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During the presentation of the Real Estate Prize 2020, Atelier Mestdagh received an honourable mention from the jury for our excellent craftsmanship. As a stained glass studio, we were responsible for the impressive stained glass windows in the restored St. Nicholas Church in Westkapelle – one of the three laureates. The jury felt that we deserved a prize – and what an amazing prize! – not just for this project, but for the fact that as a family firm, we have specialised in restoring, conserving, repurposing and creating stained glass art for over seventy years.

The St. Nicholas Church in Westkapelle

On 26 March 2013, the iconic St. Nicholas Church in Westkapelle went up in flames during a devastating fire. Six and a half years later (December 2019), the newly restored church re-opened its doors. Besides being an intimate place of worship, it has a multipurpose zone with meeting rooms, a bar and an extendable stage. Atelier Mestdagh was tasked with creating the new stained glass windows.

Atelier-Mestdagh-Sint-Niklaaskerk-Westkapelle- (c) Jurgen-de-Witte-12

Monumental craftsmanship

Manager Katrien Mestdagh produced a full-scale drawing of the design by Thibault Florin (Architectenbureau Bressers). An abstract and simple design that resonates with the modern interior. To implement the design, she and her team then applied the original medieval techniques and used the same materials. The only difference is that the windows are not stained glass.

196 square metres of mouth-blown cylinder glass were cut to size by Atelier Mestdagh. The different pieces of glass were then placed in lead H profiles, which separate the coloured and blank glass. After welding the intersections, Atelier Mestdagh placed the new stained glass windows in the window openings.

With its honourable mention, the jury not only recognises the impressive extent of the project, but particularly the precision and quality of the final result. The stained glass windows in the St. Nicholas Church demonstrate Atelier Mestdagh’s years of craftsmanship and the continued relevance of this ancient craft in our modern society.

Characterful interplay of light

In medieval times, the monumental stained glass windows with religious figures had a didactic appeal to churchgoers. And today, they also have an appeal, albeit in a different way. But that sense of wonder you feel when you watch a ray of sunshine silently piercing the coloured glass and lighting up the space is just as great. ‘That effect can only be achieved with mouth-blown glass. Coloured glass will never create the same intense feeling,’ says Katrien Mestdagh.

Mouth-blown glass is a wonderful material that, through its imperfect, but living structure produces a nice colour gradation when the light shines through it. The design comes to life and transforms the area and the atmosphere.

Atelier-Mestdagh-Sint-Niklaaskerk-Westkapelle- (c) Jurgen-de-Witte-08

Photos: Jurgen de Witte