Stained Glass Windows in Churches
The term ‘stained glass’ was coined a millennium ago, in the 12th century, when the art form was originally conceived. The process involved the application of a silver stain to the outer side of the window pain which, when fired, left a bright color on the glass. The shades ranged from bright lemon yellow to gold, which allowed light to shine through in an a very illuminating and visually appealing way.
Stained Glass: A Brief History
Many modern churches feature these light manipulation works of art. Since the early 4th century, artisans used tinted glass to decorate the windows of cathedrals. By the 12th century, when new techniques had been developed, the creation of stained glass windows evolved into a fine an art form, in the same league as painting and sculpture. Typical stained glass windows are made from pieces of stained glass, which have been framed together in a web of lead lattice. Each individual piece was previously detailed with fired on dark paint, but when the yellow effect was discovered in around 1300 AD, artists were able to highlight crowns and halos with luminescent gold. They also learned how to experiment with other colors, turning blue glass green. Today, the stained glass effect is achieved in almost exactly the same way.
The Bible on Display
The art of stained glass began not purely for decorative purposes, but as educational demonstrations of biblical passages – since most people could not read. This is why the tradition still features strongly in churches today, it was and is a powerful way to illustrate the Bible and bring it to life. Stained glass windows were seen as a bridge between the congregation and the divine, bringing the mundane to life and making it iconic.
Stained Glass & Historical Architecture
Building up to the Gothic era of architecture, Romanesque style buildings were very popular. The Romanesque style was characterized by a heavy-set aesthetic, with interiors that were compartmentalized by thick walls. Gothic architecture classically featured a lighter style, with wide open interiors and high ceilings. With the introduction of open space designs that eliminated inner walls, Gothic buildings were able to incorporate decorative windows that brought the space together and illuminated in beautifully. This was when the use of stained glass windows reached new levels of beauty. The glow coming through the stained glass windows that lined the outer wall not only unified the Gothic buildings’ space, it shone a light on the interior which illuminate the space in a most heavenly manner, via iconic panels of Biblical imagery.
With this evolution in architecture, stained glass windows boomed in popularity. As time has progressed and the art form and architecture have advanced, stained window artworks became more and more detailed and intricate, and the techniques more refined, resulting in this becoming a highly specialized skill. Stained glass windows now are commonly seen in churches and households today in various forms, shapes, and sizes.
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