The science of light and our cultural heritage


About the research

Last year, we all witnessed how the Notre Dame de Paris was almost completely destroyed by a fire. While the magnificent stained-glass windows survived the inferno, they suffered damage and need to be repaired. But how can you repair such historic artefacts, of over 900 years old? That's where the 'science of light' comes in, as Mathilde Patin (VUB - B-Phot) explains in this video.    

Mathilde Patin

Did you ever wonder how we can date and authenticate a glass window? Onside of art historical studies, scientific methods can be applied. To retrieve the dating and origin of glass works, completely non-destructive analyses are required. Photonics, the science of light, emerged as a key enabling technology in this field. Light behavior (absorption, transmission and reflection) depends on the material. Mathilde Patin is using these light properties to study glass windows from the 15th c. to the 17th c. in the frame of her PhD, inserted in the FENESTRA project (

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