Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago,
Eventually, the old handcrafts involved in glass manufacture were replaced by metal molding and glass flotation. The product became consistent, most of the bubbles were removed, the surface became smooth and the colour evenly distributed. This ended up in a product lifeless from the point of view of the finished window. This product became known, in a monumental misnomer, as ‘cathedral glass’!
So the glass makers have had to learn all over again how to produce a more appropriate material and result. As modern science catches up with medieval craftsmen, the palette of the stained glass artists is now becoming good enough even to incite the envy of a 12th century monk. For more detail, go to so now for a bit on glass.
Added to the range of glass available, there is now a great modern innovation dalle de verre, or slab glass. This material has opened up the possibility of embedding the inch-thick glass in concrete or resin. As glass expands at approximately the same rate as the concrete, these windows can be made to be structural, as well as damned impressive.
To add still further to the lively colour and light transmission qualities of this glass, the craftsman deliberately chips the inside surface of the glass, with a hammer, as can be seen in the photo just below.
Unfortunately, great stained glass artists are few and far between. The best I know is Gabriel Loire, who has unfortunately died recently at a great age. The best example of his work in England is at St Mary’s College Chapel, Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, using dalle de verre. His son Jacques, and I believe his grandchildren, are now involved in the business, which has a shop next door to Chartres cathedral. However, his descendants are not yet in the same class as Gabriel.
There is a prime example, in a single window, of Chagall’s work at Chichester cathedral. He has also glazed a complete church of twelve windows at Tudeley, Kent. There are also several windows in Reims cathedral, and in Metz cathedral, but these latter I have not seen. It tends to be more interesting to see a building where the modern stained glass artist has been responsible for glazing all the windows. Thus, in Britain, you may have a better impression of Chagall at Tudeley, despite the small nature of the project. But Chagall’s definitive tour de force is the twelve magnificent windows at the chapel of the Hadassa Medical Centre, a little way out of Jerusalem. In America, the best example is the smaller Union Church at Pocantico Hills, about thirty miles north of New York City.
Matisse has created an impressive chapel at Vence in Provence, designing practically everything within it, including the stained glass windows. (Its visiting hours are limited, so check carefully before visiting.)
After the depredations of the centuries, I wonder whether the controllers of Reims have decided to reduce this great cathedral to a rather sad museum of modern stained glass artists. Metz and Nevers also appear to be suffering this fate. Another sad age that values its own vanities above the sensitive restoration of these great old buildings.
For the occasion of the eight hundredth anniversary of the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Reims, the German artist Imi Knoebel has been commissioned to design six stained glass windows to replace the existing neutral glass. These windows, with an area of 128 m², are being placed in the absidial Chapel of the Sacred Heart, to either side of the monumental stained glass by Marc Chagall, installed in 1974. The Knoebel windows will be opened to the public on Saturday, 25th June, 2011 at 11am.
Knoebel believes his design “returns to the original chromatic language of the cathedral, producing a symbiosis between old and new. The color gives quality, weight and balance, with colours as well as luminance”. Knoebel’s windows look to me a rather poor reference to Fritz Glarner.
The six stained glass windows were made in close collaboration between the artist and a group of glassmakers, the workshop of Simon Marq at Reims, and the workshop of Duchemin, Paris. The windows are financed to 1.3 million € by the Champagne-Ardennes Region and the Ministry of culture, together with substantial donations from the GDF SUEZ Group, Louis Roederer Champagnes, the local Caisse d’Epargne Bank, as well as some anonymous donors.
There is a prime example, in a single window, of Chagall’s work at Chichester cathedral. He has also glazed a complete church of twelve windows at Tudeley, Kent. There are also several windows in Metz cathedral, but these I have not seen. It tends to be more interesting to see a building where the modern stained glass artist has been responsible for glazing all the windows. Thus, in Britain, you may have a better impression of Chagall at Tudeley, despite the small nature of the project. But Chagall’s definitive tour de force is the twelve magnificent windows at the chapel of the Hadassa Medical Centre, a little way out of Jerusalem. In America, the best example is the smaller Union Church at Pocantico Hills, about thirty miles north of New York City.
Aftter the end of World War Two, Matisse became interested in stained glass. He made sketches for the stained-glass panel representing St. Dominique in the church at Assy (1948).
He also designed the interior decoration for the Dominican chapel of Notre-Dame du Rosaire at Vence (1948-51) including the stained glass. Matisse, in fact, designed the whole chapel in every detail, including priest’s vestments, furniture and probably even the drawing pins!
The chapel is open intermittently, and is hidden in a side street. It is well worth a visit, but you need to plan.
Matisse made sketches for the Rose stained-glass panel for the Uniate Church in New York (1954).
gabriel loire (1904 - 1996)
Gabriel Loire trained and worked with stained glassmakers at Chartres, learning medieval stained glass techniques. In 1930, he experimented with a new technique separating very small pieces by strips of lead, thus forming designs that was previously painted. This led Loire to renew the art of stained glass, including experimenting with stained glass tiles.
There is some interesting modern glass at Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral, as well as some of the best 13th-century glass in France.
In the chapels at the west end of the cathedral are the highly imaginative modern windows of the Apocalypse and Genesis by Alain Makaraviez and Edwige Walmé, completed in 1981.
The choice of scenes had been made by, and was supervised by the cathedral's canon. The Apocalypse window demanded a year of work by hand, being made of 5,000 pieces of glass, after a sketch (cartoon) had been accepted.
cathedrals – introduction: reading stained glass
gothic cathedral and church construction
Chartres - wonder of the world
history of ugly stained glass: Auch, Bazas, Dreux
Auch cathedral choir and stalls
Rouen and Monet
Dax and church iconography photographs, Dax
Bazas - iconography and architectural styles
Poitiers, neglected masterpiece photographs, Poitiers / photos 2
Angers, heart of the Angevin Empire photographs, Angers
Laon, the midst of the gothic transition, with added oxen photographs, Laon
Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon
Notre Dame of Lausanne
Senlis - how a typical cathedral changes through the ages
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges - the cathedral of the Pyrenees
Le Mans and Bourges cathedrals - medieval space technology
Lausanne rose window - photo-analysis
cathedrals in Lorraine - the Three Bishoprics
cathedral giants - Amiens and Beauvais
Clermont-Ferrand and Agde - from volcanoes to cathedrals
Germans in France - Arras cathedral
Germans in France - Reims cathedral
Germans in France - St. Quentin cathedral
Germans in France - Noyon cathedral
Germans in France - Cambrai cathedral
Germans in France - Soissons cathedral
cathedral plans, and facts
using metal in gothic cathedral construction
cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France
cathedrals and cloisters of France by Elise Whitlock Rose
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