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The first step in the restoration of a medieval stained glass window is the evaluation of its degree of degradation. This implies the study of the chemical composition of the stained glass as well as the new mineral phases developed on its surface (patinas). Patinas are clearly related to glass composition, time, environmental conditions, microenvironments developed in local zones, bioactivity, physical and chemical factors, etc. This study was carried out on patinas developed in selected Na-rich stained glass of the Santa Maria de Pedralbes Monastery (Barcelona, Spain). The location of this monument in the city (about 5 km from the shoreline and close to the Collserola hill flank) helped to determine the environmental conditions in which patinas developed. The aim of our study was to characterize the patinas formed on the surface of the selected glass of this monastery in order to understand the role of the chemical composition of the original glass (Na-rich) as well as the environmental conditions in which they developed. Powdered samples of two different color-type patinas (ochre-orange and brownish) were collected in the external and internal parts of the stained glass windows of the Prebystery and Chapter House of the Pedralbes Monastery by using a precision (odontological) drill. These patinas were subsequently analyzed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). XRD analyses evidenced the presence of sulfates (gypsum and thenardite), calcite, Ca-oxalates (whewellite and weddellite), and quartz forming part of the patinas. Although these mineral phases can be found in both color-type patinas, whewellite and thenardite are more common in the ochre-orange patinas. The results obtained were validated by the FTIR measurements. It has been observed, when thenardite is present, that gypsum occurs as traces. Thenardite is in most of the cases associated with whewellite and mainly occurs in the internal parts of the glass. In contrast, weddellite is limited to the absence of thenardite and whewellite and to the external parts of the stained glass. Quartz is present in all the patinas independent of their location and color. Calcite also occurs in many samples. It appears in both color-type patinas and, in some cases, is associated to the presence of weddellite but not to whewellite and/or thenardite. Glass composition together with environmental conditions and location of the patinas (internal or external parts of the stained glass window), as well as the provenance of the glass within the monastery, are the main factors that define the development of the new mineral phases. Moreover, the action of microorganisms, when present, can also strongly influence the development of some mineral phases. For example, the formation of calcite in the external parts of the stained glass (associated with the presence of oxalates) is related to the action of microorganisms. When calcite is formed in the internal parts of the glass and it is not associated with the presence of Ca-oxalates, an inorganic origin can be invoked. The presence of weddellite requires a very humid microenvironment with very little exposure to sunlight. In fact, this mineral phase has only been observed in the external parts of some glass located in the humid and shady side of the monastery. Whewellite (which only appears in the internal parts) needs a low degree of relative humidity. It has been observed that sulfur precipitating in basically one mineral phase (thenardite or gypsum) depends on the microenvironmental conditions of the moment and the glass composition. When thenardite occurs, it can be maintained that the original glass is of Na composition. The occurrence of quartz in all samples is interpreted as being due to the deposition of atmospheric particulate matter. The color of the patinas can be originated by different processes (presence of carotenes, organic pigmentation, atmospheric contamination, etc.). In the case of moderately weathered stained glass windows, the combination of XRD and FTIR techniques is very useful to obtain a fast preliminary evaluation of the degree of weathering of a stained glass window. The presence of specific mineral phases in the patina (e.g., thenardite) confirms the Na composition of the original stained glass. This is important since Na-rich glass underwent a lesser degree of weathering than K- or K-Ca-rich glass. However, their absence cannot preclude other possibilities. It has been extensively evidenced through time that environmental conditions play an important role on the formation of the different mineral phases which form part of the patinas. The first step in the restoration of a stained glass window is the evaluation of the degree of deterioration of the glass. This evaluation includes a chemical analysis of the glass as well as a characterization of the patinas developed on their surfaces. The obtained results will be essential in order to define the best restoration practices to be followed.


Meritxell Aulinas, Maite Garcia-Valles, Domingo Gimeno, Jose Luis Fernandez-Turiel, Flavia Ruggieri, Montserrat Pugès. Weathering patinas on the medieval (S. XIV) stained glass windows of the Pedralbes Monastery (Barcelona, Spain). Environmental science and pollution research international. 2009 Jun;16(4):443-52

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PMID: 19104870

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