Lancet Redemption Window, c. 1220

The Work

This window, from a church in Montreuil-sur-le-Loir in France, represents scenes from the death and redemption of Christ. Below, three women standing in front of the empty tomb listen to an angel who is telling them about Christ’s ascension into Heaven. The next higher image shows the crucifixion. This is followed by Christ praying in the garden (a replacement for the original panel, which showed his ascension into Heaven), and at the top of the window, Christ reigns in majesty.

Historical Moment

Near the end of the twelfth century, progress in architectural knowledge made it possible to construct very tall buildings of stone, leading to the spread of the gothic cathedral. The decoration of a medieval church attempted to reproduce the kingdom of Heaven on earth, and to put the devout worshipper in visual contact with the holy persons and the splendors that would be encountered during eternal life.

The Genre

The medieval stained glass window was composed of colored glass, and the pieces were joined together with lead. When sunlight penetrated the window during the day, a person inside the building sees intense colors, like precious stones. Since stained glass windows were normally placed very high in a church, a person could not distinguish the scene or the people who were represented, but he or she knew from the priests that they existed. The window was therefore a metaphor for religious faith, in which one believes without being able to see it. And the artist worked for the eyes of God, not for mankind. The term "lancet" means a small lance, and refers to the resemblance between the shape of the window and the medieval armament.

French embassy