Stained Glass Window Facts: Part 3, History & Medieval

With glassmaking a truly ancient technique dating back 5,000 years to 3500 BCE and as experts in the stained glass industry, here at Sherriff Stained Glass Specialists we appreciate the long established history and development of this artistic visual medium. If you haven’t yet read our previous posts, view Part 1 and 2 of our stained glass facts series.

To learn more about stained glass, including medieval stained glass window facts, keep reading!

History of Stained Glass Windows Facts


  • We can assume stained glass was invented in England, as the oldest pieces of stained glass were found in St Pauls Monastery, England from 686AD.


  • Stained glass dates back at least 5,000 years and is an art form that has been practised in the British Isles for at least 1,300 years.
St Pauls Monastery
  • Before it was used in windows, stained glass was used as decorative elements in art and accessories such as cups and vases. The Roman Lycurgus Cup made in the 4th Century from dichroic glass is such an example.


  • There are four different techniques of producing stained glass that became popular at different times; cylinder glass, flashed glass, crown glass, and rolled glass.


  • Cylinder glass is the oldest technique used and can be seen in ancient stained glass.


  • Rolled glass started to be commercially produced at the beginning of the 19th Century (1830s).


  • Stained glass windows reached their peak in popularity in the 12th and 13th century.


  • William Jay Bolton, originally from England, started the trend of stained glass windows in America by making one for a church in 1843. He was the only person to specialised in the craft until the end of the 19thcentury, when Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge become involved.


  • Stained glass was replaced with painted glass during the Renaissance and by the 18thcentury it was rarely used.


  • The method of making stained glass windows has not changed since it was discovered in the Middle Ages.


  • When the war hit Europe in the late 1930s, stained glass windows were taken apart and stored safely. They were reconstructed and put back when it ended.


Medieval Stained Glass Window Facts


  • Flashed glass was originally used in the making of bottles and vases, eventually making itself known as an appropriate medium for stained glass in the Middle Ages.


York Minster Medieval Stained Glass
York Minster Medieval Stained Glass
  • Crown glass became quite popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, and is mostly known for the bull’s eye effect on a pane of glass, which can be seen in Georgian houses.


  • The De Divers Artibus of Theophilus Presbyter from the 12th century provides the best insight into medieval stained glass manufacture.  He was a Benedictine Monk and metal glass and pigment worker, who described stained glass processes in the Latin text.


  • Stained glass was made of a soda-lime-silica composition before potash lime silica glass replaced it, otherwise known as Forest Glass in Northern Europe. Forest glass was used throughout the medieval period until soda glass was used again in the 16th century.


  • Cylinder blown sheet and crown glass window methods were used to create stained glass in the medieval period.


Sherriff Stained Glass Specialists has over 25 years’ experience in the field of stained glass design, repair and restoration. With projects spanning churches to homes to listed properties, you will be in safe hands. For more information on our services, call Sherriff Stained Glass Specialists on 01202 882 208 or email