The Making of Stained Glass Windows — From Medieval Times to Modern Times

medieval stained glass

Traditional stained glass windows in Europe’s churches and cathedrals reached their heyday in the middle ages, as gothic architecture used massive vertical windows to provide more light. These early stained glass windows portrayed biblical history and church dogma in the form of gorgeous glass mosaics, many of which remain in situ today, to the delight of art connoisseurs and tourists alike. It is a testament to the craftsmanship and methods of these early stained glass artisans that their work has lasted, admired and respected through the centuries, although their names have been long forgotten.

Europe’s Stained Glass Masterpieces

Stained Glass Chartres CathedralOne of the most impressive examples is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, in Chartres, France, where almost all of the 176 windows contains awe inspiring stained glass “paintings.” Another amazing architectural masterpiece is Sainte-Chapelle, (The Holy Chapel) the only building left of the Capetian royal palace in Paris, France. This chapel is famous specifically for its stained glass windows, which give the illusion of entire walls made of superbly crafted stained glass.

Given Europe’s tumultuous history, it’s amazing that any of these stained glass window masterpieces are still intact! Indeed, only two thirds of the stained glass in Sainte-Chapelle is still the original work, with the rest having been restored and replicated over the years.

Stained Glass Traditions

Scottish Stained Glass follows this ancient tradition of glass crafting when we make our thoroughly modern stained glass windows, panels and doors for our clients, whether churches, residential or commercial. The custom design and hand crafting of each piece have not changed at all!

Several things about the art of stained glass have changed though, most notably in terms of the tools and equipment used to make it.

Medeival glaziers followed a sketched “cartoon” (pattern) for their stained glass window design, as do our builders. But the cartoons we use today, although started by hand, are perfected on the computer, down to the millimeter.

In medieval times, a re-hot iron of some sort was used to cut the glass into the necessary shapes. Sounds unappealing and a bit dangerous, doesn’t it? Today, we use a hand held glass cutter that scores the glass, and the perfect shaped piece can simply be “snapped off.”Stained Glass Sainte Chapelle

When the pieces of glass were ready to be assembled by medieval artists, they were fitted into caming, lead strips with channels that held them into place, then they were soldered together at the junction points. This has not changed very much to this day, although the solder and caming are much more modern versions.

Modern Stained Glass Techniques

There has been much advancement in the production of colored glass itself. However, the roughness of the surface and uneven thickness of medieval glass afforded a stunning array of refracted light when the sunlight passed through them. Many types of ancient stained glass are simply not made today… however, when we do a stained glass restoration, we do our best to match the exact color and look of the original glass.

If you’d like some thoroughly modern stained glass windows to grace your home, why not give us a call today? Our designers are ready to work with you, and we think you’ll be surprised at just how affordable stained glass windows can be!

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