Why Stained Glass?
click for navigation if bars missing


The more sites I gather to show the history of stained glass, the more I deplore the widespread misinformation about its origins and purposes, and those of the Gothic architecture that is usually found around it. Early Christian and Medieval aesthetics in practice are integral to my own academic specialization, so let give you some digestible pages to tell why all this matters.

Of course people can, and do, use stained glass windows to teach with. At least—so they say! But they are far more often used to create mood and a sense of divine presence. Did you realize that this use of stained glass was originally quite scientific? It was based on the biology of the body and soul as understood at the time.

See Classicism, Christianity and Beauty for an explanation.

Also, of course, the huge window spaces created by High Gothic architecture lend themselves to glorious figurative windows. But did you realize that this kind of window began at least 200, and possibly even 500 years before Gothic architecture was even thought of?

See Church Windows Before Stained Glass for more info.

So why did Gothic architecture happen, then? Oh, for much the same reasons as stained glass happened—but it was an afterthought. And its distinctive features (the pointed arch and the flying buttress) are after effects too—quick fixes, even.

See Seeking the Perfect Vault in the Middle Ages to find out how vaults really work.

Check out the links above and let me arm you with information to throw at people who assume that stained glass was stimulated by Gothic architecture, and that it was used to teach illiterates. What wimpy ideas—it was far more important than that!

So, finally, see The Vault as Illusion.

Note: all the above links are my own content, illustrated by my own diagrams and links to other people's photos. Because my explanations and theirs may well conflict, it may help to know that art historians have only recently begun to take civil engineering theory into account. Popular Medieval architectural theory is often still based on the work of Viollet le Duc, a 19th-century French restorer whose structural diagrams are still in use today, despite their inaccuracies, falsifications, and misunderstandings.

Copyright Statement

Use my material for reference and teaching by all means, but remember that the copyright is mine, and I do reserve all legal rights to it, as well as requiring suitable academic acknowledgment.


Why Use Stained Glass? Classical Beauty Before Stained Glass Seeking the Perfect Vault The Vault as Illusion