Marc Chagall Windows, Reims Cathedral
“The central window evokes the history of Abraham and the last moments of the Earthly life of Christ (the Passion and the Resurrection), that is, the foundations of the Old and New Testaments: the sacrifice of Abraham heralding that of Christ. The rose window represents The Holy Spirit.
The window on the left expresses the prophesy of the Old Testament. It depicts the Tree of Jesse, linked to the genealogy of the Virgin, under whose patronage the Cathedral is placed. From the side of Jesse springs the branch giving birth to the kings of Judah, of which Chagall portrayed only Saul, David and Salomon. The rose window represents a certain number of prophets announcing the coming of the Messiah.” description via
While conceived and executed centuries after the building and many of the other windows in the cathedral, and following a very different style than others in the same space, these windows depict very common subjects for sacred stained glass and indeed, use exactly the colors employed elsewhere throughout the cathedral. The last piece of work installed during Marc Chagall’s life, these windows beautifully represent harmony with the faith handed down from our forebears, along with the continuing revelation of the Holy Spirit, making the windows themselves an icon, in addition to their holy subject matter.
As a bit of a dissonant chord (there were many such throughout Reims cathedral, liturgically-speaking, I’m afraid), you see above the juxaposition of the glorious Marc Chagall windows (part of the apse program at Reims) and in the next chapel, a paper sculpture–to advertise the building campaign. (because true beauty is not sufficient enough to merit support on its own?) God, save us.
Please, gentle readers, scroll back up to the windows; let them be your final glance and memory of this post…
Thank you for this wonderful post. What is interesting to me, besides the absolute beauty of the windows, is the fact that Chagall was Jewish. One art historian (Lewis) stated he had two reputations: one as a pioneer of modernism and a second as a major Jewish artist. He also did windows for the cathedral in Metz, France as well as windows for the UN, paitnings for the Paris Opera House and the Jerusalem windows in Israel. The conrtibutions of Mr. Chagall further enforces the enigmatic interrelation of Judaism and Christianity. You simply cannot not have one without the other.