Materiales de Construcción, Vol 53, No 270 (2003)

Weathering effects on materials from historical stained glass windows

M. García-Heras
Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Metalúrgicas (CENIM), CSIC, Spain

C. Gil
Fundación Centro Nacional del Vidrio. Real Fábrica de Cristales, Spain

N. Carmona
Fundación Centro Nacional del Vidrio. Real Fábrica de Cristales, Spain

M. A. Villegas
Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Metalúrgicas (CENIM), CSIC, Spain


A selection of materials (stained glasses, lead cames, support elements and putty) from historical stained glass windows of different periods (13th-19th centuries) have been studied. Optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry and X-ray diffraction were used as characterization techniques. Degradation of historical stained glass windows is due to the particular chemical composition oftlie materials used for their production: stained glasses, lead network, metallic support elements and refilling putty. However, the presence of a given chemical composition is not the only factor involved in the degradation process. It is necessary the occurrence of other external factors that contribute to the development and progress of alteration problems in the materials mentioned above. The presence of gaseous pollution in the air produces a negative interaction with the surface of the stained glass windows materials. Firstly, the stained glasses and the grisailles begin a dealkalinisation process and a silica gel layer is formed during the early contact between the glasses and the wet environment. After that, insoluble salt deposits and corrosion crusts are formed as a consequence of a deeper chemical attack which results in a depolymerisation of the glass network. The lead cames and the metallic support elements are also altered by weathering. Such materials are oxidized and both pits and crusts appear on their surfaces. The transport of ions and other substances from the corrosion crusts of the metallic elements gives rise new deposits upon the stained glasses, which could intensify their own degradation processes. The putty experiments a noticeable shrinkage and cracking. Likewise, adverse environmental conditions favour the transport of putty substances towards the other materials of the stained glass window, thereby increasing the crusts thickness and adding elements that contribute to the total alteration of the stained glass window.


: weathering; historic stained windows; glass; corrosion

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