Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Salvation History in Stained Glass

June 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

(click on photos to see larger and clearer images)

In the earliest tradition of the Church, the stain glass windows of St. Michael’s Church in Rochester display episodes from salvation history -scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Beginning at least in the 4th century (perhaps earlier1) the walls of the naves of churches were chosen to reinforce through images the instructions given to new converts by the bishops. The large influx of weak converts from paganism following Constantine’s legalization of the Church resulted in the need to continually place before the eyes of the converts the teachings and story of the Church.

See a photo of the interior of St. Michael’s Church

The tradition remained even after adult conversion became far less common. The images were increasingly understood as making present in sacred time all of salvation history. The building took on an ontological symbolism with the scenes of the Old and New Testaments on the walls of the nave processing up to an image of Christ in glory2 in the apse, surrounding the altar, offering the congregants hope for their own eventual transfiguration or glorification.



Unfortunately there are no extant examples of church architecture prior to the 4th century. Nothing has survived. We do know that churches were, in fact, built prior to legalization.

2  Christ in Glory was one type of image. The scene of the Transfiguration, the Vision of Ezekiel, and Christ in the Second Coming from the Book of Revelation were some others. Often the background in the Transfiguration scenes depicted a garden in reference to paradise/heaven.


by Bernie Dick

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2 Responses to “Salvation History in Stained Glass”

  1. avatar Nerina says:

    This church should be our cathedral. What a feast for the eyes.

  2. avatar Raymond Rice says:

    Nerina!! It could and should have been our cathedral!!

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