The latest Polish developments in church stained glass art.

Maria J. Żychowska

Cracow, Politechnika Krakowska


The paper presents an overview of recent Polish stained glass developments rather than a certain category of artists and works of well-known stained glass studios, which would certainly imply a subjective evaluation and a falsification of the actual state. The quality and overall image of this field of art are not determined only by individual artistic achievements, especially when they constitute a definite minority.

Analysis of the latest Polish stained glass art should include its specificity and dissimilarity in relation to the parallel foreign achievements. These differences relate primarily to technological issues. A wide range of accomplishments, great formal variety, scope and scale as well as apparently continued development which characterize Polish stained glass give it a high place in European art.

keywords: contemporary stained glass, artists, Poland


When considering the latest developments in the art of stained glass in Poland, we can notice a specific quality that distinguishes it from parallel European achievements in the field. This is mainly apparent in the technology which, after all, determines the form and style of glazing. In Poland, traditional stained glass craftsmanship still prevails while in other countries this has been mostly replaced by fusing and moulding techniques that impose  different formal solutions.

Another significant issue is the style of Polish stained glass windows. Most of them are rather traditional representational images, although they resort to simplified drawings, a synthetic form and colour. However, the aesthetic value of stained glass seems to depend mainly on the hand of the master who creates it. The Polish  masters in the art of stained glass, whose works are dominant in the whole range of stain glass achievement, include Jerzy Skąpski, Józef Furdyna, Teresa Maria Reklewska, Jerzy Kalina and Aniela Kita.

Stained glass has long been associated with flat glass panels made from pieces of coloured glass held together with a strip of lead. Its role was to decorate an architectural interior, mainly that of a church. However, in the last decades of the 20th century, the avant-garde of this art took a completely new direction. This does not mean that the old established craft has been abandoned, yet certain innovative trends have been generally acclaimed and have found admirers both worldwide and in Poland. It ought to be pointed out that, on the whole, the aesthetic expression of stained glass art in Poland differs from its counterparts anywhere else in the world. Our art is conservative, represented mostly by realistic, figurative objects. Polish innovativeness in this respect is far from avant-garde, except for in a few individual cases.

At his point, it is worth taking a brief look at some examples of European church stained glass art.

After the devastation of World War II, the great rebuilding of ruined churches began. The ruling principle was to equip interiors with thoroughly contemporary art. No compromises with the historic architectural style were suggested.

Also in Germany, the replacements of stained glass windows were totally contemporary realizations. The medieval interiors received stained glass windows which were made according to the trends in the art of the mid – twentieth century. They were considered documents of their times, because the damage to the authentic stained glass windows was so great that it was pointless to make either replicas or reconstructions. That is how the stained glass windows were made for the cathedrals in Munich, Aachen, Cologne and for many other important historic buildings. The most important artists include Georg Meisterman, who gave a new direction to the post-war stained glass art in Germany, along with Ludwig Schaffrath and Johannes Schreiter. Their works clearly express the spirit of the art of our epoch and surprisingly tactfully blend with the interiors. Meistermann in particular maintains the atmosphere of architectural divisions without competing with the character of the interiors with configurations of lines and compilations of lead strips, as is the case in St. Gereon’s Basilica in Cologne. Schaffrath altogether abandoned colour in the gothic cathedral in Aachen for the sake of a very graphical layout of glass joints. With time, such monochromatic stained glass, made according to the principles of an old technique called grisaille[1], became his trade mark. This does not mean that he completely disregarded colour because he used it in the stained glass windows for the historic town hall in Wiesbaden, although the range of colour there was rather limited.

[1] This kind of stained glass is made of white glass panes divided by geometric or floral lead motifs.

[2] The boat-shaped Falklands Islands Memorial Chapel was built at Pangbourne College in 2000. Implementation: Derix Glasstudio

[3] Millennium Window, Glasgow Cathedral, Scotland, height: 4m, 1999. Implementation: Derix Glasstudio.

[4] Stonelaw Parish Church, Glasgow, Scotland, height:2.3 m, 1999. Implementation: Derix Glasstudio. The author does most of the etching himself.

[5] Westminster Abbey, London 1994, height 10 m.

[6] Architectural design: Roland Ritter, stained glass artist, author of stained glass windows and the church equipment: Leo Zogmayer. Implementation: Derix Glasstudio.

[7] Marien Church in Skopas-Huddinge, Sweden 1987. Implementation: Derix Glasstudio.

[8] Implementation: Derix Glasstudio, 1993.

[9] Implementation: Derix Glasstudio.

[10] Quoted after W. Łysiak, Stulecie kłamców, Chicago–Warszawa, 2000, p.115.

[11] This technique uses thick glass blocks joined with concrete.

The full text of the article was published in the pages of "Sacrum et Decorum" I, 2008. Please send your orders to the University of Rzeszów Publishers or activate an electronic subscription.