The Soul of Gothic Architecture: Stained Glass Windows

Gothic architecture is known for its beautiful gothic windows. These windows are often adorned with intricate stained glass, which adds a dramatic effect to the architectural style of gothic churches and cathedrals.

The use of gothic windows in gothic church architecture goes all the way back to the 12th century and continued through the 16th century, when stained glass became more affordable thanks to technological advancements like leaded panes.

Why are stained glass windows important in Gothic architecture?

There are several reasons why so many catholic churches have stained glass windows. However, one of the main reasons was to spread the gospel.

Around the time these windows were made, most people didn’t know how to read or write. So the church decided to use stained glass windows to tell the most important stories from the bible. Now even illiterate people could learn more about their religion simply by looking at the beautiful stained glass windows.

Of course, there are also some other reasons why stained glass windows are often seen in gothic architecture. One of them was to partially finance the construction of these large structures. When patrons donated money, their names would be etched into the stained glass. And patrons that donate particularly large sums of money would sometimes even be depicted in the stained glass window.

How did Gothic art influence designs in the stained glass windows?

Stained glass windows are closely linked with the developments in the Gothic architecture style. The majority of Gothic architecture’s advancements were made for the express purpose of incorporating more stained glass windows.

Pointed arches, rib vaults, and flying buttresses all allowed Gothic architecture to replace the thick and dark walls with imposing stained glass windows.

Moreover, as the techniques used to color the glass developed over time, more and more complex windows could be made.

What makes stained glass Gothic?

Stained glass was prominently featured in churches even before the Gothic style gained popularity. However, Gothic architecture took stained glass to a whole new level.

The biggest difference between standard stained glass and Gothic stained glass is tracery. Tracery is a series of stone supports between different sections of a window. This would help to support the weight of the wall, while still allowing for very large windows.

A very commonly seen type of tracery in Gothic windows is the “rose” or “wheel”. In this design, small stained glass windows radiate out from the center like flower petals or the spokes of a wheel.

Was stained glass a Gothic invention?

Stained glass wasn’t a gothic invention, but it was the gothic architecture that made stained glass windows so popular.

Evidence of stained-glass windows in churches and monasteries in Britain can be found as early as the 7th century, whereas the Gothic windows only became a thing around the 12th century.

Many Romanesque churches had stained glass windows with very simple patterns before the Gothic churches were built.

What is the oldest stained glass window?

The stained glass windows of the Chartres Cathedral are some of the oldest and best-preserved in the world. Some of the oldest stained glass windows of the Chartres Cathedral date back to the middle of the 12th century.

The glass windows span over 2600 square meters and depict 172 biblical scenes. Especially the blue colors that have stayed vibrant over the centuries have been praised.

However, not all the stained glass windows in the Chartres Cathedral are this old. Some of the windows were added later or have been repaired/replaced in later centuries.

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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