Marc Chagall’s Stained Glass Windows Lure the Crowds Big Time

Mainz city’s claim to fame is being Germany’s wine capital and home of the printing press. However there is another major draw card that lures the crowds big time to Mainz. This place is listed as the No. 1 attraction on Tripadvisor. The attraction are the incredible Marc Chagall stained-glass windows in St. Stephan Church.

In fact, 200,000 tourists flock to this church every year! They come en-masse to witness Chagall’s beautiful creations!

St. Stephan Church, Mainz Germany
St. Stephan Church / Photo by pilot_micha (CC BY-NC 2.0)

St. Stephan Church also called Stephanskirche

Located on a hill in the old city of Mainz is St. Stephan, a lovely Gothic church. It was founded over a thousand years ago. However, it’s Gothic architecture is from the rebuilding in the 1300s, which took over 45 years to complete.

Even though the architecture of this church is still very much as it was in the Middle Ages, the church has gone through turbulent times. In 1857 an explosion decimated the church badly. In World War Two, the church again was bombed and badly damaged. Since then, this church has been under a continual state of restoration.

Despite these two events, the altar table from the 13th century and large tabernacle from around the 1500s survived.

Convincing Chagall to Create Something For Germany After WW2

In 1973, the pastor of the church, Klaus Mayer, contacted Chagall asking if he would create stained glass-windows for his church in Mainz, Germany.

For a long time, Chagall refused. Father Klaus Mayer told the New York Times that Chagall didn’t want to have anything to do with Germany after WW2. But Klaus Mayer did not give up. Mayer understood how important and significant the message would be, if Chagall, a Jew and an internationally renowned artist, would take on this project.

Finally Mayer convinced Chagall to take on this commission. Chagall understood that this project would reflect both a renewed friendship between France and Germany and an important reconciliation between the Jews and Germany.

Unbelievably, Chagall was 91 years old when he received this commission!

Marc Chagall Stained-Glass Windows in St. Stephan Church
Marc Chagall Stained-Glass Windows in St. Stephan Church
Image by erge from Pixabay

Chagall’s Stained Glass Windows in St. Stephan

This was a challenging commission for Chagall. Firstly, Chagall needed to create a modern set of windows that would fit in perfectly with the 700 year old Gothic building.

Secondly Chagall was Jewish. For Chagall it was an emotional project that he hoped would heal his own emotional wounds of the Second World War. His hope was that the windows would transcend religious themes and radiate the spirit of friendship, harmony and reconciliation.

As Klaus Mayer gazes at Chagall’s beautiful windows, he shares this beautiful message:

“Colors speak directly to our way of life, because they tell of optimism, hope, joy of life”,

The nine stained-glass windows for this church started in 1978 and finished in 1985. They are stunning. They send the message to all who view them that Christianity and Judaism share the same heritage.

The beautiful, vibrant, blue-dominated windows depict various biblical scenes from the Old Testament. They portray the stories of Adam and Eve in Paradise, Abraham, Moses and the ten commandments, David and many other biblical motifs.

One of the nine Chagall Windows
One of the nine Chagall Windows in St. Stephan Church
Image by erge from Pixabay

Chagall also includes stories from the New Testament, such as Mary cradling baby Jesus and a grown-up Jesus wearing a crown on the cross.

All these windows are made with bright shades of green, yellow and red that contrast beautifully against the Chagall signature brazen blue background.

The Windows Created By Chagall’s Glasswork Master, Charles Marq

Chagall was commissioned to create windows in the apse only. However, he became so involved in the project, that he offered to continue working on additional windows for the transepts and aisles.

“For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world”

Marc Chagall Quote

Shortly before he died, he left clear instructions to his longtime associate and friend, the glasswork master Charles Marq, to finish the remaining windows.

Marq completed nineteen additional windows after Chagall’s death. They are less ornate but still beautiful with the complimentary bold blues that Chagall always used in his stained-glass windows.

The windows completed by glasswork master Charles Marq
The windows completed by glasswork master Charles Marq
Photo by Manu Dreuil (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Walk to the Church! The Views Are Worth It!

Walk along the historical streets of Mainz to the stone stairs that will take you to the back of the church. It is a lovely scenic route. Along the way you will view many beautiful buildings from the medieval period.

After you climb up the of stairs, you arrive at the church. Once inside, just sit and gaze at these awe-inspiring windows. Photographing is allowed!

Close up detail of one of the  Marc Chagall stained-glass windows
Close up detail of one of the windows

Opening hours:

From March to October: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

From November to February: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4:30 p.m.

Masses: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.; 1st Tuesday in the month, 3 p.m.; other Tuesdays, 9 a.m.

Cost: Free. A donation box inside the church asks for 1 euro to help with church upkeep.

For more information, press here.

Interested in more information about Chagall? Check out my other articles

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