Stained Glass Windows: A Crucial Part of Church Architecture

You don’t need to be an expert in architecture to know what many churches have stained glass windows.

Especially the gothic cathedrals that have gigantic stained glass windows that span almost the entire wall.

Stained glass windows have been an integral part of church architecture for centuries.

But why?!

Let’s take a closer look at the history behind the use of stained glass windows in churches.

Why did churches use stained glass?

The most important reason why churches started to incorporate stained glass windows was to spread the gospel through a visual medium.

During the Middle Ages, most people didn’t know how to read or write. Which means they also weren’t able to read the bible.

Depicting biblical scenes in the stained glass windows was a way for churches to share the most important part from the bible in a way that anyone could understand.

Of course, there were also other secondary reasons why stained glass became so commonly used in churches.

The stained glass windows were also a source of income for the church. Wealthy patrons that donated large amounts of money have their names etched into one of the windows. The most generous patrons would also sometimes be depicted in the stained glass windows alongside the other biblical characters.

Moreover, in most religions, there is a clear link between light and the gates of heaven. So it makes sense that the stained glass windows grew bigger and bigger over the centuries.

How are church stained glass windows made?

The different colors in stained glass are achieved by adding certain minerals to the molten glass. The type of mineral and its concentration determine the final color of the glass.

Most colors like red and yellow can be made from several different minerals. However, not every color glass can be made with this method. In those cases, paint is used on top of transparent glass to replicate a similar effect.

To achieve larger and larger windows, tracery was used to subdivide large windows into smaller sections. This would help support the weight of the wall, while still achieving the largest possible window.

How much are church stained glass windows?

It is difficult to estimate how much it cost to build stained glass church windows during the Middle Ages. Moreover, there isn’t really a market for buying original church windows.

So instead, let’s look at how much it would cost to buy a stained glass window nowadays.

Premade stained glass panels normally go for roughly $200 for small designs, all the way up to $10,000 for large and complex window designs.

However, for custom orders you will normally have to pay around $100 to $300 per square foot. Although some famous artisans might charge up to $1000 per square foot.

Moreover, you’ll also have to factor in the installation cost, which can cost you several hundreds of dollars depending on the size.

Now let’s take a look at the Chartres Cathedral, which is famous for its Gothic architecture and large stained glass windows. In total, the Chartres Cathedral has almost 170 stained glass with a total surface of roughly 30,000 square foot.

Assuming an average price of $200 per square foot, that means that on average each stained glass window costs around $35,000.

What are church stained glass windows called?

You can find many different types of windows in a church. The most popular one is the so-called “rose” window. These round windows use tracery to divide the window into smaller sections. As a result, it looks as if the stained glass grows radially outwards like rose petals.

However, there are many more types of stained glass windows. Especially gothic churches have many different window types.

These are the most common types of stained glass windows used in churches:

  • Bay windows
  • Clerestory windows
  • Diocletian windows
  • Lancet windows
  • Mullion windows
  • Rose windows

Which churches and cathedrals are known for their stained glass windows?

You can find beautiful stained glass windows all over the world. However, most of the churches and cathedrals famous for their stained glass windows can be found in Europe.

Here is a short list of some of the most churches in no particular order:

  • Grossmünster
  • Chartres Cathedral
  • Sainte-Chapelle
  • St. Vitus Cathedral
  • Coventry Cathedral
  • Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian
  • Blue Mosque

Why is it called stained glass?

The term “stained glass” originated from the silver stain that was frequently applied to the outward-facing side of the window. This silver stain would turn yellow when the glass was fired. The majority of the time, stained glass was utilized in windows, allowing light to come through the artwork.

Making your own stained glass windows

Are you inspired by the beauty of these Catholic stained glass windows?

Then why not try making a small stained glass window by yourself? Making art from stained glass is becoming more and more popular as a hobby.

All you need to start is one of these stained glass starter kits.

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