Places to visit in Europe

The making of stained-glass windows has hardly changed since the 12th century. A stained-glass window consists of pieces of coloured glass held together in a latticed web of lead. The glass has previously had details of faces, hands and drapery painted and fired on to it in black or brown paint. About the year 1300, yellow stain was discovered, This had the ability to turn white glass yellow or blue glass green, and was extremely useful in the highlighting of hair, haloes and crowns.

Stained glass continued to flourish in England until the Reformation of the Church in the 1540s when changes in religious outlook undermined the need for sacred art.

Although coloured glass continued to be made in the 17th and 18th centuries, the craft declined and skills were lost. Only in the 19th century was there a serious attempt to rediscover the techniques of the medieval glazier. Men like the antiquarian Charles Winston, and the architect A W N Pugin helped to re-establish the scholarly principles for a Gothic Revival of stained glass. As a result of Winston's technical experiments of the 1850s, the quality of coloured glass approached that of the medieval glaziers. Today almost all parish churches and cathedrals contain Victorian windows. Their quality and craftsmanship are now widely recognised.

The Stained Glass Museum has always included contemporary work in its displays. Panels by some of the most influential stained-glass artists of the 20th century form a permanent part of the collection. In addition, contemporary artists regularly lend work, so that the exhibition reflects changing tastes and styles. lt is also the policy of the museum to encourage new talent by exhibiting the work of young artists illustrating the fact that stained glass is very much a living tradition.

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