Block of the Week: Stained Glass

Kind of a pane

In western Europe in the Middle Ages, the Christian church had a problem - it had a book full of stories, but the population couldn't read (that's probably why had such low readership in the Middle Ages too). How could priests share the tales of the Bible with an illiterate audience outside of their weekly sermons? The answer came in the form of our block of the week - Stained Glass.

Engineers teamed up with artists to create huge, complex, stained glass windows for churches that depicted the teachings of the Old and New Testament. Images taken from manuscripts were carefully reconstructed in glass, allowing priests to show - as well as tell - people about the life of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and others. We take the entertainment value of stained glass windows for granted now, but back in ye olden days, this was the closest those long-ago folk had to Netflix. Er, in a way.

image credit: Mossot

Stained glass was added to Minecraft in version 1.7.2 in 2013, alongside many new biomes and structures, new flowers and wood varieties, and the pufferfish. It's made by surrounding any colour of dye with regular glass in a crafting bench, and - just like regular glass - can be made into panes if you prefer. Also like regular glass, it's really easy to break by accident. Curse my clumsy hands!

In version 1.8, stained glass was tweaked so that it could change the colour of a beacon and have torches placed on it, and version 1.9 saw the magenta version used as the windows of End cities, so if for some reason you hate crafting (yet play a game called Minecraft??) then you can collect it there. Like the regular, plain Minecraft glass, stained glass can only be broken with a tool enchanted with Silk Touch, otherwise it's lost forever.

Making real-world stained glass is a bit more complex than it is in Minecraft. Either coloured chemicals called "salts" are added to the molten glass during manufacture, or the glass is painted and then baked in a kiln. Once created, though, glass sticks around for a long time - many of the windows made for churches in medieval times are still intact, long after the books that inspired them have rotted away. Maybe we should start making books out of stained glass? Hey, that's a million dollar idea! Please don't steal it.

Stained glass is also used for more than just church decoration. It's popular in the Middle East, where it's found in mosques and synagogues. It can also be spotted in places like banks, restaurants, pubs and railway stations. Artists mould it into sculptures, and you'll even find it in some homes. Does your home have stained glass? And if not, where's the nearest example you can find? Snap a picture of it if you can, but don't worry if you can't - it'll be around for a long, looooooong time. That's why I've had all my Block of the Week articles printed on Stained Glass. It was expensive, yes. I'm homeless now, true. But can you really put a price on immortalising your work for hundreds of years? Exactly!

P.S. If anyone wants to buy a stained glass Block of the Week, email me at Please. Duncan miss food.

Written by
Duncan Geere

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