2. Stained Glass: Painting With Light
some respects, we've put the 'cart before the horse' in first
spotlighting the stonecutters
of the Gothic age in Chapter 1.
architecture really began in the 12th century with Abbot Suger,
who in his description of the ideal church wanted to fill his
Abbey Church of St. Denis, near Paris, with "the most radiant
contrast to the dark and somber Romanesque style that had gone
before, Suger believed worshipers would feel uplifted and closer
to God when surrounded by light. From this one inspired wish,
architects were inspired to provide the means.
So with the aid of the pointed arch and the flying buttress, cathedral
walls were strengthened to such a degree that spaces could be
cut away for larger window casements - and thereby meet the terms
of Gothic's prime directive: MORE light. The
high reaches of Gothic construction came when the architect, stonecutter,
ironworker and glazier pooled their skills to create the luminous
rose windows of the era.
the outside, the bland stone tracery gave no clue to the shimmering
light inside as shown, at left, in the original drawing for the
West Rose Window at Chartres. At right, the interior, transformed.
painting, light is reflected off the surface whereas in stained
glass, light is transmitted through the surface. For this reason,
the art of making stained glass is known as painting with light.
the hands of medieval glaziers, glass took on a jewel-like quality
that was all the more impressive for the ancient simplicity of
its technique: sand transformed by fire...
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