Iconography, Symbolism, and Functions of Stained Glass Windows of Gothic Cathedrals

Date:  2021-06-16 20:03:17
6 pages  (1608 words)
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According to The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, iconography is a scientific process of identifying, describing, classifying, and interpreting themes, subject matter, and symbols in visual arts. Otherwise, the term can be used to refer to the artistic use of imagery in arts. As early as the 16th century, iconographical studies had already been published. The works at that particular time had emblem catalogs and symbols taken from antique literature which would then get translated into pictorial terms that are suitable for artists use. One such work that became very famous is the Iconologia by Cesare Ripa (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). Later in the 18th century, the study started developing in Europe. On the contrary, when used to accompany archaeological studies, it then becomes related to the classification of motifs and subjects of monuments. As the 19th century ended, archaeology and iconography had separated into two different studies. Iconography became concerned with symbols (mostly Christian symbols). During the 20th century, classical iconography was developed. This was quite distinct from the Christian version of the study (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Khan Academy defines stained glass as a term that derives its meaning from the stain of silver which mostly got applied onto the window sides (particularly the face that would be outside) of church buildings. On passing fire through the glass, the silver stain would turn yellow or a color range from golden to lemon. In ancient time, the stained glasses were used to produce window panes in a manner that light was able to shine via the painting. This form of painting can be dated back to as early as the 16th century, when iconographical studies were published (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). However, the art has remained the same as it was by then.

Have you ever visited a medieval church? When your eyes begin to adjust to darkness from within, you will notice a light that is colored streaming from above. These incidences portray some of the most creatively produced art (within the Ages of the High Middle) relating to glass cycles that are stained or rather visual stories within the cathedrals. One such art can be pinned to the Reims Cathedral which is associated with the arresting lunette. Among the incredible art of this church include the Seraph. The seraph is an angel, six-winged, and thought to be standing in Gods presence. The angel is formal, and in our case, it is a calligraphic stroke of thick black paint that portrays the essence of its facial features and commanding eyes (Khan Academy). Even though stained glass cant be entangled with a particular place of origin, the architectural Gothic period realized a blossom in the manner in which stained glass was used in cathedrals. Also, the craftsmen of glass realized how exemplary the qualities of glass represented the spiritual and religious ideologies within the period in which the art steadily fine-tuned (Cascio, Christopher).

On identified function of the gigantic glass windows was to create spatial effects of lighting. Such a case can be pinned to the Reims Cathedral which is associated with the arresting lunette. Among the incredible art of this church include the Seraph. The seraph is an angel, six-winged, and thought to be standing in Gods presence. The angel is formal, and in our case, it is a calligraphic stroke of thick black paint that portrays the essence of its facial features and commanding eyes. The window produces great spatial light (Khan Academy). However, the Gothic glass windows are also associated with spiritual quality. Considering that the colored panes are produced by the addition of metallic oxides and salts, they have the capability of brilliantly glowing if light happened to have passed through them. This process creates an experience that results to mystery and awe. Such a case conveys how important light is with regards to the symbolisms of religion at the time of practice (Cascio, Christopher). The glass windows are also very important illustrative tools. They are purposed to inspire and educate. Gothic cathedral glass panels are associated with depicting biblical scenes and those vital moments that the saints lived. Both stories and scenes can be illuminated in one window or made to run throughout the series of windows successively. For example, the glass window of Reims Cathedral has the arresting lunette. Other incredible arts of this church include the Seraph. The seraph is an angel, six-winged, and thought to be standing in Gods presence. The angel is formal, and in our case, it is a calligraphic stroke of thick black paint that portrays the essence of its facial features and commanding eyes (Khan Academy). On the contrary, such narratives are not only sculptured for believers to "read," but as well to have the experience, at a spiritual level, the objects of light, color, image, and mystery. Also, there is a function of these glass windows which is difficult to ignore literally. This role is the acknowledgment given to supporters, stakeholders, fund-raisers, and them who labored to ensure that the cathedral building got constructed. Such people can be referred to as the workers' guilds and patrons (Cascio, Christopher).

Gothic cathedral has got various important aspects such as stained glass. The popularity of the stained glasses rose making them be symbolic as far as the cathedral was concerned. Their popularity led to the increase in their presence within the community and as a result it led to the general populace learning more about the religion. It is noted than with time, the windows were viewed as visual sermons that were categorized as illuminated. To some, they were religiously symbolic their impact was greater as compared to that of the priests. In this particular research paper, the stained glasses would be evaluated on the essence of its symbolism, iconography and its function as far as religion is concerned (Cascio, Christopher).

The stained glass was used to refer to glasses that had been painted by colors and then fully fused in a kiln. The stained glass was made by the use of metal oxides. Prior to making the stained window, the artisan expected to do the art work had to do the drawing of what is expected to appear on the glass by doing sketches. The blueprint containing the drawings is then followed by combining potash and sand at 3000 degrees. Small amount of powder which is made of metallic oxide is added to the molten glass in order to give coloring. In order to obtain blue green or green color, the artisan sues copper oxides. For the case of deep blue color, the artisan uses cobalt and lastly, gold is added in order to give violet or wine red. The molten glass is flattened to the shape of sheets then cooled. the cooled glass is then cracked into desired shapes by the artisan ready to be used. The cooled artisan is cracked into desired shapes using a hot iron to make the shapes come out in accurate. The excess glasses that are around the chipped edges of the glass are then removed by an iron metal in a process known as grozing.

The stained glasses that were used by the Gothic Cathedral were categorized into 2 classifications which included the circular rose windows as well as spear shaped but long windows. The term rose was developed in the 17th century by the fact that the window was made in the shape of an open rose from the fact that radiating panels gave the shape of a rose. In the past, the windows were referred to as the wheel windows thus the main difference was the fact that the rose window had complex designs. Saint Denis had a priest called Abbot

Suger who was known as the father of stained glass since he was the first person to invent the use of stained glass in church as he designed it to show the light from heaven which according to the faithful believed that it symbolized the presence of God in the church. The Saint Denis abbey church acted as an epitome of the use of stained glasses to act as a symbol of God in the church. The openness and light that was brought about by this architecture and the stained glasses helped in that they helped in teaching some of the stories that were based in the bible.

At various cathedral churches, there were designs that depicting the Tree of Jesse which had the main intension of symbolizing the ancestry of Christ. There was a shoot that came from the stump of Jesse and was always described as a branch that sprouts from the roots of the tree in the book of Isaiah. All these were depicted by the tree of Jesse. At Chartres Cathedral, there was the oldest picture of the tree of Jesse which depicted a trunk of tree which came from the side of Jesse to the other side pointing a bigger figure which was Jesus Christ. Jesus was located at the top of the tree with seven doves which are belied to be depicting the seven gifts which was to be received from the Holy Spirit according to the scriptures. Churches also had design of stained glasses which showed holy number seven as well as its multiples which had a biblical meaning according to the scriptures.

 

Work Cited

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Iconography | Visual Art." Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/art/iconography.

Khan Academy. "Stained Glass: History And Technique." Khan Academy, 2017, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/medieval-world/latin-western-europe/gothic1/a/stained-glass-history-and-technique.

Cascio, Christopher. "The Function Of Stained Glass In Gothic Architecture | Show." Show, 2017, http://www.ehow.com/info_8668480_function-stained-glass-gothic-architecture.html.

 

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