Windows, light and a view are self-evident parts of contemporary interiors. This was not the case in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages (c. 1050–1520 CE), when closed spaces without wall openings were standard. Windows fulfilling modern needs and regulations, providing rooms with light and a view, did not come into common use until the 18th century, and in some contexts even later.

The perception of light and darkness, and of what is understood to be light or dark, is changeable – as are people’s sensorial experiences and their definitions of the senses. The provision of as much light as possible has not always been the most desirable quality in buildings, even in rooms provided with windows. The importance of and need for light have varied a lot over time and in different situations. During the Middle Ages, light openings were used in a more distinct and direct way, to meet specific requirements – not to provide rooms with an ambient level of light. Looking at the use of lighting equipment during the same period, it seems that both daylight and artificial light were used in similar, more specific and situational ways. When it comes to a view, this was not something that was expected in any room, or from any window, during the medieval period.

An overall purpose with the thesis is to discuss how people have related to windows, light and lighting inside buildings during the Middle Ages, both in Sweden generally and in the two regional research areas of Gotland and Uppland in particular. One of the starting points is that the materiality of windows and the use of artificial light were closely bound up with people’s perceptions of and attitudes to light in indoor environments. 

In addition to past approaches to light and darkness, the thesis also discusses how windows and light were used in different contexts, what sorts of lighting conditions and contact surfaces between outside and inside they created, and how the use of windows interacted with the relationship between outdoor and indoors.

The primary medium for this study is the material design and placement of windows. The source material consists mainly of standing buildings, archaeologically investigated building remains, and finds of window glass and lighting aids. Lighting equipment and window glass preserved in other contexts, mainly churches, are also considered, as are written sources and medieval images.

The thesis contains six chapters, including an introduction and concluding discussion. Of the four central chapters, two are thematic, discussing windows and lighting from a long-term perspective, and two present in-depth regional studies of Uppland and Gotland respectively.