A Brief History of Rose Windows

image of a stained glass rose window
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It could be argued that the major glories of many Medieval churches are the rose windows with their rich display of colour and light. They are worth seeking out. Many art historians would claim that the finest examples are French but there are many beautiful examples in Italy, not to mention most of the rest of Europe. There is something so striking about these ancient windows, reflecting the skills of past craftsmen and the subsequent generations who have worshipped God under their lights. The stone mullions, best viewed from the church exterior, are equally as lovely: with exquisite examples being found in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

As to why these windows don’t look so much like roses: the term 'rose window' appears to have taken root centuries after the first decorative circular windows appeared in the thirteenth century, when the techniques for such achievements became available. In fact the name may derive from the French word 'roue' for wheel, since 'spokes' comprise the outer framework for the glass creations.

The Symbolism of Rose Windows


The symbolism behind these windows has been many and varied and culminated in the Middle Ages in the magnificent twelve point gothic windows such as those of the Cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris and in Chartres. In these windows Christ is the centre "light" and within the lights around him are the symbols of the four Gospel writers, apostles, prophets, saints and angels. The number twelve is of significance – being the number of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples of Jesus. Some windows show God's dominion over heaven and earth by including zodiacal signs and the labours of the months. The circle itself is intended to reflect the Oneness of God and His eternal existence. 

Creating Tissue Paper Rose Windows
  

rose-window1.jpgYou can create similar rose window effects by folding, cutting and layering circular pieces of tissue paper. The results can look quite sophisticated and yet can be very easy to achieve. Even children can surprise with their creations, given a framework to start from. If you would like to make a start creating your own rose windows you could have a look in at the hopefish Make Your Own Rose Windows kit: which includes precreased tissue and window frames for six windows, along with guidelines and suggestions. 
For extra creative ideas you could look for Helga Meyerbroeker's book 'Rose Windows and How to Make Them'. The book gives instructions on how to build up rose windows from simple designs to some amazingly complex patterns. A classic.

 

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