Stained Glasses

Girona Art Museum

The light of the Girona's Cathedral

Fourteenth-century stained glass in Girona
Stained glasswork, the art of light and complex technique, enjoyed a heyday in the Gothic period and became not only a key element in closing the apertures of buildings, but also a medium upon which to display holy images and a symbol of light transformed, divine light.

In Girona, the stained glass windows of the presbytery were installed in the Cathedral’s initial glazing project and completed around 1348, around the same time as those of other significant Catalan monuments.

The second major set of windows, those of the ambulatory, was the work of Guillem de Letumgard and probably dates from the end of the following decade.

The stained glass windows of Girona follow the European trends of the time and are among the finest and most valuable examples of Catalan stained glasswork.

The stained glass windows of Girona Cathedral presbytery
This set, by an unknown author, is one of the most interesting of Catalan Gothic glasswork.

It dates from the mid-fourteenth century and features several loose fragments and eleven stained glass windows on site in different states of preservation, made by the master glazier of the Girona presbytery.

Some were made on the glazier’s whitewashed table preserved in Girona Art Museum.

The works show architectural elements with no perspective yet with great expressive force and vivid colours.

Stylistically comparable with other Catalan works, they form a set that is unique both in its quality and quantity.

Despite the predominance of outline, the clothes and the faces are shaded quite considerably and the factions are strong; the faces are rounded with puffy cheeks, elongated fish-like eyes, M-shaped mouths and wavy hair. All these are characteristics of the master glazier of the Girona presbytery.

The facial characteristics are in grisaille on pinkish glass without silver stain. The hands are large and the fingers fleshy.

The stained glass windows of the ambulatory. Guillem de Letumgard
Girona Cathedral’s second major set of windows consists of the works made by the French master glazier Guillem de Letumgard, who also worked at the Cathedral of Tarragona.

Some good examples can be found in nine of the ambulatory windows and in different fragments preserved elsewhere.

The windows feature representations of different figures of saints and prophets and of scenes from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.

These works are from the mid-fourteenth century, slightly later than those of the presbytery. The major difference here is the technical production and the systematic use of silver stain.

Both the clear relation between the works of Guillem de Letumgard and the Parisian miniatures of the time, and the use of silver stain make these works some of the most innovative and interesting of Catalonia at that time.

The architectural elements include some small highly refined and subtly-made ornamental figures.

Note the intense technical precision in the combination of grisaille (dark, almost opaque strokes) and silver stain, a technique used to change the colour of a piece of glass from white to yellow and to reddish tones without having to cut the glass.

The Girona tables
Harder still even than conserving stained glass is preserving the wood used in the design and as a support to produce it.

The Girona tables are known internationally from the works of Joan Vila-Grau, who associated them with the text of the treatise written by the medieval monk Theophilus. Recent studies by Anna Santolaria further highlight their uniqueness as there is only one other example in the world with characteristics on a par with these tables, which provide invaluable insight into medieval technical procedures.

The master glazier drew on the tables and wrote the indications necessary to produce the work. The tables were also used as a base for cutting the glass, with a red-hot iron tool, and for mounting and soldering the lead came.

The shortage of material and savings in the design required the reuse of the tables for more than one work. This is the case of the tables of the Girona glazier, which were used to make several windows of the Cathedral presbytery.

Theophilus, On Divers Arts: The Foremost Medieval Treatise on Painting, Glassmaking and Metalwork, book II, chapter XVII

“When you want to lay out glass windows, first make yourself a smooth flat wooden board, wide and long enough so that you can work two sections of each window on it. Then take a piece of chalk, scrape it with a knife all over the board, sprinkle water on it everywhere, and rub it all over with a cloth. When it has dried, take the measurements, namely, the length and breadth of one section in a window, and draw it on the board with a rule and compasses [...]. If you want to have a border on it, draw it as wide as you like and with any kind of work you wish. After doing this draw as many figures as you wish, first with [a point made of] lead or tin, then with red or black pigment, making all the lines carefully, because, when you have painted the glass, you will have to fit together the shadows and highlights in accordance with [the design on] the board [...].

After this, take a lead pot and in it put chalk ground with water. Make yourself two or three brushes out of hair from the tail of a marten, badger, squirrel, or cat or from the mane of a donkey. Now take a piece of glass of whatever kind you have chosen, but larger on all sides than the place in which it is to be set, and lay it on the ground for that place. Then you will see the drawing on the board through the intervening glass, and, following it, draw the outlines only on the glass with chalk.”

Museu d'Art de Girona
Credits: Story

Museu d’Art de Girona (Agència Catalana del Patrimoni Cultural)

Direction: Carme Clusellas
Coordination: Aurèlia Carbonell, Marta Terés
Texts: Sílvia Cañellas, Carme Clusellas, Anna Santolaria
Graphic design: Cristina Masferrer
Linguistic advice and translations: Link traduccions
Pictures: Rafel Bosch, Cathedral of Girona, Gustavo AT Mendoza, Anna Santolaria

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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