Stained glass has enhanced buildings since the Middle Ages and continues to captivate architects and design lovers today. Used as windows or ceilings, the works, which are constructed of colored glass pieces connected and outlined by strips of lead, are frequently found in religious buildings, such as cathedrals and mosques, although they also became popular for secular spaces beginning in the 19th century and now adorn private homes, hotels, cultural buildings, and department stores. From a Gothic chapel in Paris to a hotel in Mexico City, take a look at some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world and see how architects such as Philip Johnson, Oscar Niemeyer, and Antoni Gaudí have used the art form in some of their most iconic designs.
Cathedral of Brasília, Brazil
The Oscar Niemeyer–designed cathedral’s distinctive stained glass was created by artist Marianne Peretti in 1990. The 22,000- square-foot work features waves of blue, green, white, and brown glass.
St. Joseph’s Church, Le Havre, France
The Neo-Gothic church was built in the 1950s in the French port city as a tribute to the 5,000 citizens who died during World War II, when the town was nearly completely destroyed. Architect Auguste Perret was instrumental in the plan to rebuild the city and designed the church, which features a 350-foot spire lined with stained glass.
Commissioned in the 13th century by King Louis IX, this Gothic chapel is nestled on the Ile de la Cité and boasts 15 stained-glass panels in its nave and apse that depict more than a thousand biblical figures. The panels recently underwent a seven-year, $10 million restoration, during which the windows were removed and cleaned with lasers.
Thanks-Giving Square, Dallas, Texas
In 1977 Philip Johnson designed a delicately spiraling white chapel to anchor a tranquil three-acre oasis in the heart of downtown Dallas. The ornate structure is crowned by the Glory Window, which comprises 73 stained-glass panels crafted by French artist Gabriel Loire.
Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Sebastian, Rio de Janeiro
Adding warmth to an otherwise austere religious site, four rectilinear stained-glass windows stretch some 200 feet to the ceiling of this beehive-shaped cathedral, which was completed in 1976. As many as 20,000 people can fill the Edgar Fonseca–designed church, which holds the Museu de Arte Sacra in its subterranean space.
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago
The Louis Comfort Tiffany dome at the Chicago Cultural Center measures 38 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest stained-glass domes in the world. Held together by an ornate cast-iron frame that features some 30,000 pieces of glass shaped like fish scales, the dome was finished in 1897, the same year the building opened as the city’s first public library. The dome underwent a meticulous restoration in 2008 and is now lighted electrically.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Finished at the end of the 19th century, this Technicolor mosque in southern Iran dazzles with intricate stained-glass windows, richly colored tiles, carved pillars, and woven rugs. Due to its strategic positioning, early-morning light produces a kaleidoscopic effect within the structure, which has survived numerous earthquakes thanks to the flexible wood struts within its walls.