Stained Glass at Night
Or: “Daddy, why is it ever dark?”
It’s a wonderful, heart-lifting sight to espy a church at night, its windows glowing from the light within.
But you must be outside with darkness all around you for this to work.
Otherwise of course the stained glass windows are dull and lifeless.
I say “of course”.
But it still upsets my friend, a successful novelist, who now knows better.
In an early book she wrote, it’s the night before Christmas …
The winter sun has long since set.
Her hero steps inside a church.
But somehow – somehow! – her editor did not think it strange that inside the church (inside!) the hero is enchanted (yes, I bet he was) by the stained glass windows which “glowed like rubies” and cast their coloured light along the length of the aisle.
A miracle indeed.
Or maybe a nearby power plant in meltdown.
But – it is an interesting question:
Why ‘should’ stained glass windows glow at night?
Why do they stand out like this?
Why – and here is the heart of it – why is the night-sky black?
It is not a stupid question. As you know, space contains an infinity of stars, many as bright as our sun, many of them far brighter …
So why is there any darkness at all – “in between” the stars?
This is important.
Because if there weren’t darkness, your windows wouldn’t glow at night. And nor would mine.
Very sad, I’m sure.
So tell me: why do you think the sky is dark at night?
I have an 8-year old daughter: that’s why the question was on my mind.
(Trickier questions will come, I’m sure.)
Do you know the answer?
You see, the answer is: it isn’t.
I mean, the night sky isn’t dark at all. Not even in the wildest, furthest, blackest countryside.
It’s not black or even ‘really’ dark at all.
Yes, and our eyes can’t see it.
Here’s the science – but I’m sorry, it happens so fast that even native English speakers will sometimes struggle to keep up.
All the same, this is wonderful.
It’s the reason why your stained glass glows at night:
Thank goodness we can’t see infra-red.
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