A History of Medieval Stained Glass

Medieval painted glass is the painted and colored glass of medieval Europe from the 10- 16th centuries. It is very gorgeous, and is fun to learn about. It is an amazing piece of medieval history we still have an opportunity to see. I will share three very distinct pieces of this glass with you today. They displayed biblical history and were displayed in churches, and cathedrals. Many of these pieces are still in use today.

Production Methods

The stained glass was made by mixing and heating potash (wood ash) and sand. It was heated to 3000 degrees. Fahrenheit and added various metallic oxide powders to produce different colors. They were flattened while they were still pliable. The crafters had a blueprint and the sheets of glass were cut and arranged on it.

Wall of Stained Glass

The stained glass in the Sainte Chapelle (the only remaining Capetian royal palace) in Paris, France has amazing stained glass windows. These windows give the illusion of walls made entirely of stained glass. Only two thirds of the glass is still original. The rest of it has been restored or replicated.

Reynard the Fox

This is a fox that was preaching to chickens with the plan to trick and eat at least one of them. He dragged and ate the chicken. Then he ended up dying for his bad deed. This teaches against the dangers of false profits. This type of art was originally in church windows all over Europe in different versions, now there are only a few pieces remaining.

Family Shields of Honor

Shields of honor were popular in the 13th century. They started as symbols shown only in the corners, then as shield of arms covering the whole section of the window. In the last stage it featured a crest, mantling, and supporters were added. The earliest example of heraldic glass is located in the west window of Salisbury Cathedral. There are three shields of this kind in Westminster abbey.


Medieval stained glass is still widespread in church windows across Europe. It survived the tests of time only requiring light amounts of restoration or recreation. This is simply amazing and really shows the amount of time and hard work that had gone into the projects. These projects took many years for their crafters to create. Next time you see stained glass you should look at it more closely and truly appreciate it.