Stained glass was a vital part of the architecture of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. It inspired a sense of wonder and was immensely rich in symbolism. Stained glass windows, as we know them, appeared to arise when substantial church building began. It comes as no surprise that stained glass was one of the notable techniques of painting practiced in Europe. By the 10th century, depictions of Christ and biblical scenes were seen in French and German churches and decorative designs found in England.
During the Reformation in 1534, Henry VIII banded and destroyed all the stained glass art, causing the congregation to lose faith. For the next 400 years, the use of this art form continued to decline. In the 19th century, stained glass was re-introduced back into the churches. It is unique owing to the shift in colour and tones in accordance with weather, time of the day and season.
It was believed that Phoenician sailors discovered glass accidently after building a fire on a beach. These shipwrecked sailors set their cooking pots on blocks of natron from their cargo. They then built a fire under it on the beach. In the morning, the fire's heat had melted the soda mixture and sand. The resultant mass had cooled and hardened into glass.
The beginnings of stained glass production are a bit of a mystery. A German monk known as Theophilus, who was also an artist and metalworker, decided to reveal how to make stained glass windows in the 1100s. He documented the process in his text, "On Diverse Arts" where he described the stained glass window construction technique in detail.
Glass is coloured by adding metallic salts during its manufacture. Painted details and yellow stain are used skillfully to enhance its design. Over the years, glass workers and painters have developed a wide range of techniques to embellish the glass and make elaborately detailed and colourful images.
Stained glass windows have been described as 'illuminated wall decorations' as to prevent those within a building to see the world outside. The light that shines through stained glass is not just meant to represent God's light, but the good actions that man does for each other.