Vanishing Stained Glass

Email by Jason Peter Brown on February 19, 2008
Categories Filed Under: STAINED GLASS, HISTORY

Vanishing Stained Glass Image

Portion of a surviving window from a demolished Carthusian monastery in Belgium, now part of a private collection. Photo © Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune.

I came across an article at the Salt Lake Tribune by Katie Drake called Awe-inspiring stained-glass windows from a Belgium cathedral cast a warm glow on the past. It starts out with the story of an antique shop that has purchased 9 stained glass windows from a Carthusian monastery in Belgium—now demolished to make way for a business "park". The likely fate of the windows is to be sold into a private collection, locked away from public view for who knows how long.

If the article were to end there, it would just be another story of ancient treasures being removed from a faltering public institution into a private horde, but the article continues with some insight into this phenomenon. Elizabeth Peterson, chairwoman of the University of Utah's department of art and art history notes that "the private collectors are the ones who have the money . . . but then these things disappear generally from public view". While it is better that the windows are at least preserved rather than just destroyed along with the surrounding building, there is still a sense of loss–for the building itself (destroyed forever), for the windows (hidden from view) and for the community left with only a business "park" in place of something of real architectural, artistic, cultural and historical significance.