The Fascinating History of Religious Stained Glass Windows

Religious Stained Glass Windows
Stained glass window is an old art form, probably more than a thousand year old, used mainly in religious buildings like churches. It was never something that belonged to a particular religion. From churches to temples, everyone has flaunted their windows and added that glitter to their already magnificent architecture. Here, let's discuss a few types of this architectural accessory, used so popularly in ancient times.
Stained glasses can be defined as the colored glass material, that is used in various craft works. The glass has various paintings engraved on it, within the context of the location. The traditional use of the stain glass has been of plain flat panels but now the modern technicians have discovered many other ways to enhance the beauty of the stained glass in the form of three dimensional structures. Stained glass has been used exclusively in the form stained glass windows, in religious places like cathedrals, churches and other such religious buildings.

Origins of Stained Glass Windows

Use of stained glass by mankind started as early as the first century. In those times it was mainly used for churches, cathedrals, castles and palaces. Stained glass was a symbol of royalty in ancient times. To be accurate, these window hanging was first used in the Romanesque architecture. In this period, windows were first treated with slab glazing and were installed with a unique blowing technique. The Romans are also said to be the pioneers of the translucent cylindrical glass.

In the Gothic period also, stained glasses were first used in the religious buildings only. As religious places were highly visited, stained glasses easily came into notice of the people and made them curious about this beautiful art form. Initially, religious stained glass windows were small in size thus, providing ample amounts of light along with the beauty. Hence, churches of the medieval period are rightly said to be the patrons of these windows. So, we can safely say that the window treatments are being used since Gothic period. In this era the conventional designs were converted to more complex iconography.

In this period new religious orders were formed which required new religious buildings, resulting in new designs of stained windows. The Gothic artwork traveled from France to almost whole of the world, adding and combining the religious stained glass with artistic flavor of that particular region. The Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles stayed in Germany for far more time than in any other region. Many experts agree that these windows reached to a point of downfall sometime during the medieval age and the nineteenth century. At the time of Thirty Years War, Cardinal Richelieu ordered to demolish all the churches and religious buildings from the Lorraine region and hence, destroying the glass windows along with the buildings. during the year 1640, there was a scarcity of stained glass windows.

It was in the late Gothic period, that the use of stained glass windows started in the private homes and mansions of the rich and powerful. Certain skillful and stylish stained glass artists were accredited by the riches to decorate their windows. In 1880, Gothic architecture reached England and after that it came to United States. Finally, it was the time when the famous decorative artist Louis Comfort Tiffany egressed as a groundbreaking designer who was best known for his skilled stained glass artwork. His idea of stained glass windows with opalescent glasses was held up high. This glass was used for not only the windows but also the lamps, chandeliers and other such decorative goods. During the First World War, this art again came to the verge of extinction. Today, experts have found patterns of these window across various religions, differing according to the regions they were found in and the creativity of the artists.

Religious stained glass windows have been used to portray stories and also to portray the sacraments of the Trinity and the church. Some of these pictures are self-explanatory but some do require its viewers to research a bit. The delineations normally contain the following themes:
  • Baptism
  • Communion
  • Confirmation
  • Ordination
  • Marriage
  • Unction
  • Reconciliation
  • Trinity
Some portray abstract arts, some come along with a simple depiction of Jesus Christ, usually these pictures are painted in various bright colors like red, purple, yellow, orange and green. These windows provide a certain touch of glory to the prayer service. The pictures on them always convey a religious message that keeps the believer of the church connected with the sayings of the Bible.

Nowadays, one can find these windows only in preserved forms, in museums and in the remains of the ancient churches. The style of the portraits across the globe, are not alike, but they never fail to explain the religious stories, in their own picturesque language.
Stained glass window in a church, at Portugal
King and Three Wise Men, Stained Glass
Wedding of Joseph and Mary
Stained Glass of Holy Communion in Den Bosch Cathedral
Baptism Of Christ On A Medieval Stained Glass Window
Trinity father,son
Nasirolmolk Mosque in Shiraz with Colorful Stained Glass Windows