Yesterday I visited historic St. Stephen’s Church in Mainz, Germany where there are nine stained glass windows made by the famous Russian-French artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985). It wasn’t my first time there, but it never ceases to make an impression. Enter the church and you’re swimming in luminous blue light. Here’s a YouTube video, which doesn’t do it justice but gives you an idea nonetheless:
These windows are an important symbol of Jewish-Christian and Jewish-German reconciliation, because Chagall and his family had to flee Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Chagall’s friendship with the former pastor of the church, Klaus Mayer, induced him to undertake the project, even though he was over ninety years old.
There’s another kind of reconciliation in Chagall’s art, which mixes avant-garde styles with traditional religious belief. Chagall combined the bold colors of Matisse and the cubism of Picasso with biblical themes he knew intimately from his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Modern art is not inherently atheistic. For those who think it is I have one word of rebuttal: Chagall.