After working for a glass studio in New York in the early 1960s, he helped install his first window at the Washington National Cathedral in 1966 and never left. He remained the cathedral’s principal stained-glass window fabricator until his death March 9 from brain cancer at his home in Reston. He was 72.
He built and installed more than 60 of the cathedral’s 231 stained-glass windows, including its largest and most dramatic: the rose window above the western entrance. The window, which was designed by Rowan LeCompte, is an abstract representation of the moment of creation, with an explosion of vivid hues radiating from a central point of pure, white light.
Mr. Goldkuhle fitted together more than 10,500 pieces of glass at the studio in his Reston home, securing the window panels inside an intricate framework made of lead. He smelted the lead himself.
Balanced on scaffolding high above the cathedral floor, he installed the window — which measures 25 feet, 11 inches in diameter — one segment at a time. It took more than two years, from start to finish.
“He said it was a one-in-a-thousand-lifetimes job,” his son Andrew Goldkuhle said last week.
“He was an amazing craftsman,” Joe Alonso, the mason foreman at the Washington National Cathedral, said. “He had this patience, this careful, almost loving approach to his work.”
When the rose window was dedicated on Easter Sunday in 1976, Washington Post architecture critic Wolf Von Eckardt declared it “surely one of the masterpieces of Christendom.”
Some pieces of glass in the window are more than an inch thick. To create a more brilliant dispersion of light and color, Mr. Goldkuhle chipped them with a chisel, as if carving facets on a diamond.
“The effect is that of a magnificent jewel rather than merely a window,” Von Eckardt wrote.
Dieter Heinrich Goldkuhle was born Nov. 30, 1938, in Wiedenbruck, Germany, a town known for its crafts. Some of his ancestors had been woodcarvers, others had worked in stone. His father ran a company that supplied glass to the furniture and home-building trades.
Young Dieter became an apprentice glassworker at 16 but left the family business when he became enchanted by the mystery of light filtering through church windows.
He trained in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and England in the 1950s and early 1960s, learning the ancient craft of stained-glass windows from master artisans. He used hand tools — hammers, glass cutters, knives — that had scarcely changed in centuries and collected glass the way other people collect coins or art.
During his long apprenticeship, Mr. Goldkuhle learned about ecclesiastical architecture and began to understand the mystical way that thin panes of colored glass, set within thick stone walls, could transform a shaft of sunlight into a manifestation of a higher spirit.