Church Stained Glass

Church Stained Glass

Ever since glass was introduced in western lands as an architectural material, the most ornate and decorative works have been closely associated with cathedrals, churches, and other religious buildings. During the following centuries, the body of ecclesiastical stained glass works in the UK and around the world has built up its own traditions, and its own supporting industry. But in an age when the emphasis on secularism is calling into question the relevance, the values, and the very existence of many places of worship, what future is there for church stained glass and those who appreciate it, study it, and maintain it?
Whether we see holy buildings as places to commune with a higher power, or simply as part of the framework around which communities were historically built, there can be no denying the influence the clergy of the various denominations have wielded throughout the ages. From the great cathedrals to small parish churches, the buildings where people came to worship played an important part in daily life, and had to be appropriate to the occasion. Like the blacksmith’s workshop or the landlord’s tavern, the establishment had to be equipped to play its role.
God-fearing parishioners who wanted to demonstrate their devotion in a material way were able to do so by maintaining and improving their local church. In order to feel closer to God, church-goers could benefit from experiences which allowed them to temporarily escape the mundane aspects of life, and to witness something ethereal and uplifting. Therefore, any artistic or decorative installation should inspire awe, solemn reverence, and serenity. Icons and images to centre worshipper’s thoughts on spiritual themes had been in common use for centuries, but the decorative use of coloured glass opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.
When patrons wanted to make a gift to their church, stained glass windows quickly became a fashionable choice. The manufacturing of a stained glass window would have been an even greater engineering challenge then than it is now, and these installations made used of exotic materials and highly skilled craftsmanship which were far beyond the reach of ordinary people. In fact, other than in church, stained glass works would rarely be seen, and then only in the grandest stately homes or official buildings.
Stained glass windows provided a highly appropriate visual metaphor for the enlightenment sought by individuals of faith. Hundreds of years before the invention of film brought tales to life on picture house screens, parishioners could contemplate images of figures from holy texts, illuminated above the shadows of a dark and peaceful church nave. In the quiet of a village church stained glass images must have seemed to have come to life, like when the lights go down in a cinema hall. And when the sun shone directly through a complex and exquisitely coloured aperture, and jewels of multi-hued light scattered across the austere interior, the viewer must surely have been reminded of the splendour of heaven itself.
In working to catalogue and maintain as many examples of church stained glass as possible, Benyon Stained Glass seek to preserve our links with the values and traditions of our past. Contact us to find out more about our work.



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