What do the stained glass windows tell us?

The low windows usually make room for twenty to thirty panels, the unfolding of which, scripted like a comics trip (left to right, bottom to top) allows viewers to follow the images like a story, rich in anecdotes and twists. There are stories from the Old Testament (Creation, Noah, Joseph), parables from the Gospels (Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son) and apocryphal accounts about Mary (Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin). Some windows appeal to heroic episodes drawn from the history of France (Saint Rémi, Charlemagne), local hagiographies (Saint Lubin) and testimonies from recent events (Saint Thomas Becket).

However, the main part of the program is taken from the life of the saints, of which Jacques de Voragine compiled a few decades later: apostles (Paul, Thomas, Jacques, André…), martyrs (Stephen, Vincent, Pantaléon…), hermits (Paul and Anthony of Egypt) or prelates (Nicholas, Germain d’Auxerre…).

See: The complete inventory of glass windows on the lower level – Theme / Donor / Iconography (pdf – French)

See: Numbering of the windows (pdf – French)


Conversely, the upper windows of the triforium display a procession of prophets and saints, their gaze already turned towards eternity. Their style is that of our posters.
These colossal figures, intended to be seen from the ground, participate in the heavenly Jerusalem that the edifice wishes to evoke: a ‘hedge of honor’ opening to divine glory.

See: The complete inventory of high canopies – Figure / Donor / Modifications (pdf – French)


Three roses complete the narrative and monumental canopies and show how stained glass has gained the ascendancy over stone in less than twenty years:

The west rose is the oldest. The tracery – black with the effect of the backlight – remains present. The scenes describe the Apocalypse: the angels sound their trumpets and awaken the dead, who are swallowed up by Leviathan or welcomed into Abraham’s arms. Apostles and Evangelists surround the Christ of the Last Judgement.

The south rose, offered by the family of the Count of Dreux, represents the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse, around Christ of the end of time.
Below, the four evangelists are perched on the shoulders of the prophets Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah: “We are dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, seeing beyond those who carry us but without whom we would see nothing.

The north rose, offered by Louis VIII and Blanche de Castille, manages to transform the entire wall into a stained glass window, filling the spandrels of the coats of arms of France (gold lily on a blue background) and of Castille (gold castles on a red background). The light tracery, using diamond medallions with a rare creative sense, highlights the colors with warm tones. We see the Virgin Mary surrounded by the kings of Judah and the prophets.
Below, four ‘prefigures’ of Christ resonate as an announcement of his future coming: Melchizedek, Solomon, David, Aaron.