Close up of the South Rose Window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris France
Envision it.... Sicily.... *record scratch*... I mean Envision it.... Paris... 1260. It was the European High Middle Ages. The Crusades were in full swing, Genghis Khan was Emperor, and the Magna Carta was still new on the street. People smelled funny and personal hygiene wasn't at the top of their list, since keeping armor on to prevent people from stabby stabbying you was. But you know what WAS happening? The installation of the South Rose Window of Notre Dame Cathedral.
South Rose Window during mass
84 glorious panels spread over four circles depicting the Last Judgement - Christ centered surrounded by angels, saints, apostles, bishops, confessors, deacons, martyrs, and knights.
There are three Rose windows in the Cathedral, but the South Rose Window is by far the most famous and magnificent. So, imagine how I felt as I sat at my job watching the Cathedral burn in April of 2019. I sat there crying, as my boss walks in wondering why I'm watching the news on our TV. He didn't get it. I explained to him that it upset me to see one of the most famous stained glass windows in the world, 800 years young, being reduced to cracks and melted lead.
Notre Dame Cathedral on fire
As the day went on, suddenly my Facebook exploded. You see, I'm one of 200 master stained glass artists in the country. That may not seem like a big deal to you. Who cares about stained glass, right? Well, that's why there are only 200 of us. We're a rapidly dying breed. BUT NOT THAT DAY.
Before I knew it, I had so many people messaging me, asking what was happening to the glass, that I had to finally write a big, long Facebook post and it got shared... 187 THOUSAND times.
As the days wore on and pictures finally trickled in, it was revealed that the Rose Window had "survived." Now, let me explain something to you. Survived and Intact are two very different things. I don't know if you've ever been in a fire, but I have, I used to be a volunteer firefighter. The only reason the South Window "survived" the intense heat of all that 800-year-old French lumber burning was the lead that constructed it. It melted over the glass, cracking it all to hell, mind you, but it held it in place. And the window didn't explode like the others.
Even now there are artisans from all over the world meticulously restoring those cracks piece by piece and applying new lead and remaking the windows. There just happened to be a few of them around still that knew how. In 100 years, I doubt there would have been. Why? Because there are only 200 of us in the US, even fewer in Europe, and not all of us specialize in large lead installation restoration.
Another view of the South Rose Window
This is why I teach. This is why I ALWAYS have an apprentice. This is why my Facebook blew up that day. This is why I was crying and watching as it burned. Our art is dying. Our methods are dying with us. Our history is dying with us.
So read this. It's History. Literally. This is the first of many “Stained Glass Minute by Leia” posts prepared by your LibertyCon 36 Artist Guest of Honor.
Master Stained Glass Artisan
Wildcat Mountain Artistry