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  • Betty Girardeau

The Magic of Stained Glass


I have had the good fortune to visit many churches and cathedrals in Europe. Almost the first things I have looked at when I have entered them are their stained glass windows. From the exteriors during the day these works of art don't look like much. The magic happens when you go inside and see what happens with light coming through them. In especially large stone cathedrals the juxtaposition of the grey walls and the colorful windows is amazing. You could easily spend hours just studying one window. As works of art they are amazing, but they are equally amazing, too, as feats of engineering. Many of these windows have survived for centuries though assaulted by wind, weather, age, and worst of all, wars. Evidence of stained glass in European churches can be found as early as the 7th century. At the same time mosques, palaces, and public spaces were being decorated with stained glass windows as well. In fact, the genesis for the amazing Middle Ages and Renaissance church windows may have come from some of the returning crusaders who saw stained glass windows in the Middle East. The manufacture of colored glass is known as far back as Egyptian time. During the Reformation many of the stained glass windows in England and parts of Protestant Europe were unfortunately destroyed and replaced with clear glass. It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century when there was a revival in its popularity in churches. Many of the best stained glass artists of the time created gorgeous colored glass windows for the homes of the wealthy, as well as fulfilling orders for commissioned church windows by these same people who liked to be able to flaunt their wealth and have their names added at the bottom of many of them as family memorials. Stained glass was a popular architectural feature during the Victorian and Arts and Crafts period, with some of the homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright being good examples of the latter. Today stained glass still retains its appeal and magic. I know several people, including my younger son, who are very good stained glass craftspeople. I had a stained glass window insert in my kitchen in my house in Virginia made by my son. We pulled it out before moving to Tennessee forteen years ago, and "some day" I hope he will finally get it framed so I can use it in a window here. Until then, I will just have to enjoy the magic of stained glass in other places, such as the cathedral window above which I photographed in Carcasonne, France. last summer

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