Stained Glass for the Catholic

Stained glass has had a prominent role in Church art and architecture since the Middle Ages. The artistic tradition continues in modern churches, as Catholics embrace the instruction of the Council of Trent, as well as modern Church leaders such as John Paul II, to use art to instruct and to confirm the truths of the Faith.

Among the most stunning and famous examples of stained-glass art are the three rose windows at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. These windows feature scenes from the Old and New Testaments, telling the story of salvation history.

Stained Glass as Art

Stained glass was in limited use in early Christianity, but the rise of Gothic architecture with its large window openings led to a rise in stained glass as an art form. At the time, glass was only in small pieces, necessitating mosaics (small pieces of glass bonded together with lead).

Early stained glass was purely ornamental, but as artists began using figures, it became necessary to paint on the glass to achieve the proper effects. This led to a revolution in the art form as metallic paints were applied and fused to the glass. One of the early adopters of this method was Abbot Suger, the mid-twelfth-century pastor of the Abbey Church of St. Denis, near Paris. He is credited not only with bringing pictures into his church but with placing that art in colorful window scenes. Abbot Suger believed that light coming through colored glass created a reverent atmosphere, while pictures strengthened faith. Because he was a royal adviser, Abbot Suger’s ideas and writings gained attention, and soon after, picture-windows became a standard feature of every church.

France long served as the center of stained-glass art, with the city of Chartres taking the lead. Even now, the windows of Chartres Cathedral are among the most beautiful in the world.


During the Middle Ages, the daily life of townspeople often centered on their churches. Realizing that many laypeople could not read, priests and bishops used pictures to tell stories of the Old and New Testaments.

Mary, the Mother of God, is a frequent subject of Catholic stained-glass windows. She is often shown as the Stabat Mater (or “the mother stood”) at the foot of the Cross in Crucifixion scenes, scenes from the Rosary, depictions of her apparitions, and more. Other popular subjects include the Sacred Heart, the life of Christ, and beloved saints.

Among the most famous and beautiful of Catholic stained-glass windows are the three rose windows of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. With scenes from the Old and New Testaments, the rose windows tell the story of the Faith.

Originally posted 2019-05-17 17:43:10.