Swimming in Blue

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under art

2 responses to “Swimming in Blue

  1. Kristi May

    OK, so this is not really a comment about your post, except that your post made me wonder if you’ve read My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok.

  2. Kristi,

    Thank you for your comment. Even if it’s not about my post, it’s related to it. I have not read My Name is Asher Lev, but it sounds interesting. A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Potok’s The Chosen, which is now on my already too long to-be-read list.

    Have you ever read The World to Come by Dara Horn? It’s about a man who steals a Chagall painting from a museum, believing it belonged to his family. Horn, who studied Hebrew and Yiddish Literature at Harvard, weaves Yiddish folk tales into her narrative as she gives the backstory. It’s a delightful read!

    Peace,
    Travis

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