Fribourg Stained Glass of the 16th to 18th Centuries

The stained-glass windows of the early modern era surviving in Fribourg Canton formed the subject of a research project conducted under the aegis of the Corpus Vitrearum over a number of years. Of the more than 400 works from this period, only a minority are still to be found in the locations for which they were originally intended. Certainly among the most impressive in situ survivals are the cycles to be found in the parish church at Barberêche and the chapel at Pérolles. At Meyriez there are still three roundels dating to the start and to the middle of the sixteenth century. The parish church at Remaufens and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows at Le Buth (Lessoc) house small series of windows dating from 1660 to 1680, while unique heraldic windows survive at Crésuz, Vuisternens-en-Ogoz, and La Corbaz. More than half of the works studied for the project belong now to Fribourg’s Museum for Art and History (Museum für Kunst und Geschichte, Musée d’art et d’histoire, (e-collection MAHF). The remaining stained glass is either in private hands, or belongs to public collections, namely the museums in Bulle, Gruyères, Morat, Romont, and Fribourg (the Civic Museum).

Fribourg, which from the start has been the pivot point between Switzerland’s German and French cultures and their languages, enthusiastically adopted the Swiss custom of donating armorial windows and other stained glass from the end of the fifteenth century. These pictures in glass, which is extremely effective as a medium for images, were donated by cantons, ecclesiastical institutions, secular organizations, and private individuals as part of construction projects. They played an important rôle in reinforcing the identity and solidarity of the Swiss confederation, and their impact cannot be underestimated.

For the first time ever, it was possible to investigate in greater depth the canton’s 145 glass-painters and glaziers. While only a minority of their works are signed or attributable on documentary evidence, it became possible to ascribe the vast majority of these works to specific glass-painters, such as Rudolf Räschi, Heinrich Ban, Christoph Heilmann, Sebastian Schnell, Johann Wäber, Jost Hermann and Leontius Bucher. Through research it also proved possible not only to cast light on the works themselves, but to establish the locations for which they were intended. These glass-painters deserve to stand alongside other masters of Swiss glass-painting.

Apart from the city and its communes, donors of glass in the canton were prominent in ecclesiastical and conventual hierarchies, and were also to be found among private individuals. The numbers of extant heraldic windows donated by citizens leave us in no doubt as to the enthusiasm with which the custom of donating glass was adopted. These donors came principally from the civic patriciate (that is, the upper classes who, owing to familial and political affiliations, occupied governmental and administrative cadres), and to a lesser extent from the numbers of middle-class artisans and the rural population. As a result, stained-glass windows provide significant evidence for the social relationships among the inhabitants of Fribourg Canton and between them and those in authority.

The catalogue section of this publication has been available in its entirety via the vitrosearch platform since July 2018.

Uta Bergmann

Project duration

Bergmann, U. (2005). Les vitraux du château de Gruyères de 1480 à 1568,Patrimoine fribourgeois, 16, 52–60.

Bergmann, U. (2009). „Gemalt fenster und glasmaler“: Die Sitte der Fenster- und Wappenstiftung in Deutschfreiburg. Freiburger Volkskalender, 100, 97–102. Retrieved from http://doc.rero.ch/record/305266/files/Freibuger_Volkskalender-2009.pdf
Bergmann, U. (2014). Die Freiburger Glasmalerei des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts. Le vitrail fribourgeois du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle, Corpus Vitrearum Schweiz, Reihe Neuzeit, Band 6. Bern: Peter Lang.
Complete inventory published on vitrosearch (416 entries)

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