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||Stained Glass in France
Cathedral of Chartres has had the good
fortune to preserve its original glass almost intact, and is the only
French church remaining from so early a time of which this can be said.
Other churches have portions of their original glazing, with many
additions of the art of succeeding centuries. On this account they are
less harmonious in general effect, since new ideas of each generation
were promptly expressed in the windows of French churches and chapels.
Any photograph of the interior of a thirteenth-century
French cathedral is sure to show us a rose window, such as that of Rheims,
with all the intricate stone work filled with small figures or patterns in
glass of deep color. The center of the rose usually held a seated figure
of Christ in glory surrounded by the archangels and prophets. The outer
circles were filled with half-length figures of saints surrounded by borders
of painted pattern. Comparing the south rose window of Chartres with the
western rose of Rheims (now so sadly shattered), the simplicity of the first,
the great elaboration of the second, show the rapid growth of Gothic
In the window from the clearstory (highest story
of the nave and choir) of Chartres Cathedral we have the figure of St.
Denis presenting the sacred banner, called the Oriflame,
to Henry Clement
II, who accompanied King (Saint) Louis IX on his first crusade to the Holy
Land. On his surcoat Henry Clement bears the embroidered badge, the cross
of the crusader. Beneath is seen his chain of armor and below on the shield
his coat-of-arms, the same cross with a band crossing from left to right.
The building over his head perhaps signifies the recovery of the Savior's
tomb in Jerusalem, the object of all those romantic journeys. Of the very
large figures pictured in the upper windows of French cathedrals, those of
the choir in Chartres representing the seated figures of Prophets, such as
the one of "Daniel," are a joy to look at. The grace of the flowing lines,
the delicate clear tones of the glass, paler than those of the medallions
below, present a harmony suggestive of the age of romance. The medallion
shape of the border surrounding the figure supplies the necessary frame for
the figure separating it from the small scenes below, where under Gothic
arches we see representations of the furriers at their daily occupations
selling their wares.
This tells us that the window was the gift of the Guild of the Furriers.
The artist did not sign his work. We wish he had.
Strasburg Cathedral in the Province of Alsace
preserves windows of the thirteenth century and fourteenth century
remarkable for their brilliancy of color and for historic association.
Following the example of the builders of Rheims in placing large figures
of French kings in the high clearstory windows of the nave, the builders
here placed in the windows of the north aisle a group in each of the
four windows, representing families of kings and emperors who had generously
aided in building the numerous churches which had one after another been
consumed by fire during the centuries since Christianity first penetrated
the Rhine district. In fact, if the claims of the legend are well founded,
Strasburg Cathedral today stands on the spot where Christian worshippers
first established a church in the North. These kings and emperors, clothed
in rich garments, carry emblems expressive of their power of their gifts
to the Church, and are placed against backgrounds of red of blue, with
tiny bits of contrasting color at the intersections of lead holding the
small pieces of glass together. The figures stand in a frame or niche of
simulated stone, in glass of a silvery tone. Painted pinnacles extending
above the figures have backgrounds of red or blue corresponding to the
backgrounds of the figures below.
The only existing records regarding the windows
mentions a glass painter named
John of Kirchiem, who, in the year 1348,
was commissioned to make repairs to the windows. To him, in consequence
of this simple mention, has been ascribed the work of remaking the entire
number of fourteenth-century windows as they exist today. The series of
kings and emperors of the north aisle of the church are supposed to be his