on the bible (Michelli, 2011). It is difficult to understand that an invention by a humble man out to make a living in the end finds such relevance in the churches. Not even one cathedral that is standing today that does not contain the stained glass window messages. They vary depending on the size of the church and the number of windows contained therein. According to reports, thousands still exist due to the endurance of the structures and their resistance to calamities.

The reason that many people offer for the extensive usage of the glass stained windows is that they are beautiful and brings utility with them. In the following parts of the essay, there will be emphasis on how this sophistication comes from so little. In other words, it will shift focus to the preparation of the glass stained windows. According to sources, the preparation is easy, as the ingredients required that is sand, wood, and fire. Moreover is the importance of the windows to individual churches in the medieval era. Evidently, architects had to do a lot in order to achieve such beauty and utility encompassed in one component that cathedrals found irresistible to use. The questions that it tries to answer are the procedures that the designers undertook in order to achieve the expertise and the level of training they went through for them to become eligible for the work.

Preparation of the Glass Stained WindowsThe church valued the glass stained windows to unprecedented levels. For the whole structure of the church to be complete, it had to contain the windows. Structures of the cathedral were strong and resilient because of perfect workmanship and dedication by the managers of the churches. It is for this reason that most structures stood the test of time and exist to date. Accordingly, windows needed to be perfect and the designers had to be highly trained and renowned in the region they work. Given the dedication of the church towards the usage of the glass, designers were extra careful when preparing the stained glass windows. Designers came from respected families on the aspect of making the glasses. This is because since there was no formal education most acquired the skill from their families. Overall, the designers had to be people that the church trusted.

After the church ensured that they had respected designers and the church could trust their work, they commenced work. Accordingly, there comes the question of preparation. It is in this process that the designer proved the cathedral right because of choosing them. Accordingly, care was the major procedure of preparation (Infoplease, 2011). The major ingredients required for the preparation of the components are sand, wood, and fire. Designers used fire to melt sand and the wood until in complete homogenous liquid and then cooled the fluid. The Purpose of cooling the components is to have glass, which the architects require. However, before they cooled the liquid, there was addition of powdered metal for adding color to the mixture. The color added depended on the final product desired by the cathedral or by the designers. Furthermore, the type of pictorial messages they had to incorporate in the glass dictated the color added to the liquid.

Artists had the mandate of designing the pictorial messages. To achieve this they first drew the design of the messages over the glass (Department of Medieval Art and the Cloisters, 2011). Accordingly, the artist does add special features into the glass in most cases, through painting. After the work of the artist terminates, it is time to assemble the window to have a complete whole. In assembling, designers lay on the design board the painted and colored pieces of glass. The pieces are either painted or colored depending on the previous work of the artist. Placing them on the design board requires a lot of care and expertise since they have to fit together in an H-shaped lead. Once, they fit into place perfectly designers secure them using solder to enable the holding together of the H-shape. Finally, is the work of reinforcing the window and to achieve these designers doing add putty to the windowpanes to ensure they are waterproof.

Importance of Glass Stained Windows to Individual CathedralsLooking at the Windows from the St. Johns Chapel in Bristol it is evident that churches valued their glasses. As seen from the picture in the power point presentations, there is illumination of the church by the presence of the windows. Mary Radcliffe was at the time the neighborhood of the middle class who valued their class. Each neighborhood had to have a cathedral to signify their position in the social circles. Hence, this particular cathedral applies the windows to signify power and position. The manicure present in the church blends in well with the glass to bring put the intended sophistication. Wealth, power, and influence and the measurement of the levels of such aspects were through such social place. Accordingly, this church uses glass stained glass to book a place in a social gathering of the powerful. This would not be possible without the presence of glass stained windows (Stoddard, 2011).

Portraying power was not the only thing that Cathedrals of the medieval times applied the glass stained windows. Looking at window number E of the Saint Chappelle cathedral it is clear that churches used them to send messages (Department of Medieval Art and the Cloisters, 2011). This particular window tells the story of the fall of Jerusalem. The window is not the only one in the list of windows portraying messages nor is this cathedral the only one using this technique. Usage of windows to portray messages was a common mode of sending biblical messages throughout Europe in the medieval era. Another example of windows used to depict messages is the Kings College Chapel windows in Cambridge, England. In one of the windows, there is the story of agony in Gethsemane. Because of this, it would be appropriate to conclude that cathedrals used windows for beauty, power, and most important to send messages.

Stained Glass Windows and the Medieval ChurchesThere exists dispute on the importance of stained glass windows in the medieval era by individual cathedrals. Some indicate that it was for portraying wealth and power while others indicate that the reasons were to portray messages (Lewis, 2011). Moreover, others saw them as addition to the beauty of the churches. Nonetheless, there is an agreement of one thing throughout this divide, that stained glass windows were a tradition of the Cathedrals. It does not matter the initial intentions of using glass stained windows in the cathedral, it consequently became a tradition of the cathedrals. No cathedral was complete without having the glass stained windows. Any upcoming structure of the cathedral had considerations of the windows and their application was in no way an accident. People throughout Europe in the medieval era accepted that for a cathedral to be complete; it had to include the stained glass windows and without that then it was just a structure (Lewis, 2011).

ConclusionStained Glass windows were important to cathedrals in the medieval era due to their significance in the period. Consequently, they needed qualified and plentiful workmanship to complete the work of preparing the windows. The care taken during the preparation is because to the churches image was all about power, sophistication, and wealth. These were aspects that the church took seriously and hence, the importance given to the stained glass windows during this period. As a result, no cathedral could lack the kind of sophistication coming with the stained glass windows. However, it is worth noting that power and sophistication were not the only aspects that the church considered in their application of the stained glass windows. There was a more important aspect and that was sending messages to both the believers and non-believers. Overall, the glass-stained windows were a tradition of the cathedrals.


Cowen, P. (2011). “The medieval stained Glass photographic Archive” Web. December 3rd 2011.

Department of Medieval Art and the Cloisters (2011). “Stained Glass in Medieval Europe”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Michelli, P. E. (2011). “Glass stained Windows”. Web. December 3 2011

Lewis, K. S. (2011). “Medieval Stained Glass science” web. December 3rd 2011.

Infoplease. (2011). “Medieval Stained Glass”. December 3 2011.

Stoddard, W. S. (1972). Art and architecture in medieval France. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

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