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10 Most Beautiful Stained Glass Art on College Campuses

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Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: March 7, 2024, Reading time: 21 minutes

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If you love traveling and exploring history and culture, one obvious itinerary is to scroll and visit churches in different countries and cities. For most Catholic and Christian churches, you may find numerous churches that are dominated by stained glass windows. These exquisite and distinct features make these old and antique churches stand out more.

Most Beautiful Stain Glass Art on College Campuses - fact

Stained glass has been part of theological art for centuries. Stained glass windows essentially emerged as a theologically significant art form—a means of communicating to the general public the things the church wished people to see, consider, and comprehend, such as Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, among other things. For this reason, even US colleges and universities have integrated the use of this art. 

There were also depictions of various Saints in the stained glass windows of that era. The purpose of their presence was to encourage people who were struggling in their own Christian journeys. Even modern college churches continue to consider the use of stained glass art in their structure and features. Most of the beautiful stained glass art can still be found in college campuses, such as the ones in the list below.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

The Science and Magic of Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows give out a distinctive appearance at different times of every day. Throughout the day, the shifting light animates them, allowing your mind to stray alongside their patterns as they meander around the floor. They were integral to the structure of old churches, providing both literal and spiritual illumination for the occupants.

Entire sceneries and images led into windows reveal the essential drama of Christian redemption. It is said that these windows are made to acquire room for God’s light to enter the church.

Stained glass has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages and is a technically and artistically accomplished art form that is sometimes overlooked. One of the products of the art of fire is glass itself.

Scientifically, it is a combination of materials found on Earth, melted at very high temperatures, including silicon oxide, calcium oxide, and sodium oxide. In addition to being used in windows and drinking containers, glass has many other applications. 

Two essential components needed to make glass are wood ash and sand. After the mixture is melted, a liquid is created that cools to form glass. While the glass is still molten, a few powdered metals are added to the mixture to color it. Glass that has melted can be blown into the shape of a sausage, cut on one side, and then flattened into a sheet. Alternatively, it can be spun into a circular sheet using a pontil iron. 

The various colored glass pieces are then arranged over a pattern sketched on a piece of board to produce a visual picture of a window. The artist uses black paint to create any tiny features, such as contours or shadows, on the glass.

Pieces of painted and tinted glass are then arranged on the design board, and their edges are fitted into the arc or shapes to complete the window. These parts are sealed by inserting putty between the glass. Finally, an iron frame is needed to secure the placement of the windows and the stained glasses. 

The Origins of Stained Glass Windows

Since colorful glass fragments were pieced together into patterned window frames in ancient Rome, stained-glass windows have been appreciated for both their use and beauty. Stained glass art in Europe peaked between 1150 and 1500 when exquisite windows were made for imposing churches.

Stained-glass making in medieval times was largely based on the work of a twelfth-century German monk named Theophilus. He’s both an artist and a metal worker. To create beautiful windows, he studied the work of glaziers and glass painters.

New stained glass techniques emerged in the 20th century, such as Gemmail, a technique invented by Jean Crotti, who is from France. This method allows stained glass pieces to overlap without the use of lead. Additionally, designs shifted from mostly religious to more abstract, as seen by the unique colors of glasses found in some cathedrals all over the world. 

Purpose of Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows have a history, and their purpose has changed throughout time. Originally, it was just a means of maintaining fully closed walls while allowing light to enter structures through tiny windows. Stained glass is a great illustration of how something can be transformed from a purely utilitarian object to an artistic creation. 

However, over time, many religious leaders discovered they could utilize the windows to teach the uneducated masses about the Bible as the windows became larger and included larger individual pieces of glass throughout the medieval era.

Religious leaders likewise associated light with goodness and divine protection from the Old Testament. Since the church had the ultimate authority in society and following God’s word was the only way to be saved, religious education was crucial during the Middle Ages.

Finally, during the Medieval Ages, aside from creating religious images, stained glass windows were also used to highlight the wealth of the people who owned the building or were art patrons.

More recently, stained glass has been used as a design element in some older homes, businesses, and government buildings. Some use them to boost privacy while enhancing the aesthetics of houses. Throughout history, stained glass has mainly served a single function, which is to let light seep into the enclosures of houses and spaces. 

Visual and Aesthetic Value of Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows in churches have been around for centuries, and while their aesthetic value has always been essential, their main purpose was to help draw people to God by using Biblical themes and scenes.

Stained glass assisted in actually putting religious ideas onto the walls of buildings. Thus, these windows had more spiritual value than merely being ornaments. They were employed as instruments to teach people about God and religion. 

The most common religion that makes use of stained glass with images is the Catholics since Protestant churches discourage the use of “images” in their structures. Nevertheless, elaborate stained glass windows are a feature of some Protestant churches, particularly those that are most similar to Roman Catholicism. 

