When you enter a holy place, your eyes seek light. If you are lucky, the light will shine through the stained glass window, giving light and beauty at the same time. Stained glass also tells stories, educates and inspires.
Glass painting has been used in many parts of the world. Over the centuries, these works of art have added beauty to spaces around the world, most often churches and other religious buildings. However, there are works that raise this art form to a whole new level. Take a look at some of the most famous stained glass windows in Europe.
1 Christ of Wissembourg – France
Stained glass windows played the role of the Bible for the poor in the Middle Ages, allowing believers who did not know how to read Latin to learn the story of the gospels. This portrait of Christ is today in a museum in Strasbourg, France. He is believed to have originated from a Benedictine abbey in northern Alsace, where his grim expression and sharp gaze would have made a significant impression. See featured image of this glass window art above.
2 Chartres Cathedral – France
The demand for stained glass windows reached its peak in the late Middle Ages. Chartres Cathedral, in France, has strong supports that have made room for large windows, including a famous window detailing the birth of Christ. The density of the composition illuminates the interior of the cathedral with a deep colorful glow.
3 Palace of Catalan Music – Spain, Barcelona
The skylight on the roof of the Palace of Catalan Music is a three-dimensional masterpiece that is accentuated by stained glass placed in arches on both sides of the main concert hall. The skylight is thrown out of the ceiling in the shape of an inverted bell and is pigmented in shades of gold and blue. It symbolizes the sun and the sky.
4 Chapel of the Saints – France, Paris
To modern visitors, stained glass may seem like an ordinary decoration, but in the Middle Ages they illustrated not only biblical stories, but also local history and political power. Stories from the Old and New Testaments are painted on the 15 high windows of the Paris Chapel – as well as the transfer of relics brought to Paris by King Louis IX – today known as Saint Louis.
5 St. Vitus Cathedral – Czech Republic, Prague
The largest church in the Czech Republic is the Gothic cathedral, built in 1344 and officially completed in 1929. The cathedral’s richly painted stained glass windows date from the 20th century and were made by prominent Czech artists, including Alfons Muc.
6 York Munster – England
One of the largest European cathedrals, this Gothic masterpiece of northern England has a huge window to the east which is the largest exhibit of stained glass anywhere, before modern times. Designed by John Thornton (the first named artist in British history), the central part depicts an intense depiction of the coming apocalypse.
7 Dutch Institute of Sound and Vision – The Netherlands, Hiversum
The exterior of the Dutch Institute of Sound and Picture is covered with stained glass panels, each of which shows a historical moment of Dutch television. Images are blurred, so they are only noticeable at certain angles. The general impression is a picture of visual history as from a dream.
8 Coventry Cathedral – England, Coventry
Built in 1962 to replace St. Michael’s Cathedral, which was destroyed in World War II. Coventry Cathedral is a modernist masterpiece. The baptismal window consists of 195 panels, designed by John Piper. For those hoping to see what the stained glass window of the original cathedral looked like: several panels were removed before the bombing and exhibited in the new cathedral.
9 Augsburg Cathedral – Germany, Augsburg
The practice of painting glass for decorative purposes dates back to ancient Rome, but the oldest example comes from this Romanesque church in Augsburg, Germany, in the heart of Bavaria. Portraits of Moses, Daniel and other biblical figures look down from the southern clergy – the prophets stand firm with their hats and robes, surrounded by marble details that have been given elegance for years.
10 Blue Mosque Windows – Turkey, Istanbul
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is one of the last mosques built during the classical period and contains Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements. It became known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue color that was used during the restoration. The mosque has more than 200 stained glass windows in shades ranging from pale blue to indigo that paint the interior with color and light.
Have you had a chance to see any of these works live? Which one did you like the most?