stained glass windows in a room with beds

The Development of Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows, much like coloured uPVC windows, are a beautiful addition to any building and a great way to increase the beauty of a home or business. While they have been used for centuries, they have developed in ways that make them even more desirable.

Early Medieval Windows

Stained glass windows were a popular medieval art form. They were used in churches to enhance the beauty of the building and to inform through symbolism. In addition, they were also found in wealthy domestic settings and public buildings. As styles and fashions progressed, coloured stained glass windows were often unfavoured compared to coloured uPVC windows.

The earliest stained glass windows are thought to have been made in the early Middle Ages. The earliest surviving examples at Canterbury Cathedral are extreme and depict the genealogy of Christ.

Later Gothic-style windows were typically divided into several lights by vertical stone mullions. These were often created using bands of grisaille or graphic panels.

Several pieces of early medieval window glass are known to have been excavated at Old Sarum, Jarrow, and Monkwearmouth, UK. Some examples are even in the collection of the Victorian & Albert Museum.

Stained glass was also standard in the medieval period in northern Europe. It was widespread in England, Germany, and Sweden. However, most of the stained glass from the Middle Ages was destroyed or reconstructed during the Reformation.

Middle Ages

Stained glass windows developed in the middle ages, mainly due to the need for light and protection in church buildings. These windows were usually used for religious purposes but also other purposes. The clergy relied on them to pass on critical Christian lessons. A window depicting the Crucifixion of Christ is an excellent example of this.

Glass painters and glass makers fabricated stained glass windows. They were made of different shapes and sizes. As the years passed, more coloured glass was added to these window masterpieces.

The most famous examples of these windows were those in the Reims Cathedral in France. It is believed that these are the earliest complete pictorial windows. However, they are not documented until the 9th century.

These windows have various motifs and styles. They were often painted with black paint. This was used to give details to the stained glass. Some were left open to the elements.


The stained glass windows development in the Renaissance differs from previous periods. They were initially created to beautify churches and public buildings. In the late 1400s, they became widespread in domestic interiors. As religious norms changed, the number of windows decreased. Instead, the coloured uPVC windows were favoured. These coloured windows were an expedient way to raise the value of a home.

A silver stain was a crucial element in developing stained glass windows. This stain allows multiple colours to be applied to one piece of glass.

The silver stain was developed from a compound called nitrate of silver. It is yellow when it is fired in a kiln. However, it produces a light yellow tint when applied to white glass.

Another essential feature of the development of stained glass windows is a close-up perspective. Many figures stare straight ahead and are involved in the action.

Throughout the Renaissance period, these figures represent abstract ideas rather than physical ones. Some scholars believe that they may have been used as icons in windows.

18th century

Stained glass windows developed over the millennia as a combination of function and art. In the Middle Ages, churches commissioned windows that depicted religious figures and coats of arms. However, these windows were costly and often lacked perspective and architectural relevance.

The gothic Revival encouraged artists to examine medieval stained glass, especially in the UK. Architects began using walls of stained glass in secular buildings. Although most of these pieces were not preserved, several examples are still in museums today.

Gothic window iconography evolved from simple subject treatment to complex compositions. It included using symbols and bestiaries based on the Old Testament to represent events from the New Testament.

The style of Gothic windows also changed in other countries. For instance, in the United States, the design of a single composition on a few lancets is considered a “picture window”.

Many of these designs were painted in enamel pigments on large sheets of glass. Some examples of these are preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.