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The Medieval Art Industry

Aug 13, 2023


(4 min)

Created around 1250, the small stained glass panel "God and the Tree of Knowledge" most likely illuminated a cathedral in Troyes, France. To the faithful, its depiction of Christ in the Garden of Paradise would have recalled biblical teachings, and its brilliant sunlit colors might have evoked the Holy Spirit. But this jewel-like fragment and others like it were energy hogs. Stained glass was in great demand in the Middle Ages, and manufacturing it required large quantities of sand, wood ash and powdered metals melted at extremely high temperatures. According to one estimate, the European glass industry burned through roughly 13 million tons of firewood between 1250 and 1500.

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