Changing Role of Stained Glass
A guide to stained glass, and how its role has changed through the centuries
Special emphasis on North Texas churches
Christie A. Wood, presenter
Visual Teaching Aid
1100 "Prophet Daniel" window; Augsburg Cathedral, Bavaria, Germany. Oldest stained glass in the world. Late Romanesque art. Visual reminders of the oral teachings of the Catholic faith
Limitations of Architecture
Pre-1195; Chartres Cathedral, Frace. Pieces of glass available are small and of limited colors. Flying buttresses freed up the walls for insertion of stained glass windows. Pointed Gothic arches
Freedom from Architectural Limits
1240; Chartres Cathedral, France. Rose window. Gothic sacred geometry
1260 "Tree of Jesse" window, Chatres Cathedral, France. Secondary colored glass beginning to be used. More experimentation of making different colored glass using various metals. First "family tree"
Revolt Against Ornamentation
1270 "Five Sisters" windows, York Minister, England. Reaction against the "rainbows of light" of Gothic stained glass
Subject matter based in nature; not in the human figure. Thus, the use of clear glass and natural forms was introduced.
Everyday Work Life
1300's "Life of Solomon" window, Bourges Cathedral. Work life included in with the Bible story. The top 2 lobes and middle diamond panels are of King Solomon. The bottom 2 lobes are depictions of everyday life in a medieval village.
Influence of the Crusades
14th Century, "Tree of Jesse" fragment, Gedney Church, Lincolnshire, England. Returning Crusaders bring Eastern architecture, materials and ideas, including the fancy stonework frames and borders seen in these windows.
Story telling through Art
15th Century Selisia (Poland) painted church. Example of the extensive Biblical story telling artwork. Windows are there to provide light only; the frescoes tell the story.
Rise of the Middle Class
15th Century, St. Mary's Church, Deerhurst, England. Donors portraits rather than historical accuracy. Rise of the middle class and trade guilds. Rise of the individual.
Introduction of Perspective
1500's medallion with silver stain. Clear glass and a painterly manner being used. Scenes with people in 3D settings and some experimentation in perspective.
Ascendency of the Human
16th Century, Steinfeld Abbey, Germany. Renaissance. Realistic depiction of the human figure. Depth of field & emotion is important
17th Century, Heidelburg Castle, Heidelburg, Germany. Rise of the merchant class and the movement of stained glass out of churches. Extensive silver stain and enamel work with true perspective.
17th Century, Litchfield Cathedral. Fancy tracery and high decoration in all areas. Individual portraiture and realism.
Loss of Glass Skills
1721 "Annunciation" window by Joshua Price, Great Witley Church, England. Painting and enameling on glass. Destruction of ancient glass due to religious wars. Decline of skills of stained glass artists in lead and cut glass.
Age of Rationalism
1872 Norfolk, England. After Reformation, an interest in all things Gothic. Age of Rationalism and the height of nationalistic empires.
Triumph of human over nature.
1875 "Nativity" window by William Morris, St. Martins in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, England. Gothic revival. Fully-colored stained & traditionally leaded stained glass windows. Use of heavy lead lines.
1890 Louis Comfort Tiffany window, All Souls Unitarian Church, Roxbury, MA. Art Nouveaux. Copper foil method. Glass plating. Lush landscapes & lush figures.
American Jewel Windows
1893 First United Methodist Church, Gainesville, Texas, USA. American jewel windows. No story telling. Functional windows. Heavy opaque glass was used to control bright sunshine and heat.
Loss of Natural Sunlight
1893 First United Methodist Church, Gainesville, Texas, USA. As churches expand, it is common for exterior walls to become interior walls. What do you do with the stained glass windows which are no longer exposed to natural sunlight?
Electicity & Stained Glass
1893 First United Methodist Church, Gainesville, Texas, USA. Electric light boxes continue to showcase old stained glass windows. But sometimes whole areas of stained glass are lost due to oversight, such as the upper arched panels in this photo.
Heat & Light Control
1906 windows, First Baptist Church, Justin, Texas, USA. Inexpensive options for rural churches. Simple slabs of stained glass set into iron frames with working louvers. Opaque glass to control heat & sun.
Vessels of History
1896 window, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, Texas, USA. Church mergers. Stained glass windows become vessels of history & identity. Incompatible styles.
1893 "Good Shepherd" window, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, Texas, USA. American jewel windows but with story-telling figures & dedication scroll. Light box electric illumination problems.
Loss of History
1893 "Good Shepherd" window, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, Texas, USA. Loss of a part of their history due to spray paint blocking out the dedication message.
1893 "Good Shepherd" window, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, Texas, USA. Restoration of the stained glass lead to restoring a piece of this church's history.
Repurposing Old Stained Glass
1893 "Good Shepherd" window, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, Texas, USA. Installing it into its new location in the Multi-purpose building. New role is to bring sacredness into an otherwise non-sacred space. Natural sunlight for the first time in over 60 years. Role change from history, back to sacredness.
Preservation by Individuals
1899; Zion Lutheran Church, Dallas, Texas, USA. When church moved in 1957 they were going to throw it away. Saved by a church elder for 50+ years at their home.
Asset becomes Liability
1919 First United Methodist Church, Aubrey, Texas, USA. Small country church FULL of stained glass windows. "Medallion" style windows. Church membership has dwindled to only 56 members in 2004. Church cannot maintain their artwork.
1919 "Nativity" window, First United Methodist Church, Aubrey, Texas, USA. Note the 4 BB gun holes in this window. Stained glass has become a liability & financial strain.
Patriotism versus Sacredness
1919 dedication windows, First United Methodist Church, Aubrey, Texas, USA. "Medallion" windows: an inexpensive way to have stained glass windows. Patriotic elements more common during the years immediately following World War I.
