The 19th century witnessed not only the pervasive and diverse forms of medieval revival architecture, but also a revival of stained glass: an entire craft, not simply a visual form, was recreated for a modern context. The polemics surrounding the development of the new windows serve as an index of attitudes concerning the 19th-century revival of building styles. Often a revival style took on the appearance of a moral imperative in a period in which the forms of the past promised the renewal of the virtues associated with that past. At the same time, there developed an interest in collecting old glass and restoring the monuments of the past. Whether restoring and, in their eyes, completing old windows, providing windows in the style of an ancient edifice, or matching the period style of a new construction, the 19th-century glass painters believed not that they were creating works of 19th-century art but that they were actually revivifying, and even bettering, the art of the cherished past. Glass painting was supported by the royal houses of Bavaria, France, and Belgium, and by the Ecclesiologist movement in England and its American affiliates. This essay will address implications of the revival of stained glass for an understanding of the medieval past, the 19th century, and the ethics of restoration.
- Copyright 1990 The Society of Architectural Historians