in their present state, the traveller has seldom seen aught more striking
than the rich light of the stained glass pouring through the first
shades of evening upon the marble floor."
Rose Windows of the Gothic era exemplify the radiance of spirit perceived
by medieval architects. Among the grandest developments of the European
creative mind, these elaborate craft works represent a sacred concept
of completeness and balance.
It is generally accepted that the origin of illustrative glass work within European religious structures dates back to the late 800s. Actual surviving samples are very rare. Some pieces found in French and German abbeys have been dated to the ninth and tenth centuries.
Many of the arts and crafts utilized within medieval buildings were refined during the Romanesque era. Glass works evolved almost continuously during this period of cultural and spiritual development. At Augsburg Cathedral there still exist impressive panels from the eleventh through twelfth centuries.
The haven of stained glass development was the Īle de France region. First appearing in the Church of Saint Denis, under the direction of Abbot Suger, glass designs followed at Paris and Sens and Amiens. The glass works of Chartres Cathedral are widely recognized as the finest example from the High Gothic era. Many of the more than 170 original windows remain intact.
The rose designs were a late innovation. The placement of stained glass within the Romanesque period was within the high, narrow lancet windows or in the clerestory. The vertical form of the panels lent themselves well to depictions of figures. Subjects featured were often individuals from the old testament, particularly characters from the life of Christ, the prophets and the apostles.
|The craft of coloring glass is at least five thousand years old. Examples have been found from Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Greek mosaics often contained glass elements and the Romans produced sheet glass and air formed vases.||The colors of the French roses are distinct, strong shades of blue and red. German and English glass by comparison exhibit a spectrum of lighter shades, tending towards yellow, green and light blue.|
Rose Windows are the apex of stained glass development. These circular mandalas radiate with sacred medieval imagery. The primary subject of the great roses is the Virgin and Child. Many other themes are featured, such as the life of Christ, the apostles and tales from the Bible. Less common features are medieval heraldry and symbols of the seasons or the astrological zodiac.
The great roses which we associate with cathedrals today, did not truly flourish until the mid thirteenth century. The ability to incorporate such large glass works into the walls became possible only after structural innovations within vaulting. Transferring the task of weight support to the vaults and buttresses allowed the solid planes to be partitioned for the entry of light. The following innovations are still some of the most impressive works of European art and culture.
While stained glass windows are to be found wherever the gothic style manifested, the finest exist in France. While the works of Paris and Chartres are often singled out, lesser known but equally beautiful rose windows are found throughout the country, at such sites as Rheims, Laon, Bourges, Amiens Soissons and others.
vibrancy of an original window of the Gothic age is the feature which differentiates
it from glass work of a later era. Prior to the middle of the sixteenth century,
windows were illustrated with glass pieces of a solid color. Realistic likenesses
were achieved through crafted combinations of hues. By the Renaissance, many of
the medieval artistic forms had been abandoned or replaced. Various techniques
of painted glass replaced the elder craft and only rarely was true stained glass
used in the following centuries.
the nineteenth century a renewed interest developed for the arts
of the medieval period, particularly those forms related to the
Gothic churches and cathedrals. Great efforts were invested to
restore earlier buildings and works, and many new structures,
both religious and secular were modeled on a Neo Gothic ideal.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
|Development & Production Credits|
Editor : Nicole Blackford
Primary Text : Rhey Cedron
Art Direction : Thierry Alberto Art Research : Malcolm Hurrell
Principal Photography : Rhey Cedron
Structural Design : Mark Nelson Research Assistant : Walter McCrae
Support Production : Henry Craig, Joan Flandrin, Clara Kelly
Your questions or comments are always welcome!
Learn more about the Earthlore story, upcoming web features and future cultural projects. Ask to receive your