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Stained Glass Windows Bring Color and Light
Stained Glass Window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Stained Glass Window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Photo © Grant V. Faint / Getty Images

Because of the advanced use of pointed arches in construction, the walls of Medieval churches and synagogues throughout Europe were no longer used as primary supports—the walls did not hold up the building. This engineering advancement enabled artistic statements to be displayed in wall areas of glass. The huge stained glass windows and a profusion of smaller windows throughout Gothic buildings created the effect of interior lightness and space and exterior color and grandeur.

Gothic Era Stained Glass Art and Craft

"What enabled the craftsmen to contrive the large stained glass windows of the later Middle Ages," points out Professor Talbot Hamlin, FAIA, of Columbia University, "was the fact that iron frameworks, called armatures, could be built into the stone, and the stained glass fastened to them by wiring where necessary. In the best Gothic work the design of these armatures had an important bearing on the stained-glass pattern, and its outline furnished the basic design for the stained-glass decoration. It is thus that the so-called medallion window was developed."

"Later," Professor Hamlin continues, "the solid iron armature was sometimes replaced by saddle bars running straight across the window, and the change from the elaborate armature to saddle bar coincided with the change from rather set and small-scale designs to large, free compositions occupying the entire window area."

One of the Best Examples

The stained glass window shown here is from the 12th century Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Construction on Notre Dame took centuries and spanned the Gothic era.

SOURCE: Architecture through the Ages by Talbot Hamlin, Putnam, Revised 1953, pp. 276, 277.

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