Fiat lux: climatic considerations in medieval stained glass aesthetics

Fiat lux: climatic considerations in medieval stained glass aesthetics

Simmons, Christopher Thomas

M.A. Thesis, Science, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montréal, August (2008)


As expressions of regional architecture built to last, sacred Gothic structures often possess several adaptations to their prevailing climate regime. However, the late medieval period in Europe is also marked by a transition to cooler and likely cloudier conditions. It is within the context of this climate change that we consider one of the most important considerations in Gothic churches—interior daylighting—during the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age. This thesis seeks to determine whether increasingly cloudy conditions over northern continental Europe may have influenced the use of more white glass in the Fourteenth century. With primary illuminance and luminance data collected in Europe, the results indicate that full-colour programs appear to perform best under sunny conditions, whereas later, white-dominated programs provide similar illumination under cloudy conditions. However, this high-translucency glazing is associated with limited lighting gains and major aesthetic drawbacks under sunny conditions.

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