In this article, we shall take a brief look at the history of stained glass windows in churches and chapels.
Stained glass was developed and became popular in about the tenth century, although there are instances of its occasional use way back into the third and fourth century. When very few people could actually read the bible themselves, paintings and windows were a good way of depicting stories in places of worship. Windows were a necessity to allow the sun and light in and paintings were an extra expense so windows to inform the public then became commonplace and less expensive than paintings in the main.
People used different types of coloured glass, imprisoned in lead, woven into biblical stories. Congregations began to learn the bible stories along with the sunshine that danced into the place of worship. They became extremely popular, particularly among the people who could not read themselves. Hence the movement of stained glass panels was borne throughout the world. Many windows were a mixture of stained glass and glass paintings and can also be seen throughout the world today.
Early depictions in churches were entirely of biblical related stories, but gradually over time, patterns and thanksgiving praise were incorporated for the village elders and donors to the places of worship. The idea of ‘light’ was an important element in religion – “let there be light”, “light of the world”, etc., and the practise of allowing coloured light to enter the dreary spaces was an added ingredient to the popularity of the stained glass window. The red in the windows was often depicted as blood and the blue as a sign of the sky and religious purity.
Now, of course, all stained glass does not have a religious connotation and is considered an art form in its own right. Many modern designers incorporate stained glass into their architecture. However, the practise of religious iconography is commonplace and is still used and repaired in religious premises to this day.
See some beautiful examples of stained glass windows in this breathtaking Architectural Digest gallery.
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