Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chapel Windows

Stained Glass You may recall, when you last saw the Chapel, it was through the tiny window into the Monk's cell, and that I had decided it would not have glass because back in those days glass was a luxury that only the wealthiest could afford. It would not be wasted on a tiny bedroom window! But the windows of the Chapel proper would be another story altogether. The Chapel was the House of God and deserved the finest materials and treasures that the household could afford. But here I must digress, and remind you that even though I have not decided just how "modern" this Castle will be, the story is that originally it was an Abbey that had been abandoned and once it was fortified as a Castle, the Lord made many improvements and "modernizations". Amongst those were adding glass to all the important windows, especially the Chapel windows. Now I know that many of you will be like me in that when you think of Chapel windows, you automatically think of stained glass windows. I think of the windows of the "Sainte Chapel" in Paris, or the Rose window of Chartres Cathedral for instance. Below you can see a picture of a portion of a stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral in England.

This window was probably created in the fifteenth century, making it from the later end of the era that I am trying to portray with my Castle. Below you can see a drawing from a fifteenth century manuscript showing a Glass Works in action, showing all the steps taken in the process of making glass.

I know that by the fourteenth century they knew how to make colored glass by adding various chemicals to the molten glass.... even though I am not sure exactly what those chemicals were! They were able to produce blue, red and yellow glass. And yet, when I scour the pages of the illuminated manuscripts from that era, I only find clear glass being portrayed in the illuminations of church windows! Below is an excellent example from the copy of Boccacio's "Decameron" that I refer to so often. You can see the painted ceiling of the chapel and the carefully drawn leaded glass panes in the windows. This was illuminated in the early part of the fifteenth century.

And here is another example of Chapel windows.... clear glass, NOT stained glass, in an illumination from "The Hours of Catherine of Cleves" painted in the mid to late fifteenth century.

And a most magnificent version painted in the "Hours of Mary of Burgundy" in the later half of the fifteenth century....... showing not just the clear glass in the Church windows, but also a magnificent close-up of the bulls-eye roundels of glass used to make the window through which we are looking!

So why am I showing you all these NOT-stained glass windows? Well, really just to explain that even though it was highly unlikely that a Chapel in a remote Castle, in the thirteenth century or early fourteenth century, would have stained glass windows, I am choosing to make mine stained glass!

The story goes like this: Sometime in the late thirteenth century, one of the Lords who went on a Crusade took his young nephew with him as Squire. When they returned from the East, where they had been exposed to luxuries and artistic wonders too magnificent to describe, the young Nephew decided to stay in London and became apprenticed in the glass-making trades. In time he became a Master glazier of great reknown. After many years he returned to the Castle in the North and spent the last years of his life creating stained glass windows for the Chapel in the Castle. And so it came about that this remote Castle has beautiful stained glas windows way ahead of the times!

Below you can see the Chapel with the beginnings of the stone work painted and the unglazed window openings.

Here you can see it with the vaulted ceiling temporarily in place. I have added a layer of stiff paper to the vaulting ..... eventually it will be painted as if it were frescoes......

You can see the two narrow windows in the Chapel (sorry about the lighting.... the Castle sits in front of my real windows, and daylight is visible through one of them, while the wall is visible through the other, making it difficult to photograph!) The classic arched shape of the windows comes from the structural necessity of carrying the weight of all the stone above the window openings... an arch is the strongest shape and was used from Roman times onward. This Castle is pre-gothic!

Here below you can see the design I have drawn in "lead" on each of the pieces of window glass. I used a simple glass painting kit available in craft stores, having never painted on glass before! You can see that the glass pane for the rounded top section of the window is itself square. I did not want to have to cut round glass, so I designed a form that would let me use a square piece of glass sandwiched between two pieces of wood cut in the pattern of the window.

Below you can see the cut arch-shaped pieces of wood , painted to resemble the stone they are pretending to be..... and the beginnings of the colored painting on the glass. You can also see a little bit of the window "frame" pieces. I discovered that the standard railing they sell to make for stair banisters has a channel cut in the bottom that fits perfectly over the edge of a pane of glass, making it really easy to cut and fit around each pane! That saved me a lot of cutting and fitting!

And a slightly closer view. Each pane of glass is about one inch wide by about four and a half inches long. I have chosen to depict the two Archangels, Gabriel and Michael.

Here all the coloring is completed.

If you look carefully you can see the pencil sketches showing the placemant of the windows, and the framing that will be built to surround them.....

Now the glass is in the framing pieces, ready to be fitted in the window openings.

Here is the view with the windows in place (Sorry about the poor lighting..... that window is now too dark because it is night outside...)

Here is a better shot, showing that my cutting and fitting is NOT as snug as I would have wished... I will be covering the gaps with the "carved stone" trim around the window......

A close-up of the Gabriel window.......

And the Michael window!

So, no matter that it is possibly anachronistic, my castle Chapel has stained glass windows made by the Master glazier as his last great masterworks!

Chapel Windows


  1. Oooooh, the whole chapel is wonderful but I really think you made a good choice in adding the stained glass windows. They are absolutely beautiful.

  2. I agree that it was a good choice to add the stained glass windows - they really are stunning!

  3. These great windows made the difference and really added a lot to your Chapel! Love your work with it! Great windows and the Chapel!

  4. Great job!! and great research. I love love love it!Rosanna

  5. Oh my heavens. I'm in love with your vaulted ceilings -- they are fantastic! The windows are marvellously effective. And I totally resonate with both the thoroughness of your research and your decision to have your chapel be out of the ordinary -- and the way you explain it in terms of the story you're creating. I always like to know what would be possible for a certain location in a certain period, and then if I decide to make an exception, at least I know what's exceptional about it :)

  6. Gorgeous!
    You go ahead and write history, however you would like it to be.
    Love, Mom

  7. Thanks everybody, for the vote of confidence! I just couldn't resist the opportunity to try out mini painted glass windows! I think the results, when it is finished, will prove that it was the right decision!

  8. Welcome to the comments section Mom! I'm glad to have your permission to write history..... in the dollhouse world at least! It's such a treat to see your name here! Love you too!

  9. You can really do a lot of wonders when you can paint the way you do. Congratz, my dear, these are marvellous windows and the effect through the lights is truly magical. I am giving you wolf whistle as I type :).

    The little bit on the history is interesting too and though I have seen some posts on stained glass minis, I don't think I have read any that is almost a tutorial like yours.

    Thank you, Bets for sharing :):):)

  10. Hi Sans! I am glad you liked my almost tutorial! I was hoping to show a little bit of the steps I took to make windows with real glass from scratch. They seem to be a bit daunting for so many of us.... myself included! I think it has to do with the "unforgiving" nature of the glass.... it has to be the right size and shape and isn't easy to cut! So I am working on making frames for the glass that compensate for the not-precise cutting of the glass.... if you see what I mean! As for the painting part.... I hope practice will make my next windows come out even more like I imagine they should be...... :)I really do love to paint things!
    Thank you for your whistles... :) I thought I could hear something on the wind late last night!

  11. You don't need much more practice in painting, if you ask me. They look fantastic and add so much more to your chapel. I am looking forward to see the rest.

  12. So - I want to comment on the kit bash. Great! I knew you could never be trusted to color inside the lines. The living room ceiling fixture is splendid, as is the earring chandelier in the upstairs. Maybe you should make an addition to the house, since it is so small, and Arthur really needs a den to write in.