In conclusion, churches are replete with stained glass windows because they are utilized to illustrate biblical characters, narratives, groups of people, and moralizing imagery. 

Why Many Churches Use Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows may be seen everywhere these days. We can now produce more intricate and sophisticated artwork than in the past, such as 3D sculptures, murals, and domed ceilings. This is made possible by modern technology. In many homes, leaded glass windows are highly valued for their aesthetic value, as well as their functional ability to provide seclusion.

Stained glass windows, however, were an integral feature of ecclesiastical construction long before they found their way into homes, offices, and museums. For instance, Notre Dame de Paris, the Thanksgiving Chapel, and the Holy Trinity Church are among the most remarkable and iconic structures that can be found inside churches and cathedrals. They are the oldest as well.

The tradition of glassmaking is one that truly dates back hundreds of years. According to historians, tinted glass was first used by the Ancient Egyptians. It was discovered by potters and jewelers that glass could be changed while it was molten. The transparent material may be shaped into various forms after being colored using plant-based dyes.

According to research, the first stained glass windows were most likely made in the eighth or tenth century. One of the oldest cities in Germany, Augsburg, in Bavaria, is home to the earliest surviving examples of ancient windows dating back to the tenth century.

The windows became more and more ornate as painters developed the capacity to produce more intricate decorations. Landscapes and portraits eventually proliferated, with the majority having biblical themes.

At this point, churches started realizing that stained glass was useful for purposes other than aesthetics. People were able to learn about Bible stories through the figures and sceneries painted on the windows. This was a useful tool because many individuals were illiterate at the time. In the church, the tales of the Bible were shown in chronological sequence, beginning with Genesis and concluding with Revelations.

10 Most Beautiful Stained Glass Art on College Campuses

St. Timothy and St. Titus Chapel at Concordia University in St. Louis, MO

The Chapel of Saint Timothy and St. Titus is a chapel inside Concordia University. It has hosted thousands of daily services and several special events since its dedication in 1992. It was purposefully built in the middle of the campus to symbolize the Seminary community’s emphasis on worship as a key component of daily life.

Because of a kind donation from the Memorial Trust of Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke, stained glass windows have been added in the different parts of the chapel. The windows show the humiliation, crucifixion, resurrection, exaltation, and second coming of Christ. Stained glass windows are found in many parts of the chapel, and you can see the text: “Te Deum Laudamus,” which means words of praise to God. In these windows, you can also see Christ crucified, exalted, and resurrected.

The Seminary received considerable assistance from the Finckes. Apart from designating a particular amount of money for the chapel’s new stained glass windows, the couple also made contributions that created professorships with endowments and student scholarships.

The chapel was intended to have stained glass installed throughout when it was planned, but financing was not available at the time. 

That’s why the chancel has the only stained glass windows ever installed. The chapel was dedicated in 1992, and the former chancel windows, which featured St. Timothy and St. Titus, were taken out in 2019 to provide room for the new windows. The chapel’s initial designs are realized thanks to the designated donation from the Finckes.

The chapel’s new stained glass windows provide a more comprehensive representation of Christ, which culminates in the chancel window, which places our risen Savior in the center of the worship area above the altar.

Saint Francis Xavier College Church at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO

Saint Louis University’s one of the most beautiful features on its campus is the St. Francis Xavier College Church. When you look up at their interiors, you’ll find many brilliant stained glass, which represents a Gothic Revival masterpiece.

Located at the busy intersection of Grand and Lindell boulevards, two of the busiest thoroughfares in the city, the Church may have blended into the landscape, serving as the background for innumerable photos of Saint Louis University. Aside from the photos, though, it offers a lot of opportunities to explore the church.

Because of the large number of churches in the area, which is situated high up on a hill overlooking downtown, it was once known as Piety Hill in the 19th century. More exquisite works by Emil Frei and Associates adorn those enormous windows, especially the enormous lancet windows in the apse behind the high altar, which are situated behind the reredos.

The rich hues of the windows of Chartres Cathedral, especially the blues, served as inspiration for the stained glass, which depicts an intriguing period in the history of the renowned German-American corporation. 

Specifically, since the windows date from the 1920s and 1930s, you can see a critical transition between the traditional Munich School and the Modern era. Finally, in 1990, the church received renovations to comply with the Second Vatican Council’s regulations as well as the usual demands of a century-old building. The area surrounding those stone and stained-glass walls is often busy.

Roots of Knowledge Mural at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Roots of Knowledge is a detailed stained-glass mosaic that portrays human ingenuity, inventiveness, and the quest for knowledge over time. Roots of Knowledge, which is dedicated to the academic achievement of Utah Valley University students, promotes intercultural and interdisciplinary learning and encourages interest in human history. 

