Religious Art Critic: “Notice that both the damned and the saved have expressions of surprise on their faces.”

The damned are surprised to be going to hell because they were proud and self righteous (and didn’t think they were headed for hell) or scornful and unbelieving (and didn’t believe such a place existed.)

The saved are surprised because they were humble and didn’t think they would make it into heaven.

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Contemplating stained glass windows in church and Biblical descriptions of Heaven


…recall that traditional church architecture saw the church as an image of heaven. Hence it’s design was based on the descriptions of heaven found in the Scriptures. Now among other things, heaven is described in the Book of Revelation as having high walls with rows of jewels embedded in the foundations of those walls:

One of the seven angels…showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates….The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.... (Revelation 21:varia)

Thus, because heaven had great high walls, older churches almost always had a lot of verticality. The lower foundational walls gave way to the higher clerestory, and above the clerestory the vaults of the ceiling rise even higher. And in the lower sections of the walls, extending even as high as the clerestory, the jewel-like stained glass recalls the precious jeweled gemstones described in the lower walls of heaven, according to Revelation 21.

The compelling effect of a traditional church is to say to the believer, you are in heaven now.

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Editor’s note: Like many of our modern day “Catholic” theologians, who think they are so much smarter than all those who came before them … but aren’t … many architects of modern day Catholic churches … and some of the bishops who ultimately approve their designs … aren’t very smart, either. And that’s a real shame!

Enjoy the exquisite glass in the Cathedral at Chartres, France