The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral

The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral

Meredith Parsons Lillich
  • Copyright: 2011
  • Dimensions: 9 x 10
  • Page Count: 364 pages
  • Illustrations: 100 color/158 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03777-6
“In this spectacular book—the fruit of profound research—Meredith Lillich rescues the stained glass of Reims Cathedral from obscurity. With careful scrutiny of the remains and always mindful of the limitations of the evidence, Lillich coaxes the glass to reveal its remarkable secrets. The result is a stunning evocation of the history of the thirteenth century, including the nature and extent of episcopal power in the period, the concern with heresy, and the splendor and ambition of the French monarchy. This book has no rivals and hardly any equals.”
“A masterly analysis of the stained glass of Reims Cathedral, until now a largely neglected stepchild of the cathedral’s sculptural decoration. Style is not overlooked, and the different phases of glazing are dated, but Meredith Lillich’s aim is to present a convincing case for the iconography of the clerestory windows, reflecting the uses of the areas of the cathedral below them: chevet, the apostolic succession of the archbishops of Reims and their suffragans; transept, the chapter and its offices; nave, the coronation site. This is done with many a well-turned phrase, buttressed with extensive documentation and full-color illustrations of the glass.”
“Wittily and compellingly written, meticulously and imaginatively researched, and lavishly illustrated, Meredith Lillich's The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral is an impressive achievement. She situates the glass in the liturgical, historical, and political context of the coronation cathedral of France, studying its origins and the many vicissitudes experienced by the precious pieces that have survived. Focusing on the glass, Lillich provides a host of insights into and observations about the church that houses the windows, the individuals who created and preserve them, and the monarchs who traveled to Reims to receive their crowns within the church's precincts.”
“The cathedral of Reims is a vital element of French medieval political and ecclesiastical history as well as a much-studied monument for its architecture and sculpture. Renovations, natural and human disasters, and equally problematic restoration campaigns have obstructed a competent overview of its windows. Meredith Lillich has been engaged in the study of Reims for many years, and this publication emerges as the definitive volume on the glazing.”
“This is, flat out, a great book, one destined to be both a classic in medieval studies and a model for future scholars. Meredith Parsons Lillich has accomplished a ‘scholarly miracle’: an excellent, comprehensive, readable analysis of the many complex, sophisticated, and multivalent programs of stained glass in the upper (clerestory) windows at Reims Cathedral, arguably the most important Gothic cathedral in France. This superb book goes a long way toward filling one of the largest ‘black holes’ in our knowledge of thirteenth-century Gothic art.”
“Meredith Lillich is a preeminent specialist in the study of French Gothic stained glass. During a distinguished academic career as a legendary teacher of art history, she has published spectacular studies of stained glass that have become models of art-historical interpretation for generations of students and scholars. But her book on Reims is particularly special. She explores the cathedral’s curiously understudied windows from a variety of perspectives—from the stylistic habits and design tendencies of the artists who produced them to the messages they conveyed to the audiences who initially viewed them. The elaborate programs of the upper-story glazing emerge as carefully crafted visual dialogues around the bold moral concerns of the Church and its claim to power during the thirteenth century; they balance broad ecclesiastical agendas with focused local meanings related to the role of this archiepiscopal see as an administrative hub and as the coronation site for the kings of France. Lillich writes with clarity, insight, and verve, her language embodying her affection and enthusiasm for this major medium of medieval painting and the dedicated human beings who created the windows and devised their meanings. This is a book to be cherished by all who are interested in cathedrals, stained-glass windows, and the rich Gothic culture that brought them into being.”
“Lillich is refreshingly practical in her view of the unfolding of the glass and of the discourses of power and division which have dominated some recent discussions of Rheims. Lillich is a contextualist when she needs to be, but above all she brings to this study the experience and relaxed assurance of a lifetime’s work, and patiently pulls together the information in a way that helps the reader. Arranged as an east-west exposition of the glass, her monograph contains all the technical material that will satisfy specialists in regard to reordering, reuse (including pre-1210 glass from the previous church), damage and conservation. She works methodically through to the glazing of the west front. This book is thoroughly documented, clearly written and makes the very best of an exceptionally demanding subject.”
“This book is fundamental reading for all scholars of the glazing programme at Reims cathedral.”
The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral offers an unparalleled and exceptional analysis of an insufficiently explored glazing program of immense artistic richness. Lillich’s book, supported by a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, is compellingly written, meticulously researched, and enriched with extensive documentation and full-color illustrations of the glass. . . . Intended for both specialists and nonspecialists, the book is easy to read and will interest not only art historians, but also anyone passionate about medieval architecture.”
“It is a genuine pleasure to read The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral, for one is in the company of an art historian who not only knows and loves her trade, but whose breadth of knowledge ranges from medieval foldstools to ferculum Salomonis; from heraldry to royal fashion; and from angelic symphonic instruments to bishops’ seals.”
“Thèse, synthèse, hypothèse. Ces trois mots peuvent résumer l’impression que donne ce livre. Érudition brillante, fruit d’un travail mûri, mise au point en grande partie définitive sur un vaste sujet qui était bien mal connu et propositions parfois hardies, qui auront le mérite de faire réagir et encore progresser la recherche.

Dubbed the Cathedral of France and first church of French Christendom, the Gothic cathedral of Reims was the coronation site of more than two dozen French kings—and a target of German bombardment in World War I. Before 1914 its medieval stained glass had enjoyed the fame of Chartres and Bourges. The first extensive study focusing on the stained glass of this preeminent cathedral, The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral offers a groundbreaking analysis of its glazing program. Through unique insights into the clerical agenda and its influence over a building devoted to the coronation of the French monarchy, Lillich considers the stained glass in the context of building chronology, political events, and artistic movements to present a completely new understanding of the stained glass of Reims.

Meredith Parsons Lillich is Professor Emerita of Art at Syracuse University.


List of Illustrations


1. Un Peu d’Histoire

2. The Rosaces of the Chevet

3. The Lancets of the Chevet

4. The Transepts: Grisailles, Roses, and Belles Verrières

5. The Rosaces of the Nave

6. The Lancets of the Nave

7. The Glazing of the West Facade

Coda: Comparanda

Appendix 1: Heresy in Champagne

Appendix 2: Genealogy of Archbishop Henri de Braine

Appendix 3: Ogive Glass of Bays 100–104

Appendix 4: The “Spanish Connection”: Legends of the Apostle James, Translations by Pierre de Beauvais, and the Family of Archbishop Henri de Braine

Appendix 5: Pierre de Beauvais and the Bestiary

Appendix 6: King Solomon in Bed (Song of Songs 3:7–8)

Appendix 7: Lectulus and Ferculum (Song of Songs 3:7, 9)

Appendix 8: Two Seraphim Attributed to Reims in U.S. Collections


Selected Bibliography


Other Ways to Acquire

Buy from
Buy from an Independent Bookstore
Buy from Powell's Books
Buy from Barnes and

Also of Interest

Also of interest book cover

Rainbow Like an Emerald

Stained Glass in Lorraine in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries