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Vine and the wine in Stained Glasses



Parables are used in the Bible to convey Christ’s teachings on a number of subjects. The stories are taken from everyday life to explain the ‘kingdom of God’: God’s expectations of mankind, what mankind can expect of God, and how to respect God and other people.


The expression “the eleventh hour” refers to an ancient method of calculating the time based on the twelve hours following the sunrise. The parable describes a vineyard owner who pays the same wage to all his workers, regardless of the time at which they began their work. He hires vineyard workers at dawn, then three times more over the course of the day, promising a ‘fair wage’ to his labourers. At the ‘eleventh hour’ (5pm), only one hour before the end of the working day. There he hires some more labourers, who have been waiting for work all day, and sends them to join the others. At nightfall, the employer calls together all the workers and pays them all one denier, regardless of the number of hours each man has worked. “The first as the last, the last as the first.”

Find out more: Gallery Other Parables  >>

STAINED GLASS IN THE MIDDLE AGES - Notre-Dame of Chartres and Notre-Dame of Paris

Roman art’s successor, Gothic art reigned supreme from the second half of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance – a period of around 400 years. The size of the cathedrals allowed for more art to be displayed and artists to express themselves via glasswork: walls became less imposing and windows much more so, allowing for better light. A symbol of transcendence, Medieval windows were both an exultant decorative feature and a barrier separating the cathedral from the outside world.

4. Symbolically, the pruning of the vine evokes the pruning of one’s desires: as too much sap produces an undisciplined, invasive and infertile plant, all superfluity must be cut away. 
6. After the harvest and the pressing of the grapes, the wine is put in a barrel. At the start of the process, the barrel needs to be topped up regularly in order to keep it full. Here, the vineyard worker fills up the barrel with a smaller keg. 

8. The vineyard workers prune the vine – an activity that traditionally takes place in March. They wear cloaks to protect themselves from the cold, and cut back the vine with a curved pruning knife. Secateurs were only invented at the start of the 19th century.  
9 and 10. Ergotism, or St Anthony’s Fire, was – along with plague, leprosy and syphilis – was one of the four great maladies of the Middle Ages. Aside from the thaumaturgic approach (employing the services of a miracle-maker) and surgery (necessary when gangrene didn’t cause the limb to drop off on its own), there were treatments for St Anthony’s Fire: holy wine (a wine brought into contact with saintly relics, possibly imbued with medical substances); a similar “water” (St Anthony’s Water); fomentations (warm compresses, applied locally and externally) and ointments intended to sooth the condition’s painful burning sensations). (Source: Pierre Bachoffner, 1997). The Hôtel-Dieu of Beaune carried the name of St Anthony, patron saint of hospitals thanks to the involvement of the Order of St Anthony in caring for sufferers of the condition. Saint Vinage – wine first sprinkled on the statue of a saint – was among the medicines used. Here we are at the leper hospital of Grand Beaulieu in Chartres. The carers wore red; the patients, white. As a cure, sufferers were made to drink Saint Vinage – wine or water first poured over the case containing the cathedral’s holy relics. A monk in red holds a cup of this drink and a patient in white shows his face, holding up his “martyr’s” hands. At this time, lepers were considered martyrs, suffering as Christ had suffered and curable only by God. They were therefore favoured by Him, having been chosen. If this stained glass features a lot of lepers, it’s because St Leobinus also suffered from leprosy: he was said to have worn a false nose, his own having been lost to the disease. During this period, all skin conditions and even ergotism were considered “leprous”.  
11. The Western rose window of Notre-Dame escaped the 2019 blaze. The stained glass panels depict each month’s agricultural work associated with its zodiac sign, Virtues and Vices, the prophets and, in the centre, the Virgin Mary. Traditionally, Aries – the first fire sign – starts off the new annual cycle. Spring has just arrived and a man is pruning the vine.
12. The autumn’s activity (Libra) starts with the grape harvest. This would be followed by the treading of the grapes – the start of the vinification process.

STAINED GLASS IN MODERN ERA - Conches-en-Ouche Church, St-Etienne Church in Paris, Troyes Cathedral, and the Mystical Press

The modern era, which followed on from the Middle Ages from the beginning of the 16th century, continued to nourish the savoir-faire of master glassworkers.

CONTEMPORARY STAINED GLASS - Reims Cathedral and Champagne window

In 1954, the ‘Corporation des vins de Champagne’ commissioned the master glassworker Jacques Simon to produce stained glass windows relating to the vineyards of the region, in the tradition of ‘corporation’ stained glass of the Middle Ages. This is an example of the professional patronage which made the region famous. This window illustrates the different stages of wine production (tending the vine, harvest, etc.) in relation to the connected industries of bottle- and cork-makers.

Fernand Léger

For Marcel Berthold, Curator of National Historical Monuments in France, “finding oneself at the heart of such a collection is to discover just how innovative and truly revolutionary the French artist [Fernand Léger] was… What strikes me, every time I come into this church, is the effect of the light, the luminosity that Léger managed to install here. Before, the windows ate up the light, diffusing only spots of colour. We’re no longer in the gloomy churches that we knew back then, in the 1950s, thanks to Léger’s generous use of plain glass, white glass, bringing out the other layers of colour.” This technique, using a mass of tinted glass slabs of 20 to 25mm thickness set in cement, was a recent development at the time. It made the window “glow with unequalled colours, the thickness of the glass used enriching and livening every shade. Furthermore, they can be joined together in many ways, allowing for a great variety of effects.” (Jeanne Bueche, architect)

Fernand Léger wanted to produce art which was accessible to as many people as possible. At Courfaivre, he asked for suggestions on themes: “Explain to me clearly what I must show, so that your people will be happy,” he told the priest, “but let me show it in the way I choose, so that I can be happy too.” He explained: “I only desire to offer everyone, believers and non-believers alike, an evolving rhythm of shapes and colours; something useful, accepted by both the first group and the second, with sheer joy and light pouring into every heart.”

Alfred Manessier, Raymond Mirande

'Decorative stained glass window' in Art Nouveau and Art Deco: Tiffany, Buthaud and Paquier-Sarrazin


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