The tale of human achievement and the quest for knowledge over time is told in Roots of Knowledge. Each column’s roots and branches represent the interconnectedness of the human family. Column A’s “The Tree of Knowledge” denotes the beginning of time and asks you to consider your ancestry. The piece in column Z concludes with “The Tree of Hope for Humanity,” which exhorts you to create the future you see for yourselves actively.

The glass panes with vivid colors depict Holdman Studios’ interpretation of knowledge history. It includes thousands of historical objects, people, and events, as well as significant inventions like the printing press, historical figures like Joan of Arc and the Kangxi Emperor, and significant global events like the American Civil Rights Movement and Scotland’s Declaration of Arbroath.

Thousands of glass fragments combined with real rock, fossils, coins, meteorites, petrified wood, and coral are all included in Roots of Knowledge.

Under the guidance of former president Matthew Holland of Utah Valley University, Holdman Studios produced Roots of Knowledge in association with the university. With four years of active building, the privately funded project took twelve years from conception to completion.

The Fulton Library’s total installation, which includes 80 windows and over 40,000 pieces of stained glass, is 154 feet long. Through Roots of Knowledge at UVU, curiosity is awakened, education is facilitated, and investment in humanity is inspired.

College of Arts Stained Window at Baylor University in Waco, TX

Secular stained glass gained popularity in America throughout the 1960s. Restaurant names, still life scenes, and other abstract patterns were among the ornamental items and glass signs that were ordered by eateries during this period. Even though they are secular in origin, certain locations periodically have religious themes and spaces connected to them. 

Particularly in this collection, hospitals had the second-highest number of commissions, behind churches. The majority of the pieces were ordered specifically for the hospital where they are housed—either the chapel or another place of worship. There are numerous abstract pieces created in tandem with religious themes, even though religious themes make up the majority of the artwork created for these hospitals. 

Colleges and universities have also commissioned stained glass. Despite being a Christian institution, Baylor University has mostly commissioned secular stained glass. The Armstrong Browning Library has 62 windows in all, making it the greatest collection on campus—and probably the whole globe.

Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry is featured in the majority of the windows. LL built just one window, the “Cleon.” Sams. Sadly, this sculpture is not accessible to the general public and is kept in one of the third-floor offices.

Even though the L.L. Sams Stained Glass Studio is no longer there—in its place is an apartment building bearing the same name—their creations can still be seen everywhere. Only a tiny portion of their finished work is represented by the aforementioned commissions. The Texas Collection archives contain a plethora of more idea pieces and documentation.

Hughes Memorial Auditorium Asbury University in Wilmore, KY

The Hughes Memorial Auditorium on the Asbury University campus has stained glass windows and skylights that were gifts from the 1929 class and cost a huge amount per piece. The windows’ designs come with symbolic meanings. In total, six windows feature pictures, while the six are non-picture windows. 

The circles inside the squares represent eternity, suggesting that man is immortal. The columns on either side represent strength. When one observes the acorn design across the top, it signifies the seed between life and death. There are also symbols of the laurel fruit which is a symbol of a triumph that brings fruit, and the shell in the middle represents witnesses who bear witness to salvation.

The downstairs windows continue into the smaller arched windows on the balcony. The Rose of Sharon Cross, which is shown on the keystone, is the most significant part of the arch. It symbolizes the Lord Christ, who has authority over all else. The stained glass skylights have meaning as well. The fleur-de-lis designs, which are connected to symbolize the unity of God, stand in for the three divine persons. 

In the center of each wreath is a Rose of Sharon, a symbol of Christ. This Rose of Sharon and other wreaths are woven together to represent the Holy Trinity and mankind joined in eternity, with Christ at the center. The large wreath is surrounded by open volumes that represent the Bible and the books from which all people will be judged. 

La Roche University in Pittsburgh, PA

La Roche University also features some mesmerizing and beautiful stained glass art. Nick Parrendo constructed six new stained glass windows that Hunt Studio of Pittsburgh installed in July 2003. Both during the day and at night, the two half-circle windows stand for Providence. The window over the worship chapel door represents Providence during the day, while the window above the cross represents Providence at night. 

The University’s history and its relationship to the Sisters of Divine Providence, the Congregation that created and supported it, are highlighted by four circular windows that highlight significant individuals and events. The windows are dedicated to Joan Bruce’s maternal aunt, Catherine B. Flynn and Sister Mary Joan Coultas, the fourth president of La Roche College.

The circular windows from top to bottom depict important events in the history and mission of the University, including the founding of the university by the Sisters of Divine Providence.

Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA

The Sacred Heart Chapel of Loyola Marymount University houses some magnificent stained-glass windows. It is a beautiful setting that holds Loyola’s defining celebration of Advent and Christmas. The chapel comes with a rose window and 29 stained glass clearstory windows. Each of these portrays Jesuit Saints, and the seals of Jesuit colleges and universities around the country are both iconic and historically significant.

