Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


The Middle Ages is a period of European history between the decline of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. and the dawn of the Renaissance in 15th century Italy.  The Western Roman Empire ended more or less at the end of the 5th century The Eastern Roman empire, Byzantium, ended basically in the 15th century when the Mores conquered Constantinople and formed an Islamic state at the eastern borders of Europe. But, let’s not forget that the crusaders in the early part of the 13th century contributed to the decay of what was left of the Eastern empire. Glass and history go hand in hand so to say.

Fortunately, there was still something going on in the field of glass making after the western part of the Roman Empire had vanished. The Romans brought their own glass makers with them in the respective settlements. Those glass makers didn’t vanish after the western empire crumbled in what we now call western Europe. It is almost sure that the roman glass makers had local pupils who also learned the trade and took care of the continuity in making glass. In the simple writings about history it is often stated that after the Romans the “Dark Ages” came about. Those “Dark Ages” came to an end with Charles the Great or Charlemagne (742 – 814) and the formation of the Carolingian empire/kingdom.  The Carolingian Empire was a large empire in western and central Europe during the early Middle Ages. It was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty, which had ruled as kings of the Franks since 751 and as kings of the Lombards of Italy from 774.

The Merovingian were a Salian Frankish dynasty that ruled the Franks for nearly 300 years in a region known as Francia in Latin, beginning in the middle of the 5th century.  The Merovingian kingdom was in place from approx. 450 till 750 AC.. The name comes from Merovech a legendary king of de Salish Franks. Clovis the first king (465 – 511) was baptized in the “cathedral” of Saint-Remi and made the Christian religion to the religion of the Merovingian kingdom. The name of the later kings of France (Louis with a “serial” number) is a corruption of Clovis. The French name for Clovis was Hlodovic which sounds when pronounced in French a bit like Louis.  Both pronunciations where difficult to the French as spoken in those days hence the final result Louis.  The later kings always claimed to be descendants of Clovis and many were crowned in Saint-Remi.

Clovis basically united the largest part of Gall north of the Loire. He defeated the Aleman’s close to Zülpichin 496 ( his experiences on the battlefield are said to have influenced his conversion) and the Visigoths at Vouillé in 507 and reigned over a large kingdom. It is even said the kingdom stretched from the present Netherlands to the Pyrenees and across the Rhine in Germany.

All in all, they were basically Franks who adopted the name of Merovech to become Merovingian’s (source Wikipedia). That is the reason that glass from that period is often called Frankish-Merovingian.

During the 1,000 years of the Middle Ages also referred to as the Dark Ages, Europe underwent profound changes. David Whitehouse in Medieval Glass for Popes, Princes, and Peasant the book for the 2010 exhibition at The Corning Museum of Glass divides this period of history into three sections.  The Early Middle Ages from the fifth to the eighth century, the Central Middle Ages starting with the eighth to the eleventh and the Late Middle Ages 12th to 14th centuries. Some scholars refer to Early Middle Ages also as the Migration Period.

Glass from the Early and Central Middle Ages is mostly a story of drinking vessels, bowls, cups, beakers, drinking horns, and bottles.  In the later period drinking vessels start to decline in importance with the rise of stained glass used for the windows of cathedrals. The oldest-known fragments of medieval pictorial stained glass appear to date from the 10th century. The earliest intact figures are the five prophet windows at Augsburg Germany, dating from the late 11th century. At Canterbury and Chartres Cathedrals, a number of panels of the 12th century have survived. Most of the magnificent stained glass of France is in the famous windows of Chartres Cathedral, date from the 13th century.  So important and beautiful are stained glass windows in the Middle Ages that generally, that is all you hear about on the subject of Medieval glass.  Most of the glass vessels produced in the later Middle Ages in northern Germany, the Low Countries, and central Europe were made of transparent green Waldglas or foresglass.  The color came from the presence of impurities (iron oxide) in the raw materials.  This type of glass particularly the Berkemeyer and Krautstrunk evolved in the 17th century into the Roemer.

This blog will concentrate on drinking vessels and the magnificent windows of the Chartres Cathedral near Paris and oldest stained-glass window in the German city of Augsburg.  The examples that follow are from The Corning Museum of Glass, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum, Musee des Art Decoratifs, The Allaire Collection and contributing collectors to this blog.

Parts of this article come from the book written by David Whitehouse, Medieval Glass for popes, Princes, and Peasant,2010 and an article in Glashistorisch Tijdschrift nr.138. By Theo Zandbergen

Click on the photo to enlarge. Read the write-up for each glass (if there is one) by looking up the number with the letter (A,E, or R) or name of glass in the search bar. Search bar is found on the right side at the bottom of, “The Pages”. The search bar is for this blog only and will not take you off site.



There was very little glassware manufactured in Europe between the mid-8th to mid-10th century.  The Carolingian glass below is from  THE MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY IN SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE








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