The term ‘stained glass’ nearly always evokes images of stately Gothic cathedrals and churches with windows bearing a colourful mosaic of glass designs. In fact, in its thousand-year of history, stained glass has been almost exclusively used in the windows of churches, cathedrals and a smattering of other significant buildings.
What is stained glass?
This is basically coloured glass which lends itself to a host of lovely and eye-catching creations in art and architecture.
When metallic salts are added during the manufacture of glass, the ensuing coloured material is called stained glass. Small pieces of this coloured glass are then artistically arranged to create pictures, designs or patterns and form the basis of stained glass windows. The designs are usually enhanced by a liberal use of paints and yellow stain.
Tall, cylindrical coloured glass windows were a common sight in churches and cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Many of these large windows have managed to ward off the ravages of time and are more or less intact even today. This unique pictorial art is one of the highlights of Western Europe’s architecture that has luckily survived till present times.
Stained Glass designs
The designs of stained glass windows are as varied as the colours themselves. Common motifs usually feature narratives based on the Bible, historical events or even literature. Some designs focus on saints or patrons, or make use of symbolic motifs. Coloured glass windows in a church or a cathedral are typically thematic and show significant episodes from the life of Christ.
Evolution of stained glass
Stained glass began to come into its own as an art form sometime around the 10th or 11th century. Since metallic content was an essential part of the proceedings, glass factories were usually set up where there was an abundant supply of silica.