Arguably not the first art form that comes to mind when you think of creative masterpieces, but the eight incredible works of stained glass on this list are just as impressive as any painting or sculpture. While they’re undoubtedly works of art on their own, many of these windows project color and pattern into the spaces that house them turning entire buildings into kaleidoscope-like beauties. While Gothic churches are a likely place to find great examples of the art form, this gallery stands as proof that stained glass can be seen in far less conventional spaces from museums to concert halls, in addition to places of worship.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Located in Paris and commissioned by King Louis IX , the 13th-century Sainte-Chapelle houses one of the largest collections of stained glass from its time. Among this Gothic cathedral's famous glass is a stunning rose window. The art features a variety of biblical scenes from the Book of Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus, among others.
Photo by Chris Chabot, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897 to serve as the city's central library branch before transitioning to an arts and cultural center that continues to dazzle visitors today. The building is home to two magnificent stained glass domes, including the largest Tiffany dome in the world.
Photo by Justin Kern, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Equal parts museum, park and chapel, Dallas' Thanks-Giving Square is a 3-acre interfaith space dedicated to daily gratitude. While there are several points of interest worth visiting, the stained glass spiral known as Glory Window in Thanksgiving Chapel is a must-see. It includes 73 glass panels and is one of the largest horizontally-mounted works of stained glass in the world.
Photo by Amaury Laporte, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Iran's Nasir ol Molk Mosque features a rainbow of stained glass that is made only more incredible by the colorful tile work on the pillars and floor that surround it. Dubbed the Pink Mosque, Nasir ol Molk's windows turn the mosque's interior into a celebration of color during early morning hours.
Photo by Zachho, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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As one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, it's no surprise that Paris' Notre-Dame is home to one of the most impressive works of stained glass. The 84-panel South Rose Window is just over 42 feet in diameter and is considered the grandest of the cathedral's three rose windows. It was originally built in 1260 as a gift from King Louis IX and remains a prominent feature of Notre-Dame's south facade.
Photo by Kurt Hunter, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision is a stunning example of modern stained glass. Looking little like the variety found in the gothic cathedrals of Europe, the institute's facade features colored cast-glass panels that prove that stained glass can very much make it in contemporary architecture.
Photo by Chris Guy, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Barcelona's breathtaking Palau de la Música Catalana, a UNESCO World Heritage site and concert hall, features large panels of stained glass within its more than 2,000-seat auditorium. Its showpiece is the Antoni Rigalt-designed stained glass skylight that includes an inverted dome. The concert hall was built between 1906 and 1908, but continues to host performances today.
Photo by Carlos Lorenzo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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One of the largest cathedrals in northern Europe, York's Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter, or simply York Minster, is home to the largest medieval stained glass piece in the world. While the Great East Window is the record holder, all of the cathedral's stained glass is breathtaking and has established it as home to some of the most famous works of stained glass art on the planet.
Photo by Archangel12, CC BY 2.0