The idea for an electronic stained glass window for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine emerged in a talk by William Irwin Thompson before the Lindisfarne Association at the Cathedral a few years ago. The story of this fantasy has been recounted elsewhere . The materialization of an actual window, as originally imagined, would be part of the completion of the South Transept of the Cathedral, which is also just a dream at this point. It would be a large, circular collage of transparent computer screens, that is, an electronic rose window. Some possibilities for the computer graphic animations to be projected by the proposed window were demonstrated by a concert of visual mathematics and music in the Cathedral Church, entitled Cathedral Dreams, on October 17, 1992. This was part of another Lindisfarne Association meeting, during which we attempted to motivate the window project, in the context of the plan to complete the entire Cathedral, including the Cathedral Bioshelter and the South Transept, within the Green Cathedral concept. Here. based on that presentation to the Lindisfarne Fellows at the Cathedral, is the historical matrix for electronic stained glass in the rose window of the future.
2. Early stained glass
We are all familiar with stained glass windows, abundant in secular and religious buildings all over the world. Always uplifting, it seems natural that they should be a standard feature in places of worship, from caves to cathedrals. And yet, the manufacture of stained glass plates is sufficiently recent that we may trace the entire life of this phenomenon in a short space. Colored glass was known in ancient Egypt, and clear glass plate windows were used by the Romans since 100 AD . By the year 400, the Christian churches of Constantinople were extensively decorated with small windows of colored glass, probably abstract mosaics . These small, Byzantine, stained glass windows reached Ravenna by 540, where they appeared with painting added to the glass . They arrived in England by the year 1000 . But in Early Christian and Byzantine churches, windows were small and few, to preserve the maximum wall area for mosaic pictures . The small, round, stained and painted glass windows of the Romanesque achieved the quality of jewels of light .