Stained glass: its profusion of motifs and radiant luminosity have captivated viewers for centuries. The Swiss National Museum owns one of the world’s largest collections of stained glass works. The exhibition in the Hall of Fame showcases the art of stained glasswork in Switzerland in all its richly hued facets, from its origins in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the modern stained glass art of the present day. Photos and old tools from the Halter stained glass studio in Bern give an insight into the elaborate technique involved in this handcraft, which has remained almost unchanged for around 800 years.
Colours revealed by light – Introductory tour
Intermediate level | secondary levels I and II
Guided tour of the exhibition «Colours revealed by light. Stained glass from the 13th to the 21st century».
Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.
Guided tours in English can be arranged, even outside opening hours. Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.
at least 2 weeks in advance
1 hour guided tours, other services by prior arrangement
max. 25 people
Guided tours for school classes from Switzerland are free of charge.
Colours revealed by light. Stained glass from the 13th to the 21st century
The vast array of subjects and the dazzling luminosity of stained glass have captivated viewers for centuries. The exhibition in the National Museum’s Hall of Fame showcases Swiss stained glasswork in all its richly hued facets, from its origins in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the modern stained glass art of the present day.
The Swiss National Museum owns one of the world’s largest collections of stained glass works. The highlights of this collection form the starting point for a journey through the history of Swiss stained glass. Our journey begins in churches and monasteries, where the light streaming through the coloured windows into the hallowed interiors probably had much the same impact on churchgoers in the Middle Ages as it has today. The exhibition features works such as the ‘Madonna of Flums’ dating from the 13th century – the oldest surviving figural stained glass panel in Switzerland.
In the modern era, it became common practice in the Confederation, when a new building was constructed or an existing one refurbished, for benefactors to bear the costs for the design and manufacture of a window. In return, these sponsors were given the opportunity to have their coat of arms placed in the new window. The representatives of Confederate towns also put their coats of arms in the windows of council buildings, taverns and monasteries, giving expression for the first time to a ‘Swiss’ national consciousness. In the 19th century, the modern federal state reverted to this tradition of the Standesscheibe, stained glass that presented the coat of arms of a canton of the Old Swiss Confederacy, and donated the stained glass works in the Hall of Fame of the newly built National Museum (1898) and those in the domed hall of the parliament building (1901).
In the 20th century too, a number of town halls in major Swiss cities were presented with Standesscheiben, and stained glass is still a highly regarded art form today. One example is the glass windows in the Grossmünster in Zurich. In addition to the Augusto Giacometti stained glass panels in the chancel dating from 1933, the stained glass works by Sigmar Polke in the nave were added in 2009. To make them, the artist used a number of newly developed techniques. The exhibition displays the specimen glass panels made to Sigmar Polke’s designs.
The essential working process for manufacturing stained glass has changed very little over the centuries. Myriad individual production steps are required to progress from the design stage through the selection and cutting of the coloured glass, to produce the finished glass artwork soldered with lead rods. In addition to more than 90 stained glass works dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, the exhibition also shows old tools from the Halter stained glass studio in Bern. Soldering irons, lead mouldings and a portable furnace give an insight into the elaborate technique of this craft.
The Swiss National Museum would like to thank for the generous support.
- Overall management Andreas Spillmann (bis März 2021), Denise Tonella
- Project direction Mylène Ruoss
- Exhibition Assistant Noemi Albert
- Scenography Alex Harb
- Graphics Maria Rosa Visuelle Gestaltung, Zürich
- Advisory committee Heidi Amrein, Beat Högger, Markus Leuthard, Sabrina Médioni, Andreas Spillmann (bis März 2021), Denise Tonella
- Controlling of project Sabrina Médioni
- Cultural services and museum education Stefanie Bittmann, Lisa Engi
- Advertising graphic Resort GmbH für Visuelle Kommunikation, Zürich
- Technical management Mike Zaugg
- Exhibition construction Janine Auf der Maur, Kim Badertscher, Bachir Ezzarari, Ladina Fait, Marc Hägeli, Mike Roder, David Schwitter
- Conservation management Sarah Longrée
- Conservation and montage of objects Gaby Petrak, Ulrike Rothenhäusler, Tino Zagermann; Alder Stahl + Schweiss: Chrigel Alder, Glasatelier Dold: Aline Dold, Friederike Szlosze
- Loans Maya Jucker, Angela Zeier
- Logistics of objects and montage of objects Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Simon d’Hollosy, Reto Hegetschweiler, David Pazmino, Markus Scherer
- Photography Jörg Brandt, Zvonimir Pisonic
- Photo library Andrea Kunz, Fabian Müller
- Editor Pasquale Pollastro
- IT / Web Thomas Bucher, Ulrich Heiniger, Danilo Rüttimann, René Vogel
- Marketing and communication Andrej Abplanalp, Anna-Britta Maag, Sebastiano Mereu, Carole Neuenschwander, Stefania Nicolini, Alexander Rechsteiner
- Translations Laurence Neuffer; Bill Gilonis, Zürich, Language Factory, St. Konrad (A)
- Various Unless otherwise stated, exhibits and image rights belong to the Swiss National Museum.
- Sammlung Turamali, Dieter Decker, Oberboihingen (D)
- Fritz Dold, Zürich
- Galerie Barbara Giesicke, Badenweiler (D)
- Martin Halter, Bern
- Glas Mäder AG, Rüschlikon
- Staatsarchiv Uri
- Vitromusée Romont, Dauerleihgabe der Kunstsammlungen des Bundes, Bundesamt für Bauten und Logistik