Stained Glass windows

Stained Glass Windows and History

Windows of the World: Stained Glass

Religion and art have always gone hand-in-hand together, especially for Catholics. Commissions for artwork by the church have served many purposes. We have all seen the beautiful works of art in old church windows either in person or in the movies.
One of the most fascinating and beautiful parts of architectural art, is that of stained-glass window. Light is symbolic in religions, so it makes sense that this would be channelled through the arts in these stain-glass windows, to tell the stories of time.

Stained-glass windows are created by cutting glass into detailed shapes and fusing them together with lead, creating the latticework that is called ‘came’. Impurities in glass cause the different colours, early glass manufacturers probably first figured this out through trial and error. But eventually they mastered the control of this colour coordination, by carefully adding different metals meaning they could manipulate the results. This allowed for the full spectrum of different colours that we see in stained-glass today. Eventually, the artists realised this method was too expensive, and instead started painting neutral-coloured glass. But the colours of these painted windows deteriorated much quicker than the old method.

These days, glass is much cheaper and cutting glass is easier to do. You can probably take a lead-lighting course on YouTube these days; a luxury many of the early artists would not have had available to them.

Some of the older stained-glass windows are unfortunately under threat from our modern environment and climate. Even throughout the great wars, much of our precious stained-glass windows were left mostly unharmed, which may be because of their removal and storage in safe places. Air pollution and humidity are a now a significant threat against these beautiful art works. Acid rain, grime build-up and temperature fluctuations also pose a risk to the longevity of stained glass.

Double-glazing is a new means to protect the glass. Double-glazing also helps to insulate buildings, and is a good way to protect stained-glass. It keeps the glass away from the elements, and will help to prevent erosion. In 1861, England’s York Minster was equipped with double-glazing, with the intention of insulating the building, this process has helped to preserve the stained glass. A small gap is left between the window and the stained-glass, this way humidity can be stopped, just like between a precious painting and its protective glass in a gallery.

But double-glazing only offers protection to one side of the window. The other side is subject to modern heating systems; which medieval churches were obviously never built to withstand. The solution could be triple glazing.

If you’re lucky enough to travel, get out there and enjoy the fantastic old buildings of the world, and don’t forget to marvel at the stained-glass artworks that are just as precious.

Talk to WCM Window Cleaning Melbourne by sending an enquiry now.