medievalism, phenomenology, light, stained glass, temporality


In the last decade, scholars of medieval art have examined how the materiality of religious objects was seen to increase the sacredness of the rituals in which they were used. Christians in the Middle Ages understood that objects had the potential to move from the material (such as glass or gems) to the immaterial (the divine presence of God). While stained glass is a medium that is defined by the mutability of its material, scholars have focused primarily on the iconography of glass windows and the workshop practices of glaziers rather than phenomenological meanings. There is recognition of the visual effect of light moving through stained glass, but few connections are made between the shifting physical conditions of the spaces that include glass and the materiality of glass itself. In this paper I will argue that while the sensorial experience of stained glass windows is a significant part of the historical experience of a building, it is not the whole story. Using the Church of Orsanmichele in Florence, Italy as a case study, I will reconsider glass’ heterochronic potential in three aspects: boundaries, senses, and temporalities. This research raises questions about how viewers’ engagement with past and present can converge to create a clearer understanding of history.