Two decades ago, I tossed out my 30-lb. stained glass artwork into the garbage a few years after I finished two stained glass art courses. I dubbed the art piece, “Spring Thaw”.
“Spring Thaw” was hoisted out into the garbage room, because I thought it was unworthy of transporting 4,000 km. in moving to Vancouver from Toronto. Yes, it was ugly with crooked lead channels which you can’t see in these photos.
I still have strong appreciation of stained glass art. What I learned from the course, fed my ongoing appreciation. In a past blog post, I showcased some fabulous church stained glass art I saw during our 2010 European trip.
However stained glass church art is probably art that fascinates, yet repels some people. For some, they love the artistic light-play while others are remotely mystified, even mildly disgusted. Is it because they don’t understand Christianity or is it negative experiences or stories about corruption involving the Church, etc.? Is it because of centuries of worshipper’s donations spent on lavish decadent liturgical artwork?
In the end, it doesn’t bother me. They are still art masterpieces. It’s there for us to appreciate –a gift forever from artists and craftsmen. (No women did this work.) I look for colour, composition, light-play and if I understand the scene, storytelling. And I’m not even Christian.
During our 2016 European trip, I loaded up on visits and my camera, on more different cathedral stained glass art in France, Spain and Germany. It was also my first time in Spain and only city of Barcelona since my vacation time was limited.
We saw stained glass art ranging from medieval to contemporary 20th century stained glass –sometimes several, different artistic centuries in a single cathedral. For very old cavernous cathedrals, I was drawn to these all-in-one cathedrals. To some visitors, it may appear confusing, jumbly to have multiple styles within one building.
It’s not as erratic as it sounds. Each different “station” in the church or corner provides its own space for reflection or prayer. To me, I’d like to think that’s how a church should reflect over the centuries: a sacred place which quietly embraces different visual expressions of the same shared faith. A church should visually reflect change and transformation with each social revolution, while still embodying core beliefs and values over hundreds of years.
Admittedly, it takes time to determine any religious interpretation for the stained glass art design by Jose Fernandez Castrillo, in Santa del Mare Cathedral, Barcelona. His piece was in commemoration of the 1992 Summer
Olympics. More intriguing were the myriad contemporary stained glass windows at the ultra-curvy cathedral of Sagrada Familia Cathedral, where architect Gaudi planned different colour groups of stained glass art to create large rainbow ocean-like swathes of light pouring into the church.
You will never know what may light up inside, if you step into a great old cathedral.
Some Interesting Reading
Chong, J. Stained Glass Art: An European Sampler of Refracted Light and Colour. In Cycle Write Blog, Jul. 17, 2010.