Chapter 1

FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT - The Origins of the Rose Window

Additional material

 Page 38: more oculi

Page 57 St Denis and Sens west

 Page 64: Les Vaux des Cernay

  Page 74-5: Mantes & Chalons

 Page 44: window tracery

 Page 58 Bristol, St.James

 Page 66: Worms Cathedral

 Page 82-83 Chartres N - more details

Page 49: Cordoba 'ambo'

 Page 60 Byland Abbey

 Page 67: Braine, St Michel etc   

Page 55: York & Beverley Minster 

 Page 61 Kirstall et. al.drawings

Page 72: Laon and Guignicourt


Page 56: Beauvais, St Etienne

 Page 62-63 Cistercian Spirit

 Page 73: Precy & Donnemarie  

Page 38 More Oculi

 Some churches seemed to have preferred oculi even though the rose window had become well established; as, for example, at Arceuil where some of them (on the north side) are original to the building). At Chalons a pair of cusped oculi an be found in place of rose window on the south transept.

Cefalu Cathedral, early C12

Chalons-en-Champagne, Notre Dame en Vaux (late C12)



(North side)

Champeaux; note the bricked in oculi above the nave arches!

Page 44 More examples of early tracery

Early forms of window tracery.

Kaiouran and Khirbat

St Julian de los Prados




Khirbat-al-Mafjar (Jericho)

c.730 AD

Page 49 An ambo similar to that in the Cordoba museum:-

This one was in the mosque:-

And this one in the museum:-

Page 55 York and Beverley Minster

It is interesting to compare these two mid-C13 rose-wheels from the same area of north Yorkshire:-

York Minster, S transept

Beverley Minster S transept

Page 56 Beauvais, St Etienne

Some earlier engravings of the Beauvais wheel of fortune show more complete figures around the wheel:-

... and the mayor being inaurated beneath the wheel

Page 57 St Denis rose and Sens west facade

The St Denis west rose - often referred to as the first rose window - is a nineteenth century construction. It is possible that the window drawn on the west front by Scamozzi when he passed the abbey in 1600 was the original, although we know that by 1640 it had disappeared as an engraving from then shows a clock has taken the rose's place.

Scamozzi's drawing

St Denis in 1641

St Denis in 1780

St Denis today

It is possible that the rose in Scamozzi's illustration was on the west front when it was dedicated along with the two western bays on June 9 1140; [the choir on June 11 1144]. Reconstruction began on the building again in 1231after Suger's death (1150) and was finished in 1281. The transcepts and upper portions of the choir were redone by Pierre de Montereau although it seems that Suger's church was never completed.

There was a fire in the west tower in 1219 that might have affected the rose window. The building was subjected to 'the insanity of the mobs' after the Revolution and in 1792-6 became a Temple of Reason and was roofless (or leadless!) in 1793-4. It then became a depot for grain and flour, but Napoleon subjected it to some over-restoration in 1805. The north tower was rebuilt by Debret, but overloaded it and it began crumbling in 1846. Tyhe west front has been severely desecrated by restoration - many figures received moustaches and beards - including the Virgin Mary at some point! Violet-le-Duc worked there from 1847 to 1879. His plans to rebuild the facade to something more harmonious with the C13 were thankfully not carried out due to lack of cash (This included two spires) although the rose window was rebuilt along with its added four sacred creatures. [See Sumner McKnight Crosby "L'Abbey Royal de Saint Denis"]

The facade at the cathedral o fSenlis dates from around three decades after St Denis:-

Page 58 Bristol, St.James and Patrixbourne

The window on the facadeof St. James, Bristol as it is today and as it was in the nineteeth century.

Bristol, St James

Bristol, St James in the C19

Bristol, St James

In addition to Barfreston there is the wheel-rose at nearby Patrixbourne


Page 61 Drawings of:- Kirkstall, Elgin, Byland, Fountains, Guisborough

For an account of the reconstruction-drawings of these windows see Stuart Harrison's publications.

Page 62-63 The Cistercian Spirit

The continued Cistercian interest in rose windows and oculi can be seen at Valmagne. Founded originally as a Benedictine monastery in 1135 it soon converted to the Cistercian way. A great Gothic church was built between 1257 and the end of the century, with 3 rose windows; a 32 foot west rose, now filled in and repierced with a lancet window; there was also a north rose also filled in and repierced, but remains of the rose's outer layer of tracery indicates 8-fold geometry with quatrefoils; the south rose is filled in, but no tracery remains. Large empty oculi fill the cloisters (as at Frontfroide) each above a set of three pillars creating four openings; some of the oculi are lozenged shape with remains of tracery.

Page 64 Les Vaux des Cernay

The abbey at Les Vaux was originally founded in 1118 and there are some remains of pre-1147 work. The rose, with a diameter of 6.8m, dates from 1180-90 [a.t. Aubert (1943)], although the building was badly damaged by fire in 1193. It was then enlarged in 1235-47 under its Abbot, later Saint, Thibault. The flanking pierced oculi can also be perceived as at Fountains Abbey and kirkstall [see S Harrison, 1995]. There is a similar rose at Notre Dame d'Aulps:-

Notre Dame d'Aulps

Page 66 Worms Cathedral, Westchor

The rose with an oculus above - and one on each side - of the 'Westchor' was added in around 1220: originally the westchor was built 1171-81, but had to be stabilsed. A model of the 'Romantische' window shows how it was before the west end was 'narrowed' to accommodate the twin butresses:-

Page 67: Other members of the Braine, St Michel-en-Thierrarche, Mons set include:-

Sta Creus

El Pla de Sta Maria - St Ramon




Etampes, Notre Dame

Mezy Moulin


Page 72: Laon and Guignicourt

The rose at Guinicourt is said to be of medieval age and of about the same time as the north rose at Laon, of which it is a simplified copy:-

Page 73: The Cistercian Influence; Précy, Donnemarie and Vercelli

Exterior view of Precy-s-Oise:-

(It would be interesting to have confirmation that the rose has always had eleven-fold tracery!)



Donnemarie, East end

Donnemarie, East end


Page 74-75 Mantes, west facade and Chalons-en-Champagne, Notre Dame en Vaux

The rose on the Mantes facade

Notre Dame en Vaux, Chalons-en-Champgagne west facade

Both dating from just after the Laon west window, i.e. soon after 1205

Chartres North - more details