Thursday, May 6, 2010

Light in Gothic Art

When most people think of windows they think of a glass framed box that lets light in and can be open to let in fresh air. But in gothic cathedrals, they had a different definition for what they used their windows for. Inside the enormous gothic cathedrals was relatively dark with the towering pillars and columns and the two to three story roof hanging overhead. The only light that shown through the windows were filled with color of religious figures, giving a more spiritual feel as the light danced throughout the cathedral. The windows were not meant to illuminate the interior with bright sunlight but to transform natural light to evoke spiritual or a symbolic feeling. Whether the light entered from outside the building through a screen of stone-set colored glass or was reflected from myriad glass tesserae set into the thick masonry wall, the cathedrals were dimly lit. Soon it seemed that each new cathedral had to out-do the one before it. They became more spectacular as they were designed to fill the entire wall. In the Chartres Cathedral, the rose window measures approximately 43 feet in diameter with lancets under it. The rose and lancets change in hue and intensity with the hours, turning solid architecture into a floating vision of the celestial heavens. The stained glass windows transmit light rather than reflect the light, filtering and transforming the natural sunlight as it enters the building casting glorious rays of color across the cathedral. They believed that this would fill the hearts of the faithful with light and warmth.

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