Throughout the ages, stained glass has been used to decorate Christian churches. These images capture the work of the Wallis-Wiley glass studios of Pasadena, California. The windows were created in the 1960’s to decorate St. James Presbyterian Church in Tarzana. The terrible Northridge earthquake of 1994 destroyed the original building but the windows were miraculously unbroken. They were carefully packaged and placed in storage for several years. The glass was redesigned as an essential element in the new sanctuary which opened on October 11, 1998.
The colors themselves have a function and meaning in the world of art history symbolism. Stained glass must be illuminated by sunlight to be fully appreciated. The Sun, in Christian symbology, represents the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The sun is a symbol of Christ from the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” Christians worship on “Sunday,” originally incorporating an ancient Roman feast day as the first day of the Christian week.
Symbolism in Christian Art: Color
Blue, as the color of the sky, has long symbolized heaven and heavenly love. In many paintings, both Christ and Mary wear blue clothing.
Red, as the color of blood, is symbolic of both love and hate and is associated with the martyrdom of the saints. Since red is also a symbol for fire it is used during the season of Pentecost which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Yellow can be an emblem of the sun and divinity associated with sacredness. Sometimes, yellow suggests jealousy, treason and deceit. The traitor Judas is often painted in yellow colors.
Green is the color of plants and represents the triumph of spring over winter, of life over death. Since it is a secondary color, made of primary colors yellow and blue, it also suggests the regeneration of the soul through good works and charity. Green is the symbol for the Epiphany season of the church.
Violet is the color symbol of love and truth as well as passion and suffering.
Purple has always been the color of royalty and is often the symbol of God the Father. Sorrow and penitence are also symbolized by purple and it is the liturgical color for Advent and Lent, the church’s seasons of preparation anticipating the joyous seasons of Christmas and Easter.
White has always been associated with purity, innocence and the holy life. This association is spoken of in the Bible such as Psalm 51:7 “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” or Christ’s Transfiguration in which Matthew says Christ is seen to be “white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). White is worn by Christ after his
Black is the symbol of death and mourning and is the liturgical color for Good Friday, the day of Christ’s Crucifixion.
Gray, as the color of ashes, symbolizes both humility and mourning and is associated with the Lenten season. Since gray also represents the death of the body and the immortality of the spirit, Christ’s clothing is gray in many paintings of the Last Judgment.
Brown is the color of spiritual death and also of renunciation of worldly things. It is the color of the Franciscan and Capuchin orders in the Catholic church.
Rainbows represent God’s covenant with humanity. As a symbol of union it denotes pardon for man after the Flood and reconciliation given to humans by God. Jesus is often surrounded by a rainbow in a throne set in heaven in paintings and
Most information was gleaned from these sources:
Signs & Sumbols in Christian Art--George Ferguson
Webster’s Dictionary of Proper Names
Webster’s Universal College Dictionary
Unger’s Bible Dictionary
www. sacred-texts.com and other internet sources