Popular Historic Stained Glass Windows

When people think of churches, one of the first things that likely comes to mind is beautiful stained glass. Stained glass is one of the most stunning features of historical churches and is not only visually-appealing, but also played an important role for churches throughout history, helping the congregation learn religious stories. In centuries past, many members of church congregations could not read, so the windows were a beautiful way to teach them Biblical stories and help them better understand their beliefs. Stained glass first gained popularity in Europe and some stained glass windows are almost 1,000 years old. The following is a short list of some of the most famous historical stained glass windows, by era.

Medieval Era: The Chartres Cathedral in France

Chartres Cathedral in France

The Chartres Cathedral in France is well known for its stained glass and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and these windows date from the 12th and 13th centuries. The Chartres Cathedral windows depict scenes from the lives of Jesus’ Apostles and St. John the Evangelist and St.Thomas Beckett. UNESCO describes the stained glass at this cathedral as “exceptional” and it is a popular tourist destination. The oldest stained glass image is of Adam, and dates back to 1176.

Reformation: Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

The Reformation period was a very challenging time for churches and many of the religious relics of this era were vandalized and destroyed. During the 16th century, the Reformation directly challenged the Catholic Church and led to the creation of Protestantism. Many Catholic Churches (where the majority of stained glass was) were damaged and the windows broken in an effort to destroy all the symbols of the church. One such church was Norwich Cathedral, located in east England. This church and its paintings and stained glass were seriously damaged in the mid-1550s. Some stained glass remains and serves as a powerful reminder of the violence of the Reformation period.

Historic Stained Glass of 19th and 20th Centuries

19th Century Stained Glass

Stained glass grew in popularity in the late 18th century and reached its height of popularity in Europe in the 19th century. England’s Gloucester Cathedral is a great example of the beautiful Victorian-era workmanship that makes up the “classic” stained glass look. The Gloucester Cathedral’s stained glass showcases Biblical scenes involving water in an area that was used as a washing place for the cathedral’s monks. In the United States, stained glass enthusiasts must view the stunning early 20th century stained glass work at New York’s The Lady Chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Created in 1909, the church boasts a central rose window, which is considered to be the greatest work of stained glass designer Charles Connick.

Stained Glass Restoration

Stained glass is so rich in history and artistry, yet many pieces fall into disrepair. Egan’s Church Furnishings and Restoration are experts in stained glass repair, installation of stained glass protective glass and stained glass restoration. To see examples of stained glass restoration and stained glass repair, visit Egan’s stained glass gallery to view recent work.