The magical, mystical translucency of glass eases the observer seemlessly into a state of spiritual contemplation. Its beauty transcends boundaries of time and vocabulary, and provides ready witness to the faith and craft of its builders.  (Some beautiful Fatimid glass from a Byzantine Shipwreck here)


As we saw in yesterday’s post, the Middle Ages was a time of great artistic virtuosity…and variety. Working in metal, stone, wood, and ivory, mediaeval craftsmen created objects to refine private life and to decorate the altars. Of all mediaeval crafts, however, nothing is quite so quintessential to the period as enamelling, which required expertise not only in fine metals, but also in the magical substance of glass.

Glass-blowing had been known since ancient times; in many museums today, Roman glass still delights visitors with bright colours and iridescent shimmers. Mediaeval artisans, however, favoured a very different technique for turning silica and pigment into art. Using a metallic framework (typically of gold or copper) an enameler would create distinct chambers to form a complete image. Each of these chambers would then be filled with powdered glass and fired at high heat–causing the glass to fuse into a lustrous, smooth surface.

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