Most of us have experienced firsthand the beauty of stained glass illumined by brilliant sunshine. Churches have incorporated these works of art since at least the fourth century. Sainte-Chapelle was consecrated in 1248 by Louis IX to house holy relics and the majesty of the grand windows speak to their significance.
As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :
The whole story of redemption, from creation to the end of time, unfolds on these windows. Particular emphasis was given to recounting the events of the passion of Christ and to the stories of the great kings of Old Testament history, those ancient Jewish rulers who were seen by the window’s designers as precursors to the kings of France. Therefore, the designs often make a nod to French royalty with their heraldic motifs, and one of the windows is particularly occupied with showing the rediscovery and relocation of the sacred relics. The large rose window in Sainte-Chapelle (to the visitor’s back as one faces the altar) takes the apocalypse as its theme, perhaps as a warning to those who stand outside this holy history.
Although the individual panes of stained glass in the overall design are not comparable to some of the finest individual panes found in places such as Chartres or Notre Dame, the overall effect created by being enveloped by soaring walls of glass is Sainte-Chapelle’s uniquely breathtaking achievement—it is filled with light. Light is a common metaphor for the experience of God’s power and glory, one used throughout the Scriptures (see Matt. 4:16; 5:16; John 8:12; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 21:23). It is not surprising, then, that the stained glass window became a common artistic way to express this glory and to reveal the details of God’s story.
Where have you seen a magnificent display of stained glass?
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
D I G D E E P E R
Sainte-Chapelle and the Art of Stained Glass
Brown, Sarah. Stained Glass: An Illustrated History. London: Bracken Books, 1994.
de Finance, Laurence. Sainte-Chapelle. Paris: Itineraires du Patrimoine, 1999.
God’s Word Through Glass is designed to help you learn more about stained glass masterpieces and the Book that inspired them. While we recommend that these studies be done in a group setting, they also can serve as engaging personal reading.
Each session follows this general outline:
BROKEN PIECES | An introductory, group-building activity that allows you to share opinions about the big issue of the study.
THE ARTIST’S TOUCH | An examination of the work, life, and thoughts of the artist.
THE MASTER’S LIGHT | A Bible study that helps place the work of the artist within a biblical perspective.
PIECING IT TOGETHER | Discussion that will help you apply the principles of the study to daily life.
In addition, the first page of each study contains a fun activity that can lead into initial discussion of the topic. If you have enough time in your session to begin this way, it can serve as a good group-building activity. It can also be “homework.” Ask your members to look at that activity for the following session in preparation for the next meeting.
Finally, each session includes a page of resources. The Bible study resources can prepare the group leader to go even more deeply into the Scripture text of the session. A leader may want to have one or more of the art book resources available for the group to review. We also may suggest a video or other resource that could be used to augment a session at the leader’s discretion.
The masterpieces featured in this book have awed art lovers for years and years. Furthermore, the Book that was the inspiration for these masterpieces continues to touch the hearts of those who seek a deeper understanding of it. May you benefit in both ways from God’s Word Through Glass!
Joe Garland, Cindy Garland, and Jim Eichenberger, God’s Word through Glass, Through Artists’ Eyes: An Exploration of Bible-Inspired Art, 6 Studies (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 2010), 16.
I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.
Let’s explore together!
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Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.
He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.
He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.
Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.
He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.
Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com
Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.
Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).
Order it HERE today.