What is a Rose Window?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as a Catherine window, the rose window is a circular window that is found in many houses of worship and other buildings that are built in the Gothic style. The inner portion of the window is normally segregated into different sections. When stained glass is used in each section, the window often depicts a design that is intended to represent a particular event in religious or secular history.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

There are a number of different designs for the rose window. One of the most basic examples is known as the spoke window. This configuration gives the window an appearance that is very similar to that of a spoked wheel. The sections in the design are uniform in size and taper down to a central hub that is found in the middle of the window itself.

Rose windows designed for use in Christian cathedrals and churches are often constructed with the use of stained glass. Rose stained glass windows are sometimes positioned over pulpit or chancel areas, or at a location overlooking the congregation from the back of a sanctuary or chapel. Patterns vary, with some rose window pattern options focusing on images that depict some event recorded in Christian Scripture. At other times, the cathedral rose window is designed with an intricate pattern that incorporates various Christian symbols but does not depict a specific event.

Over the years, it has become more common for the stained glass rose window to be used in other types of construction. Home and office buildings that are utilize design elements that are considered Gothic often make use of the window in areas such as stairwells and landings. The window may use a simple mixture of stained glass or even make use of clear glass panes that are arranged in the traditional wheel design. It is not unusual for the rose window to be included as both a design element and as a practical way to allow natural light into the space.

The exact origins of the rose window are not clear. There are examples dating back to the 8th century that are very much like what came to be known as a rose window in the 17th century. Those examples sport the circular nature of the window and also utilize sections that are very similar to the more popular designs used in churches in later centuries. As one of the most enduring of all classic window designs, the rose window is still used with new construction today.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


There are modern churches that have rose windows in them, but I don't like them as much as the older Gothic rose window examples. They often just are not nearly as elaborate. or interesting to see. They're still often pretty, though.


I visited Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England, and it has many beautiful examples of church rose windows. Even though it was built in the 12th century, Lincoln's stained glass patterns and other designs are still really lovely to see. I would recommend it to anyone heading toward northeastern England.

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