Leaded glass windows are not made of leaded glass

The most famous lead glass artist might be Marc Chagall. He designed numerous windows in various churches. Leaded glass windows are not made of leaded glass but of glass elements connected by lead grooves. Sometimes they wear colorful paintings, but some windows of this kind are also colorless. The most important distinguishing feature is the black, plastic lines that divide the area.

Since when do lead glass windows exist?

This type of window is known in Europe since the High Middle Ages. In the art period, which is called "gothic", gifted master builders developed the possibility to build huge basilicas with many large windows.

The extremely massive walls of the Romanesque predecessors with their small window openings were no longer necessary to ensure the stability of a building. Now there was a new, large-format design area: the windows.

The lead artists soldered many flat glass pieces into a large window glass. This was not only a purely technical solution to create stable large glass surfaces, but also had a decorative character.

How were historical leaded windows made?

Many small glass pieces make a whole, that's the principle of the lead glass window. The artist soldered prefabricated H- and U-shaped lead rods between the individual pieces of glass.

The mentioned lead rods have profiles which are temporarily widened for the insertion of the glass pieces and then pressed together again. By using solder, two lead elements can be firmly connected.

The sharp dark gray lines of lead give the typical graphic effect. Often, the glass surfaces were redesigned with silver yellow or black solder to create a certain optical depth by shadow effect.

Stabilization of leaded glass windows

Lead is a soft metal that does little to stabilize a large-sized window. Therefore, newer leaded glass windows often have a steel core inside the lead rods. Sometimes also galvanized flat steel is used for stabilization.

restoration methods

The restoration of historic stained glass windows requires great expertise and a steady hand. The goal of any professional restoration is to restore the object to the old state and not to unnecessarily change it.

Missing lead or glass pieces are replaced as faithfully as possible, the revision should not be visible afterwards. This creates the original visual impression again. However, the restorer carefully documents the repaired damage and explains his actions.

From handicrafts to modern everyday life: How do you actually clean glass? In the 8th and last part of this series you will read our practical tips.

Tips & Tricks

You would like to design your own leaded glass windows? That's not all that hard, the matching tool and material sets you get in the artist's supplies.

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