The Meaning in the Colours of Stained Glass
Stained glass has long been called “the poor man’s bible”. Why? Because during the medieval times when most of the world was illiterate and could not afford bibles, the role of stained-glass windows was essentially that of a picture book. So, the church used the depiction of Biblical events in stained glass windows as a way to teach those who could not read about the events and lessons in the Bible. What’s more, each colour used in the windows was for more than just show – the individual colours had a meaning assigned to them to take the picture lessons that much further.
The Meaning of Stained-Glass Colours
Red: Not surprisingly represents the blood of Christ or the martyrdom of saints. It could also indicate strong emotions such as love or hate.
Blue: Is associated with the colour of the sky and therefore symbolizes heaven, hope, sincerity, and piety–like the Virgin Mary.
Green: Is the colour of grass and nature and therefore represents growth and rebirth, life over death.
Violet: A bold colour symbolizing love, truth, passion, and suffering.
White: Is a representation of chastity, innocence, and purity and is often associated with God.
Black: A very rarely seen colour in stained glass on churches it has connotations of both death and regeneration.
Yellow: The colour most used in depictions of Judas, so it sometimes symbolizes treachery but is also used in the halo of saints, or the Gates of Heaven and to symbolize divinity, power, and glory.
Purple: Since it is thought that Christ wore purple before His crucifixion the colour often symbolizes suffering and endurance. Purple is also used to depict royalty or God the Father.
Gray: This colour or hue is a symbol of humility and mourning and can also be seen representing the immortality of the spirit.
Brown: Used as a symbol of spiritual death and renunciation of worldly things.
Now that you know the symbolism behind the colours on church stained glass, take a closer look at the stained-glass windows in each church, and other churches you may visit.
What can we see in the Dove Window?
The Dove is a symbol associated with the Holy Spirit. The Dove is used many times in the Bible: as the spirit of salvation (Noah) and of baptism (Jesus). The image of the Dove with Halo represents the Holy Spirit descending “like a dove” on Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River by John. See Matthew 3: 13 – 17.
Oak leaves – Oaks stand for strength, endurance, and longevity. These are qualities one needs in Christian life: strength to withstand the storms of life and endurance when times are tough.
The Flowers in the window are difficult to determine but are either Roses, Lilies or Passion flowers: White flowers such as white roses and lilies are used to stand for purity.
Roses – are the universal symbol of love
The White lily – symbolizes purity and innocence and is the traditional flower of Easter. Lilies are often associated with death, but as Christians we know that death has no hold on us – it is only the door to eternal life with Jesus. Lilies can also symbolise the purity of Jesus.
Or are they Passion flowers – Passion flowers are primarily used to represent Christ’s suffering and sacrifice and each part of the flower represents a different aspect of the Passion of Christ.
- Its central pillar represents the column where Our Lord was so brutally flogged, and the many slender tendrils surrounding its base were likened to the cords and whips used in the Scourging.
- The three-top stigma, each with a roughly rounded head, symbolize the three nails used to drive the spikes into Our Lord’s flesh.
- The five anthers are symbolic of the five Sacred Wounds and the circle of filaments that compose the dramatic centre of this flower represent the Crown of Thorns.
- The rays within the flower form a nimbus, representing Our Lord’s divine glory.
- The leaves on many of these plants are shaped like the spear that pierced His Heart.
- The 10 petals represent the 10 apostles who forsook their Master and fled, omitting Judas, the traitor, and St. John, who remained with Our Lady under the Cross.
The Vine is the symbol of Christ who said, I am the true Vine and my father is the gardener (John 15:1). Its flowering and fruitful branches represent the faithful of the Church of God.
Fleur de Lis cross
The Fleur-de-Lis is the Symbol of the Holy Trinity, and Mary.
Until about 1300, the fleur-de-Lis was originally depicted with Jesus, but later more and more with Mary, the “lily among thorns” of Song of Songs 2:2. Since the lily was seen as a symbol of purity and chastity, the fleur-de-lis was increasingly depicted as an attribute of the Virgin Mary in iconography.
White circles – Pearls – According to history and the myths, pearls are symbolic of wisdom gained through experience. The gems are believed to offer protection, as well as attract good luck and wealth. … It is also said that these little gemstones are symbolic of the wearer’s loyalty, generosity, integrity, and purity.
The pearl is a symbol of perfection and incorruptibility; it is a symbol of long life and fertility, and because of its lustre it is often considered a Moon symbol. Buried within the Oyster shell, the pearl represents hidden knowledge, and it is highly feminine.
Matthew used a variety of similes for the kingdom of heaven…
- a pearl is a perfect simile because a fine pearl is a valuable treasure that needs no polishing or cutting by man.
- a pearl comes to us complete and lustrous created by God through nature, as is the kingdom of heaven, which only God could create and perfect.