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Exquisitely crafted and effortlessly ethereal, 

stained glass windows

 have been prevalent in places of worship for centuries. Though often associated with Gothic cathedrals, the colorful panes can be found in a wide array of religious sites, from mesmerizing mosques to modern churches.

Here, we take a tour of some of the most fantastic famous stained glass windows across the globe, from medieval masterpieces to contemporary creations. While the dazzling pieces drastically range in scale and style, each one possesses the ability to transform an earthly site into a transcendent kaleidoscope of colors.

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Photography by Joe Elliott via flickr

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Courtesy of Gilmanshin via Shutterstock Royalty-free stock photo | My Modern Met

Sainte-Chapelle

Described as the “jewel of the Rayonnant Gothic period,” Paris’s stunning 

Sainte-Chapelle 

was built in the 13th century by King Louis IX. Initially intended to house precious relics, Sainte-Chapelle is particularly renowned for its collection of 15 windows. Measuring nearly 50 feet in height, each monumental window depicts a sparkling interpretation of a biblical scene rendered in gem-like tones and impressive detail. In addition to these vertical masterpieces, the medieval chapel is also celebrated for the rich tracery and kaleidoscopic colors of its rose window.

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Photography by DeFacto via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

King’s College Chapel

Throughout the late 15th and early 16th centuries, a beautiful Gothic chapel was erected in the University of Cambridge’s King’s College. In addition to mesmerizing fan vaulting and a painting by Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens,

 King’s College Chapel

 is famous for its treasure trove of narrative windows. The iconography featured in the splendid panes incorporates both religious and royal motifs and illustrates the artistic advancements of England’s late Gothic period.

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Courtesy of TripDeeDeephoto via Shutterstock Royalty-free stock photo
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Courtesy of OPIS Zagreb via Shutterstock Royalty-free stock photo

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque

The 

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque

, a 19th-century place of worship in Shiraz, Iran, is a breathtaking example of Islamic architecture. Featuring a façade decorated with a row of ornamental stained glass windows, the “Pink Mosque” offers worshippers a sunlit spectacle every day at dawn: as the morning light shines through the panes, it illuminates the interior’s rose-colored tiles and patterned Persian carpet with an enchanting array of vivid colors.

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Photography by Jordi via flickr | My Modern Met

La Sagrada Família

Designed by master of modernisme Antoni Gaudí in the late 19th century, 

La Sagrada Família

 is one of Barcelona’s most famous destinations. On top of its whimsical towers and mesmerizing mosaics, the ever-growing church is known for its fantastic stained glass windows. Capturing the “expressivity and grandeur” of Gaudí’s vision, the multicolor windows range in shape and color scheme, making the basilica’s avant-garde interior even more eye-catching.

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Photography by Nick Harris via fickr

Rosary Chapel

Nestled in Vence, an idyllic commune in southeastern France, the 

Rosary Chapel

 was designed by modern artist Henri Matisse and built between 1943 and 1949. In addition to its minimalist spire and mosaic decorations, the tiny chapel features spectacular windows reminiscent of the artist’s famous series of cut-outs. Each work of art features strong color contrasts and bold forms that, when illuminated by the sun, put a transcendent twist on Matisse’s signature abstract aesthetic.

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Courtesy of Evgeny Murtola via Shutterstock Royalty-free stock photo

The Grossmunster

The Grossmunster

 is an 11th-century Protestant church in Zurich, Switzerland. While the church was built in the Romanesque style—an approach known for its thick walls and subsequently small windows—it boasts a beautiful selection of stained glass. These spectacular windows were added in the 20th and 21st centuries, and include striking pieces by Pop Art icon Sigmar Polke.

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Courtesy of Daniel Parks via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

The Chapel of Thanksgiving

The 

Chapel of Thanksgiving

 is a non-denominational building in downtown Dallas, Texas. Built in 1976, the site was designed “to promote the concept of giving thanks as a universal, human value.” The contemporary chapel celebrates this idea through a striking stained glass spiral that appears to change color as it twists toward the sky.

This story was originally published on My Modern Met.

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Courtesy of My Modern Met