The Evolution Of Stained Glass Windows Through History

May 10, 2023
stained glass window panels depicting royal figure holding a child

Stained glass windows have always captivated the public’s attention. From the medieval period to the present day, these colourful and ornate pieces of art have been an important part of religious and secular architecture – not just in the UK but the world over. In this post, our experts in stained glass restoration will be exploring these origins and sharing their own facts about stained glass windows.

The Early History Of Stained Glass Windows

The earliest origins of stained glass dates all the way back to the Ancient Romans and Egyptians. Rather than the stained glass window panels we’re familiar with today, they produced small objects from coloured glass to create mosaics.

In Britain, the first evidence of stained glass windows can be traced back to the 7th century at the sites of monasteries in Monkwearmouth and Jarrow in Northumbria. If you’re interested in seeing the historic and beautiful examples of stained glass windows in Britain, view our dedicated post here.

Medieval Stained Glass

The popularity of stained glass windows exploded in the 12th century, especially in religious iconography. By then, the practice had been refined and the quality of the glass was vastly improved. Chartes in France became the leading manufacturer, and the Chartes Cathedral boasts one of the oldest examples of rose-stained glass windows.

Stained Glass During The Renaissance

During the Renaissance period, the style of stained glass moved away from the Gothic and into a more classical style. However, many of the windows from this period were deliberately destroyed during the Reformation before being replaced with plain glass.

Due to this, many of the traditional methods of production for stained glass windows from the Renaissance were forgotten. It wasn’t until the 19th century that they were eventually rediscovered.

Into The 19TH Century

After waning for several centuries, the 19th century saw a renewed interest in stained glass windows in the UK. This was particularly popular in churches of a more Gothic style. These windows generally depicted religious scenes from the bible, showcasing the storytelling capabilities of stained glass.

Buildings around Europe also began to be restored, often using stained glass designs copied from famous oil paintings.

The Modern Age Of Stained Glass Windows

The 20th century saw a shift away from religious stained glass windows towards more modern, abstract designs, though traditional examples can still be viewed around the UK. From a domestic point of view, stained glass window panels have also become an increasingly popular feature of traditional and contemporary homes alike.

At Sherriff, we specialise in producing bespoke stained glass windows, as well as in stained glass window restoration. We use traditional techniques, ensuring that each individual panel is made with the utmost care and attention. You can view our stained glass gallery here.

Are you interested in stained glass for your home, or looking for tips on restoring stained glass windows? Get in touch with our stained glass specialists. We’re experts with over 40 years in the industry, working on stained glass window restorations on listed homes and buildings. Contact us by calling 01202882208 or send an email to

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