Based on remains found at Pompeii,
stained glass was first used by wealthy Romans in their villas and palaces
in the first century A.D. It began to be regarded as an art form when
Constantine first permitted Christians to worship openly in 313 A.D., as
they began to build churches based on Byzantine models.
The earliest surviving example of pictorial stained
glass is a Head of Christ from the tenth century excavated from Lorsch
Abbey in Germany. By the ninth and tenth centuries, as the demand for
churches increased so did the production of decorative stained glass
windows. With the advent of Gothic architecture, stained glass flourished
as the expansion of immense window spaces in Gothic cathedrals demanded a
new approach to the medium.
During the Renaissance, 15th - 17th Centuries, artists
began to be patronized by a new wealthy mercantile class. Architecture is
emphasized less as glass takes on a new organic quality. Due to the Reformation
(16th c.), the creation of religious imagery had severe penalties and glass
makers had to seek secular commissions.