Exquisitely crafted and effortlessly ethereal, stained glass windows have been prevalent in places of worship for centuries. Stained-glass pieces dance with color and light to produce visual displays that inspire wonder and remind us of the majesty this mysterious world has to offer. These colorful panes can be found in a wide array of religious sites, from mesmerizing mosques to modern churches and also in museums, libraries, music halls, etc...
Here, we take a tour of some of the most fantastic famous stained glass windows across the globe, from medieval masterpieces to contemporary creations.
- Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France
Described as the “jewel of the Rayonnant Gothic period,” Paris’ stunning Sainte-Chapelle was built in the 13th century by King Louis IX. Sainte-Chapelle is particularly renowned for its collection of 15 windows. Measuring nearly 50 feet in height, each monumental window depicts a sparkling interpretation of a biblical scene rendered in gem-like tones and impressive detail.
- King’s College Chapel, University of Cambridge
Throughout the late 15th and early 16th centuries, a beautiful Gothic chapel was erected in the University of Cambridge’s King’s College. In addition to mesmerizing fan vaulting and a painting by Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens, King’s College Chapel is famous for its treasure trove of narrative windows. The iconography featured in the splendid panes incorporates both religious and royal motifs and illustrates the artistic advancements of England’s late Gothic period.
- Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a 19th century place of worship in Shiraz, Iran, is a breathtaking example of Islamic architecture. Featuring a façade decorated with a row of ornamental stained glass windows, the “Pink Mosque” offers worshippers a sunlit spectacle every day at dawn: as the morning light shines through the panes, it illuminates the interior’s rose-colored tiles and patterned Persian carpets with an enchanting array of vivid colors.
- Erawan Museum, Bangkok, Thailand
Topped with a three-headed elephant sculpture, and its three floors of antiques, ancient religious artifacts, and collections of art, Erawan Museum houses one of the most exquisite art collections in Thailand. At the feet of the elephant is a massive round stained glass window, rare in Thailand. Rounding off the fanciful, eclectic blend of East, West, traditional and modern decorative styles, this splendid stained glass ceiling, created by a German artist, represents the roof of the world, the Zodiac and stars above.
- Gran Hotel Ciudad de México, Mexico City
Guests of the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México will find themselves beneath one of the four largest works of stained glass in the world. A masterpiece of Art Nouveau style, the hotel that the glass piece calls home dates all the way back to 1899. The illuminated Tiffany stained glass ceiling was designed and assembled in France and it is made of 20,000 brightly colored glass parts; the pattern of the glass ceiling evokes the railroad, a symbol of modernity of the time.
- La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
Designed by master of modernism, Antoni Gaudí, in the late 19th century, La Sagrada Família is one of Barcelona’s most famous destinations. On top of its whimsical towers and mesmerizing mosaics, the beautiful church is known for its fantastic stained glass windows. Capturing the “expressivity and grandeur” of Gaudí’s vision, the multicolor windows range in shape and color scheme, making the basilica’s avant-garde interior even more eye-catching.
- Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, Spain
Built between 1905 and 1908, the Palau de la Música Catalana is an architectural jewel of Catalonia and essential part of any visit to Barcelona. The Palau de la Música is a working concert hall which has one of the most beautiful stained-glass creations. The grand glass skylight functions as the centerpiece and is meant to resemble a drop of water and honey, casting a warm glow throughout the multi-story venue.
- The Grossmunster, Zurich, Switzerland
The Grossmunster is an 11th century Protestant church in Zurich, Switzerland. While the church was built in the Romanesque style—an approach known for its thick walls and subsequently small windows—it boasts a beautiful selection of stained glass. These spectacular windows were added in the 20th and 21st centuries, and include striking pieces by Pop Art icon, Sigmar Polke. Polke’s breathtaking art pieces are abstract compositions made of thinly sliced agate, which break up the church’s solid walls with pools of light.
- The Chapel of Thanksgiving, Dallas, Texas
The Chapel of Thanksgiving is a non-denominational building in downtown Dallas, Texas. Built in 1976, the site was designed “to promote the concept of giving thanks as a universal, human value.” The contemporary chapel celebrates this idea through a striking stained glass spiral that appears to change color as it twists toward the sky.
- Santuário Dom Bosco, Brasília, Brazil
Built in the 15th century, the walls of Santuário Dom Bosco in Brasília have one of the most extraordinary displays of the world's most beautiful stained-glass windows. These floor-to-ceiling windows are made of small squares of stained glass in 12 different shades of blue with dots of white.