Glass - Back to the Future!

Presenting Author:
Natan Capobianco

article posted 22 March 2016

Natan Capobianco studied chemistry at Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris and graduated in Materials Chemistry, University P&M Curie, Paris. He is currently a PhD Student at Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, Paris.

The colour of stained glasses in the Reims Cathedral

Natan Capobianco1,*, Sylvie Balcon-Berry2, Myrtille Hunault3,
Laurence Galoisy1, Dany Sandron2 & Georges Calas1

The Cathedral of Reims (France), among the first monuments registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most accomplished constructions of the European architecture. It was the place of the coronation of the kings of France over six centuries. Restoration has been carried out almost continuously, since the cathedral was seriously damaged by shelling during World War I.

From 2013 to 2016, the current restoration will concern the rose windows on the western facade. As the rose and triforium have been removed for restoration, for the first time since 1920, we have taken advantage of this opportunity to investigate the cause of their colouration. Due to previous restorations over the past centuries, the western rose contains stained-glass pieces of a large variety of colours and periods (mainly from 13th, 16th and 20th century).

We have used a portable UV-visible-NIR transmission spectrometer (Hunault et al, 2016), to perform a systematic spectrometric and colorimetric analysis on the stained glass just after its restoration, using contactless devices, for allowing in situ measurements. The assignment of the absorption bands and their relative intensity provides unique information about this glass, with special attention to the evolution of glass-making techniques and to the mastering of glass colouring.


1. M. Hunault, G. Lelong, M. Gautier, F. Gélébar, I. Saindou, L. Galoisy, F. Bauchau, C. Loisel, and G. Calas, "Assessment of transition element speciation in glasses using a portable transmission UV-visible-NIR spectrometer", Applied Spectroscopy, Special Issue: Portable Spectroscopy, 70 [5] (2016).

2. Nouveaux regards sur la cathédrale de Reims, under direction of B. Decrock & P. Demouy, Langres, éd. D. Guéniot, 2008.

3. Reims, la grâce d’une cathédrale, under direction of Mgr. Thierry Jordan, Strasbourg, éd. de la Nuée Bleue, 2010


1. Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, Sorbonne Universités, Université P&M Curie and CNRS, Paris, France

2. Centre André Chastel, Sorbonne Universités, Université Paris Sorbonne and CNRS, Paris, France

3. Inorganic chemistry and catalysis group, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands