Early stained-glass windows and tinctorial techniques were used in ancient Egypt and Rome. However, only the construction and imagery of the gothic cathedrals allowed to use them in a more artistic way. First of all, straining arches enabled to create perforated volumes of temples and bigger openings. Secondly, the gothic style aimed at showing symbols of divine presence and greatness. And ‘God is light, […]’1. The light effects should impress believers. Moreover, stained-glass windows had an educational purpose. Images of religious scenes helped illiterate believers to become acquainted with the content of the Holy Bible, also known as Biblia Pauperum – ‘Paupers’ Bible’.
The taints are not random. White is a colour of innocence and purity, it pictures God. Red symbolises martyrdom but also love. Violet represents suffering and passion. Yellow, on the one hand, symbolises betrayal but at the same time power and glory. Blue is a colour of heaven, devotion and Marian cult. Green means revival and immortality. At first, colours were created by adding metal oxides into the molten glass. The material was supposed to represent precious stones (including their price). Nowadays glass panels are stained with special colouring, thanks to that mosaics are more colourful and accurate.
In my imagination, the moment in which sun brightens the coloured glass creating a glittery mosaic of light was stunning. Every time, when I was visiting churches, I was waiting anxiously for this moment, when the sun would be in the right position, to see the expected illumination. Unfortunately, I have not been enlightened. However, it is not a surprise if we consider the usual position of churches. Mostly a presbytery2 is oriented east – in direction of Jerusalem. Because of that, stunning rosette and large format stained-glass windows placed on the front and back elevation are illuminated just during two brief moments of the day – sunset and sunrise. The biggest amount of light is entering through the windows on the side walls. Since I was not able to see that passing illumination, I tried to recreate the path of the light.
11 John 1:5b
2The main altar, space dedicated for priests and acolytes.