One of the best things about churches is the intricate and eye-catching stained-glass artwork around the building. When the sun strikes these stunning glass masterpieces, colorful light showers most of the church’s naturally dark interior during daytime. Darkness becomes unnoticeable – the whole church becomes a spectacle of dazzling beams of light. Some churches all over the world take their stained-glass windows to the next level through more detailed and complex designs. Here are 10 of the best stained-glass windows in churches you will ever see:
Cathedral of Notre Dame (Paris, France)
Known as the seat of the Archbishop of Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is also popular as one of the best architectural examples of French Gothic design. Many of the stained-glass windows of this cathedral dates back to the 13th century – all the way back to the time of church’s construction! When it comes to style, the stained glass presents the big influence of naturalism, leading to a secular look which does not usually show in early Romanesque architecture. The highlight of the church’s most precious stained-glass masterpieces is its collection of heavenly rose windows.
Worcester Cathedral (Worcestershire, England)
Previously called Worcester Priory, Worcester Cathedral is a gigantic Anglican church. It overlooks the Severn River. It is known as the seat of the Bishop of Worcester. Actually, the official name of this cathedral is way longer than its popular one. It is the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester. The cathedral was constructed from 1084 to 1504. It bears different styles of English architecture such as Perpendicular Gothic and Norman. Between 1857 and 1874, it was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott and W.A. Perkins. Most of the stained-glass artworks were made during this time.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington (Kentucky, United States)
A Roman Catholic minor basilica, St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption was constructed under the third bishop of the Diocese of Covington known as Camillus Paul Maes. In 1895, the construction took place in order to replace the old 1834 church. Pope Pius XII was the one who made the cathedral into a minor basilica. St Denis in France was the inspiration for the interior’s model. St. Mary’s interior has murals made by a local named Frank Duveneck. The high altar was built with Carrara marble. Its floors are Breche and Rosata marble. Amazingly, St. Mary is believed to have the biggest handmade stained-glass window all over the world.
Martyrs’ Shrine (Midland, Canada)
Outside Quebec, Martyrs’ Shrine is the only national shrine in Canada. St. Joseph’s Oratory, located in Montreal, is the country’s other national shrine and just the same age as Martyrs’. This church was being renovated the same year as London’s cathedral. Even though the architect did not want the artworks depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross, his opinion became irrelevant leading to these artworks’ display in today’s church. These artworks even became part of the church’s highlights. Regarding the stained-glass windows, these were given to the church for free with paintwork all the way from Germany.
Chichester Cathedral (West Sussex, England)
With its formal name which is the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Chichester Cathedral is the seat of Chichester’s Anglican Bishop. In 1075, this church was established as a cathedral when the bishop’s seat was transferred from Selsey. Meanwhile, Marc Chagall was a famous stained-glass artist. When the Dean of Chichester, Walter Hussey, saw the artist’s magnificent glass artworks at the Louvre museum in 1960, the cathedral decided to commission Chagall to design its window. Fun fact: The cathedral’s window and Chagall’s previous glass artwork in a hospital are the only ones dominated with the color red. Chagall’s preferred color actually was blue.
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church (Lavenham, England)
A parish church listed as Grade I, St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church is a wool church, considered as the best architectural example in England when it comes to Late Perpendicular Gothic. It was rebuilt in the 14th century from wood to stone. Nowadays, the oldest part of the church is the chancel. The prominent stained-glass window of the church is composed mainly of purple hues, contrasting nicely with the antique quality of the stone walls.
St. Mary’s Church (Melton Mowbray, England)
Although St. Mary’s Church badly needs restoration because of its deteriorating state, this parish church was actually known as one of the best and biggest churches of Leicestershire. Its stained-glass window actually says it all. The church still looks grand despite the rundown walls and other architectural flaws because of the classic and intricate stained-glass artwork. For now, an appeal for £2 million fund was started to restore the once glorious parish church. The church should be saved because of its antique quality with remains tracing back to the 13th until 15th century. Its tower’s stonework even goes back to the year 1170.
St. Vitus Cathedral (Prague, Czech Republic)
All it took for this grand cathedral to be finished was nearly 600 years. That’s how magnificent and classic St. Vitus Cathedral is. It is known as one of the most luxurious cathedrals in Europe. It became very essential to the culture and religion of the people in Czech Republic. This cathedral also has a lot of precious objects such as the Last Judgement mosaic from the 14th century, Charles IV’s and St. Wenceslas’ tombs, St. John of Nepomuck’s intricate silver tomb and finally, the grand stained-glass artwork of Alfons Mucha. Mucha’s artwork presents the lives of St. Methodius and St. Cyril. This is one of my personal favorites because of the complex details on the glass.
Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)
Because of the residents of Barcelona, Sagrada Familia came to be. The gigantic church became a symbol of Barcelona’s culture and strong faith. Thanks to the architectural genius of project director Antoni Gaudi, Sagrada Familia became one of the most complex and stunning architectural designs in history. Let’s proceed to the highlight – windows! The church’s windows are so prominent because of their coverage which measures at least two stories high. Being the center of the building, churchgoers will really look upwards as they pray because of the heavenly colors. The colorful lights do not only illuminate the interior; they also highlight the complex structures of the building. This is definitely one of my most favorite stained-glass artworks.
Sainte Chapelle (Paris, France)
This royal chapel is one of the lasting buildings of the Capetian palace. Saint Chapelle was damaged in the French Revolution but thankfully restored in the 19th century. No wonder, it houses one of the most beautiful stained-glass collection in the world which can be traced to the 13th century. The stained-glass windows present significant religious events: the Life of John the Evangelist, the Infancy of Christ, the Passion, the Book of Genesis, and scenes from David and the Book of Kings, Esther, Judith or Job, Jeremiah or Tobias, Judges, Joshua or Deuteronomy, Numbers or Leviticus, Joseph and Exodus. The last window tells the story of kingship, Christ’s relics, miracles, and King Louis’s influence. I really have to see these majestic windows for myself.
There’s definitely a reason why churches exert so much time, effort and money just to finish intricate and costly stained-glass windows. If there were no colorful windows, churches would look dark and lifeless. We can’t have that because the House of God must always look beautiful and grand.