Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Happy–So Does Stained Glass

We are creatures of the light.  A gloomy day can make many of us glum.  A sunny day can brighten our mood, as well as the amount of light streaming in through the window.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be ameliorated by special lights.

It is not just light, it is also color that can affect us.  Remember the old institutional green that was supposed to sooth us?  Now studies have found that perceptions of color may have a cultural bias.

“Beach et al added, “Arousal effects of color are neither strong, reliable, nor enduring enough to warrant their use as a rationalization for applying ‘high’ or ‘low’ arousing colors to create ‘high’ or ‘low’ activity spaces.”3 For example, they said that a blue room will not automatically calm someone because other factors influence human reaction to color. Each individual will react to a color based on his or her experience, culture, and belief system. ”  From

Sunlight falling through stained glass SPI 2One of my favorite forms of colors is light through a stained glass window.  During the day, the splash of sunshine becomes a spill of color across pews and floors, if the sun slant is low enough.

Light spills through a stained glass window at St Paul’s Ivy  Episcopal Church in Ivy, VA

The strength of the sun can also affect the brightness of the stained glass “shadow” as seen in these two pictures from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Crozet, VA. When a passing cloud slightly obscured the sun’s brightness, you could not tell from the stained glass but you could tell from the reflection on the floor.


Even if the sun is not low enough to spill through the windows and cause a reflection, stained glass windows are still gorgeous.

Sunlight through Stained Glass Window, St Pauls, Key West.jpg

 Stained glass windows at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Key West (oldest non-Catholic Church in Key West.)

At night lights relecting back out through stained glass windows make a cheerful sight as you walk or drive past.

Rose window at night

14 thoughts on “Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Happy–So Does Stained Glass”

  1. I ha e a few photos of stained glass windows, as well as reflecting the light they reflect my impatience, at waiting to get the photo right and are often blurry. The cultural aspect I’ve thought of before – like yellow – cowardice in the west, madness in Russia (the mad houses were painted yellow – zheltyi dom)

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  2. I acknowledge that some of my pictures are blurry, but hey I’m a blogger, not a professional photographer. Did not know about the difference in the color yellow–interesting. They shot “cowards” in WWI, before they recognized shell-shock or what may now be PTSD, hmmmm. (I heard this on one episode of Downton Abbey so it may be true.)


    1. Thanks, Priscilla. We were dropping off canned goods at the church and just happened to catch the light at a fortuitous moment. Sometimes just coloring a stained glass picture in a coloring book is therapeutic.


  3. Interesting post! I love stained glass windows in houses, too, or even just the leaded glass with no colors. Not sure why that would be, since that doesn’t seem to have any tie-in with the colors aspect, except for the occasional “rainbow effect.”


  4. The myriad forms of light are, I think, one of the de-lights (!) of the world. Interesting that colour is dependent on our experience of it – I have periods when different colours soothe me – I love the colours of autumn, but then there are times when I want to be soothed by green or by the blue of the sea. Stained glass is always a beautiful way to experience colour and light.

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    1. Andrea, I agree with you on how different colors sooth me at different times. Funny how we associate colors with certain activities: Christmas red and green, Halloween black and orange, bridal white, funereal black, blue is for boys, pink is for girls, rainbow colors for LBGTQ organizations, St. Patrick’s Day green, truth black and white or shades of gray.

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  5. Glass is indeed a fascinating medium. Light may pass through it, be refracted by it, be reflected off of it, and absorbed by it. As a result, glass objects play wonderful tricks with our eyes. As you look at a stained glass window, you see the color in the glass itself modified by the color of the light behind it, so clouds and leaf patterns, birds, and other things outside make your window different each time you look at it. Light scatters as it passes through areas of varying refractive index (cords or imperfections in the glass) and wavelengths are dispersed, producing a prismatic effect. Even small variations in thickness create local “lenses” that focus or demagnify whatever is behind the glass, creating rippling fantasy images. Bubbles, stones, surface crackling, and other features produce internal reflections that can make the glass sparkle. Well-done stained glass art makes use of different types of glass to produce visual effects. Some of these are quite accidental, but a skilled designer can use glass properties deliberately to create stunning artistic effects. A professional will always want to design a window to match a specific setting, knowing what direction light will come from, what’s behind it, and what mood the owner will hope to create by installing stained glass.

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    1. Very impressive answer, Rolig. You certainly added to my store of knowledge about stain glass and contributed to our understanding of the medium. Thanks for this informative piece on the various qualities of glass.


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