A narrative pertaining to the main character and the seal that goes with each stained glass piece. More historical details on the saints are provided in a different section. Indirect sunlight was present when the windows were photographed. The Sacred Heart Chapel’s priceless stained glass windows are best viewed in the daytime, particularly around midday, for those who are able to see them in person.

Richard Jung designed the windows, which were made by Cummings Studio in San Francisco. The chapel was consecrated in 1954, the same year that the first window was erected. 

When the windows for Sacred Heart Chapel were designed in 1954, twenty-six Jesuits, beginning with St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, were declared officially saints. A portrait of each saint is shown in one of the windows, accompanied by symbolic depictions of martyrs, missionaries, preachers, and other extraordinary examples of selfless devotion that religious artists have decided are fitting for each saint. There are also three other pictures used: those of Saint Joseph, Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Christ the King. 

Marian University in Indianapolis, IN

These are the recently installed stained-glass windows of Caito-Wagner Hall’s St. Joseph Chapel at Marian University. The artwork consists of six magnificent paintings that represent young saints from all around the world, reflecting the age range and variety of the Marian student body.

According to Vice President of Outreach and Ministry Adam Setmeyer, many people have the opportunity to consider what the new windows stand for. Everyone can take time to meditate and think through while studying the windows of St. Joseph Chapel. 

This stained glass window, which depicts Saint Joseph as the foster father of Jesus and Mary, was installed above the northeast-facing doors. Also, a significant tale for all Christians is told in the stained glass recently installed in the southeast window and door of the chapel.

A number of colorful paintings depicting young saints from around the world are also displayed in stained windows on the southeast side of the chapel. This is an inspiration for students to explore and evoke curiosity for each character. 

Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut

Trinity Chapel’s stained glass windows, which were made by Gaytee Stained Glass, a firm in Minneapolis, are another way that the gospel message is expressed visually. Beautifully representing the splendor of the Trinity, the windows were designed to blend perfectly with the altar paintings and the surrounding architecture.

Christ’s life is depicted in full in the windows on the north side. Those who watch may note that these windows prominently display images of the sacraments, which are of utmost importance to Christians.

The east windows’ representations of the Father and the Holy Spirit counterbalance the paintings of Christ above the altar. The six-pointed star of the Creator serves as a reminder of the six days of Creation, while the sun, moon, and stars in these windows symbolize the creative power of the Father. The all-seeing eyes of the Father watch over His people with fatherly divine kindness and mercy. 

University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, AL

Southside’s Second Presbyterian Church built the Honors House in 1901. The church remained there until 1963. From 1964 to 1970, New Hope Baptist Church called the Honors House home before it was officially acquired by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

The Spencer Honors House’s stained-glass windows serve as a constant reminder of people’s shared past, fostering a sense of continuity between the past and present as well as a link between UAB and the communities around them. 

Fast forward to today, Leeds Stained Glass, a stained-glass company located in Pell City, Alabama, rebuilt each window and its surrounding wood façade this past fall since, like the rest of the Honors House, the windows couldn’t live eternally without repairs. The company’s founder, Terry Barnes, describes the process of repairing stained glass as delicate yet satisfying.

Some of the glasses were already broken, which made the project tedious but overall, it’s worth it to see the stained glasses come back to life, more beautiful than ever before. 

Tiffany Window at The Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan in Washtenaw County, MI

The Fox brothers decided to donate the Tiffany window in the Kelsey Museum in memory of their father. The Reverend Charles Fox was consecrated in the Episcopal Church before leaving England in 1836. After arriving in Jackson, Michigan, in 1839, he purchased land on Grosse Isle and erected a chapel there in 1843.

Charles Fox had a keen interest in agricultural issues as a result of having to oversee a sizable farm; he wrote The American Text Book of Practical and Scientific Agriculture and served as editor of The Farmer’s Companion. A professor at the University of Michigan for the first time, he taught both theoretical and practical aspects of agriculture.

A wood frame frames the window and is 8′ 1″ wide by 15′ 10″ tall. In hopes of creating beautiful hues and colors, the Fox Memorial window uses a variety of glass types, including nuggets, roundels, and chunks.

In addition to geometric shapes, the abstract design has floral and vegetable elements, including the petal-like forms at the bottom that encircle the panels listing the awardees and the green pods that surround the panels. These shapes, together with the top medallion with roundels around floral motifs, allude to Tiffany’s emerging proficiency in figural, landscape, and religious design.

Stained glass windows offer numerous purposes and value. Humans are naturally drawn to beauty and light. However, more than this, stained glass windows showcased in college churches are created for spiritual reasons.

Regardless of any religion, people are all in search of routes that elevate souls and increase faith. To support and maintain your sense of the divine, innumerable artists, sponsors, and congregations gave their all to construct such magnificent and brilliant windows between the world as it is and the world beyond.

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