Praying with Stained Glass

To begin, it is helpful to face a window and take it in as a whole. Notice its colors, shapes, and structure. Notice how many scenes there are. Notice as many different things as you can without analyzing any of your findings. Think of this time as your handshake, a connection with the window, but only a first impression. What is being communicated to you as you gaze at it? Open your mind and heart to God. Ask to see what you most need to see.

When “reading” medieval windows, one almost always begins on the bottom (closest to the earth) and on the left (more profane than the right which was considered more sacred).

Patient Attentiveness

When you are willing to spend time with a stained glass window, it will begin to reveal its messages.

Pilgrims at table, Emmaus at Chartres Cathedral by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion
Linger patiently with expectation.
Listen with your eyes.
Jesus at table, Emmaus at Chartres Cathedral by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion
Treat a stained glass window as you might an introvert.
Relax in its presence and wait for it to speak.
Jesus blessing at table, Emmaus image at Chartres Cathedral by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion

All images shown above are from the image on the right of the top row of the stained glass window of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection (1145-1155). It is found on the left side the west wall. Medieval windows, like this one are “read” from left (most profane) to right (most sacred) and bottom (closest to earth) to top (closest to heaven).

The Passion and Resurrection Stained Glass Window (Twelfth Century)at Chartres Cathedral by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion
Other pages on this site related to the stained glass windows in the Chartres Cathedral:

Praying with the Passion and Resurrection Window: Part 1
Praying with the Passion and Resurrection Window: Part 2

Praying with the Prodigal Son Window

All the images in the Good Samaritan Window with the biblical text in English (et en Français) (pdf)

Le vitrail des apôtres (Apostles’ Window)

The Passion (Typological) Window
Blog posting with images from this Passion Window


Johnson, James Rosser. “The Tree of Jesse Window of Chartres: Laudes Regiae.”  Speculum 36 (1):1-22. doi: 10.2307/2849841. 1961.

Johnson, James Rosser. The Radiance of Chartres: Studies in the Early Stained Glass of the Cathedral.  New York: Random House, 1964.

Meulen, Jan van der. “A Logos Creator at Chartres and Its Copy.” Journal of the Warburg and Courauld Institutes 29 (1966 1966): 82-100.

Miller, Malcolm. 1994. Chartres Cathedral.  Medieval Masterpieces in Stained Glass and Sculpture. Andover, Hampshire, Great Britain: Pitkin Unichrome.

Pollak, Victor A. 2020. “Saving the light at Chartres : how the great cathedral and its stained-glass treasures were rescued during World War II.” In. Guilford, Connecticut: Stackpole Books. 2020.

Williams, Jane Welch. Bread, Wine, and Money.  The Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Une bibliographie:

Delaporte, Y. (1963). L’Art du Vitrail. Chartres, France, Editions Houvet. A small but helpful book on 12th and 13th century stained glass.

Deremble, Colette & Jean-Paul. Vitraux De Chartres.  Paris, France: Éditions Zodiaque, 2003.

Deremble, Colette et Jean-Paul. Voyage au Moyen Âge å Travers les Vitraux de Chartres. Moisenay, France: Éditions Gaud, 2004.

Lautier, Claudine. Les Vitraux De La Cathédrale De Chartres. Reliques Et Images.  Paris: Société Français d’Archéologie, 2003.

Manhes-Deremble, Collette. Les Vitraux Narratifs De La Cathédrale De Chartres: Étude Iconographique.  Paris: Le Lópard D’Or, 1994.

Sauvanon, Jeannie. Á La Découverte Des Virtraux De Chartres.  Chartres: Éditions Jean-Michel Garnier, 1991.

Védy, Denise. 2001. “Notre-Dame De Chartres Dans La Lumière Céleste.”  Atlantis 407:351-357.

Villette, Jean. Les Vitraux De Chartres.  Paris: Librarie Hachette, 1963.