"" Writer's Wanderings: A Rose Window By Any Other Name. . .

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Rose Window By Any Other Name. . .

Pantheon, Rome
In our travels, we have seen more churches than I can count. Churches are a great way to learn more about a country, city, region, etc., as they often contain in their windows, statuary, and carvings, a lot of history and folk tales. Think about it. Back before the printing press and even for some time after the printed word, there were not a lot of readers. This was a way for people to learn Bible stories and their own history and folklore by seeing them illustrated on the walls and in the windows of their church.
Rock of Cashel, Ireland

Once I learned that, I began to look at the old churches differently. I noticed a common element of many churches was one or more round windows. As our tour guides pointed out, they were called rose windows. Figuring I probably slept through that part of my eight o'clock Art History class in my college days, I went on a search to see if I could find anything more significant in the rose windows.

Notre Dame, Paris
The first thing I learned was that they became popular in the Gothic era of architecture. One source even traced the idea back to the Roman oculus, a round hole in the ceiling of a structure that let light in. The Pantheon in Rome would be a good example.

During the Romanesque period, the oculus became a window and grew larger as architecture moved into the Gothic period. One of the most beautiful rose windows and one of the largest we've seen is at the Gothic cathedral of  Notre Dame in Paris.

Another source said that the window gets the "rose" name from its resemblance to the petals of a rose that radiate from the center. And if you should hear the terms mullions and tracery, you'll know that your guide is describing the bars that radiate from the center (mullions) and the decorative bars that hold the pieces of colored glass (tracery).

As for a deeper meaning to the window, I found only a slight hint at one website that suggested there might be some occult meaning associated with the circle and possibly the number of divisions of any particular rose window that then leads to interpreting the design for its numerical meaning. Makes you want to look around to see if Dan Brown is lurking under the window plotting his next book.

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