Photo by Zairon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
The West Rose
The first rose window to be installed is the one over the west portals. It’s also the smallest at a little over 32 feet in diameter. It was created in about 1225, with the colored glass pieces placed in a thick circular stone frame. Because of damage it had to be recreated in the 1800s, and none of the original glass remains. (Along the bottom of the window in the image to the left you can see parts of the cathedral’s magnificent pipe organ.)
By Zairon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
The North Rose
The two transept windows are larger and contain more glass than the rose on the western façade. This was possible due to the new system of flying buttresses that enabled the builders to make the nave walls not only thinner, but also stronger. The north rose was installed around 1250 and 18 small vertical windows were added below it.
The South Rose
King Louis IX of France, known as Saint Louis, gave the south rose to the Cathedral. Its size and beauty sets it apart. Created around 1260, it’s 12.9 meters in diameter; while the surrounding claire-voie brings it to a total of 19 meters. Some of the original medallions were moved into circles farther out during restorations in later centuries. Let’s take a closer look at this masterpiece.
Ninety-four medallions are arranged in four circles around the central rose depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The twelve medallions of the inner circle portray the twelve apostles, while the next two circles depict martyrs and virgins. The outer fourth circle includes twenty angels, as well as saints such as Saint Denis, Margaret the Virgin with a dragon, and Saint Eustace that are important to Paris. The third and fourth circles also contain depictions of Old Testament subjects, while the third circle includes medallions showing scenes from the Matthew’s Gospel that are the oldest glass in the window, dating from the last quarter of the 12th century.
The rose windows are indeed extraordinary! Some of you may have had the good fortune to visit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and see them in person. But even if you haven’t, there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches endowed with lovely stained glass windows in this country. Please share any you’ve visited that particularly stood out to you and tell us what features you most enjoyed!
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is a professional editor, a publisher, and the author of award-winning historical fiction whose books have been endorsed by bestselling authors such as Lori Benton, Laura Frantz, Jocelyn Green, Michelle Moran, and MaryLu Tyndal. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. She is also the author of One Holy Night, which won the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and co-authored the award-winning Northkill Amish Series with Bob Hostetler. Her latest release is Refiner’s Fire, Book 6 of the American Patriot Series.