Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows were the original Bible texts for millions of illiterate people in Europe. By “reading” the windows they learned the stories of Jesus’ life and miracles. Stained glass windows are usually very beautiful and expensive to make since the reds and blues require using gold and silver to make. Stained glass windows require little maintenance but when they do need maintenance, it is very expensive.

Glass is a liquid – it flows, albeit extremely slowly. If you look at glass windows that are over 50 years old, you’ll notice that the bottom part is thicker than the top. The same is true with stained glass. That means that windows that are a century or even centuries old are brittle at the top and quite thick at the bottom.

Stained glass pieces are held in place by a metal, usually lead. Over time lead deteriorates and needs to be replaced – about once every hundred years or so. The window is removed carefully and then the lead is removed and replaced. If there is any broken glass, the pieces are joined by lead. Every effort is made to keep the original pieces. Then the window is put back in place.

Sometimes the weight of the windows causes them to bend and buckle in place. Often, iron bars are installed stretching from one edge to the other and are anchored in the stone or masonry in which the window sits. The idea is that the iron bar will take some of the weight instead of the window handling it all. Inserting iron bars is tricky but necessary.

Churches with stained glass windows should have a fund for their maintenance. I recommend setting aside $1,000 or more a year from the maintenance budget into a restricted fund so that over the decades this fund will grow. Then, when the money is needed after 100 or 120 years, the church has funds ready to be used for the windows and they won’t be strapped financially. Then, they can maintain not just the artwork that graced their buildings, but continue to educate pre-literate children and adults with the stories of Jesus.

Lead On!