The term stained glass can refer to the material of coloured glass or the craft of working with it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term "stained glass" was applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches, cathedrals, and other significant buildings. Although traditionally made in flat panels and used as windows, the creations of modern stained glass artists also include three-dimensional structures and sculpture.
The term stained glass is also applied to windows in which the colours have been painted onto the glass and then fused to the glass in a kiln.
The design may be non-figurative or figurative; may incorporate narratives drawn from the Bible, history, or literature; may represent saints or patrons, or use symbolic motifs, in particular armorial. Windows within a building may be thematic, for example: within a church - episodes from the life of Christ; within a parliament building - shields of the constituencies; within a college hall - figures representing the arts and sciences; or within a home - flora, fauna, or landscape.