Crisis in Conservation
1919 windows, First United Methodist Church, Aubrey, Texas, USA. Home-repair of stained glass windows due to lack of funds. We are facing a crisis in stained glass artwork conservation in USA.
Stained Glass as Fund-raising
1925 window, First United Methodist Church, Denton, Texas, USA. Return to simple, basic, masculine, inexpensive stained glass. Discarded when the church remodelled in 1980's. Now used as fund-raising for new building projects.
1920 "Baron Killanin III" window, Michael Morris, Germany. Post WW I depression & discontent with old ways abounds in Europe. Socialism, communism, fascism. Seeds of change are laid for the more radical changes which come after WW II.
Changing Views of Divinity
1954 "Peace" window, Canterbury Cathedral, England. Post WW II. Concept of divinity challenged. Artwork more inclusive. Abstraction and stylization return.
Art Gallery versus Church
1957 Jean Couteau window, St. Maximin Catholic Church, France. Influences of Cubism, Post-Modernism art. Churches shocked when abstract stained glass shows up (especially in Europe). Churches become art galleries rather than places of worship?
American Gothic Revival
1957, First United Methodist Church, Mercedes, Texas, USA. American idealized figures in symbolic-realistic settings. Gothic revival in USA. Role of stained glass is multiple: sun/heat control, plus story-telling & decoration.
Multitude of Artistic Influences
1957 First United Methodist Church, Mercedes, Texas, USA. Mix of mid-20th Century stylized realism, medallion & complete abstracted pieces, with scripture lettering. Many artistic influences.
Stained Glass as Decor
1957 First United Methodist Church, Mercedes, Texas, USA. Typical mid-sized mainline Protestant church layout and use of stained glass windows primarily as decoration.
Stained Glass in the Suburbs
1964 St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church, Arlington, Texas, USA. America post-World War II new surburban churches commission new stained glass. Iconograhy & subject matter are carefully designed. Return of cathedral glass.
Dalle de Verre
1964 Walnut Hill United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas, USA. Dalle de verre (slab glass). New materials such as epoxy. Vibrant colors and the use of negative space in the design.
Dalle de Verre
1964, Walnut Hill United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas, USA. This is what Dalle de verre glass looks like from the outside of the church. The dark areas are the slab glass. The light areas are the cement-like epoxy.
New Dark Ages for Stained Glass
1970s Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sherman, Texas, USA. Fewer & lesser quality stained glass windows in churches. Emphasis on outreach ministries rather than art. Reduction of the role of stained glass windows to pure color decorations only.
Mysticism in Public Settings
1974 Marc Chagall; United Nations building, New York City, New York, USA. Non-church setting. Mysticism & symbology in an abstract representation of peace. Spiritual art removed from churches.
2001, The Country Abbey, Justin, Texas, USA. Repurposed old church turned into a wedding chapel for hire. Stained glass is a decorative element only; the same as other window treatments.
2000s Space sharing in at-risk/low attendance churches. Church use Sunday only. Other uses during the week (coffee shop, child care, community center).
2007 First United Methodist Church, Denton, Texas, USA. Role is to give a signature idetification to the outside of the new Children's Wing, and also to commemorate the donor's children.
Stained Glass Overlay Failure
2008 Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. New Hispanic church. Regular clear glass windows with Stained Glass Overlay (colored plastic film). Blinding spots of light.
2008 Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. Stained glass to fill in the most glaring light holes in the altar wall behind the crucifix. Role of stained glass is a problem solver for light control. Fading Stained Glass Overlay visible in the 2 side windows.
Stained Glass Longivity
2008 Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. Closeup of the new stained glass mosaic pieces. Stained Glass Overlay technology inappropriate for most church projects.
Stained Glass as a Tax Write-off
2011 Rosston United Methodist Church, Rosston, Texas, USA. Rural church: several of its members come into a lot of money. Role of this church's stained glass is a tax write-off, as well as beautification and donor longevity.
2011 Rosston United Methodist Church, Rosston, Texas, USA. Medallion windows still popular in the USA. Contemporary realistic design set into inexpensive American-made leaded glass.
2010 Medallion for Rosston United Methodist Church, Rosston, Texas, USA. Patron chooses from a specific set of standard subjects. My medallions use the copper foil (Tiffany) method; then incorporated into traditional leaded glass windows.
Mixed Religious Symbols
2011 Medallion (Rosston United Methodist Church specific). This medallion has been customized by substituting Hindi style halos rather than the traditional Christian halos.
2011 Rosston United Methodist Church, Rosston, Texas, USA. Role of the window is to be a lasting legacy for the donor. 13 grandchildren and great-grandchildren's portraits in the window.
2011 Rosston United Methodist Church, Rosston, Texas, USA. Commercial sidelight and front door setup. 4 interchangeable stained glass hanging panels for the 4 seasons. The role of the stained glass here is purely decorative.
2010 Lakeway United Methodist Church, Pottsboro, Texas, USA. Return of stained glass to modern churches. Community, Christian & family-specific symbols. Role is a memorial, but also a reminder of the sacraments.
2012 Lakeway United Methodist Church, Pottsboro, Texas, USA. Commissions build upon each other. Continued themes of the lakeside community & symbols for resurrection and rebirth.
Return of Art into Worship
2012, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church, Denison, Texas, USA. Return of art into the worship experience. I believe much of this demand is driven by exposure to the rich visual imagery of the Internet.
Stained Glass's Identity
Different role for stained glass: shock value of a sacred image overlaid a top sexy clothing. Still indicates that society values the artform, even if not in church.
Return to the Churches
2012, Faith United Methodist Church, Denton, Texas, USA. Abstract bold cathedral colors in traditional lead came, inserted into spaces specifically designed to house stained glass. Back to the beginning of the use of stained glass in churches.