Tag Archives: stained glass

Chagall Windows

Using the medium of stained glass enables the painter to create intense and fresh colors. “When Matisse dies”, Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.” It was not until 1956, when Chagall was nearly 70 years of age, that he began to design stained-glass windows, first for the church at Assy and then for the Metz Cathedral. One of Chagall’s major contributions to art has been his work with stained glass.

Chagall collaborated with Charles Marq of Atelier Simon in Rheims, France; together they worked on the project, during which time Marq developed a special process for applying color to the glass. This allowed Chagall to use as many as three colors on a single pane, rather than being confined to the traditional technique of separating each colored pane by a lead strip.

French art historian Leymarie writes that in order to illuminate the synagogue at Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem both spiritually and physically Chagall decided that the twelve windows, representing the twelve tribes of Israel as blessed by Jacob and Moses in the verses which conclude Genesis and Deuteronomy, were to be filled with stained glass. This is very traditional, the Hurva synagogue had 12 windows with stained glass for the twelve tribes around the dome and the ceiling of the Chabad synagogue was decorated with illustrations of the twelve tribes. Chagall envisaged the windows as “jewels of translucent fire”. Each of the twelve windows is approximately 3.35×2.4 meters, much larger than anything he had done before. They are probably Chagall’s greatest work in the field of stained glass.

Leymarie goes on to describe the spiritual and physical significance of the windows:

The essence of the Jerusalem Windows lies in color, in Chagall’s magical ability to animate material and transform it into light. Words do not have the power to describe Chagall’s color, its spirituality, its singing quality, its dazzling luminosity…

At the dedication ceremony in 1962, Chagall described his personal feelings about the windows:

For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world. Stained glass has to be serious and passionate. It is something elevating and exhilarating. It has to live through the perception of light. To read the Bible is to perceive a certain light, and the window has to make this obvious through its simplicity and grace… The thoughts have nested in me for many years, since the time when my feet walked on the Holy Land…

You probably notice that there are no photographs of the Chagall Windows accompanying this post. I contacted Hadassah for permission to photograph and was told that I would have to contact an agency in Paris, Société des Auteurs dans les Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, that handles such requests. The ADAGP wants me to pay €7 per image per month, which comes to €84 per year royalties to display one of my photographs on my website. In a quick search for “Chagall Windows” on Google I found 42,700 images that are already online (either ADAGP is bringing in more than €3.5 million per year or these images are not authorized, I’ll let you guess). I suggest that you check some of these images to get some appreciation for Chagall’s stained glass work.

What do Hadassah Ein Karem and Hebrew University Givat Ram have in common? In 1948 the Hadassah medical center and campus of Hebrew University on Mount Scopus built in 1925 were cut off from Israeli held western Jerusalem. For 19 years, a convoy travelled up to Scopus every 2 weeks under Red Cross auspices to exchange people and bring supplies. Consequently, these two institutions are a second hospital and university campus.

Sites around Akko

There are many well-known sites in Israel that are popular, that visitors see again and again while missing out on other hidden gems. Many people have seen the Chagall Windows at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem but far fewer probably know about the stained-glass windows that Israeli artist, Mordecai Ardon designed. Many people have visited Yad Vashem but far fewer have visited Lohamei HaGetaot, a kibbutz near Akko founded by those who fought and survived the Nazis.

Many people are familiar with the Bahá’í gardens in Haifa but far fewer have visited the Bahá’í gardens just north of Akko. The gardens in Haifa comprise a staircase of nineteen terraces extending all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel. The golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, stands on the central terrace, looking across the bay towards Akko. There the gardens at Bahjí reflect the beauty and serenity of the Haifa gardens.

The gardens form a large circle surrounding the historic mansion where Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, lived during the final years of his life after he was released from Acre Prison by the Ottoman Turks and the shrine where he is buried.

Later during the British Mandate period, Jewish resistance fighters were held in the Acre prison and 9 died there on the gallows. Today the prison is a museum and has been recently updated to dramatically retell the story of the Hagana, Irgun and Lehi struggle with the British, definitely worth a visit. There is another less well-known museum to the underground prisoners in Jerusalem in the Russian compound.

The Old City of Akko was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. In July 2008, the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa and Akko were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, in recognition of their “outstanding universal value” as holy places and places of pilgrimage. Like all great works of art, these extraordinary sites are tangible expressions of the human spirit.

One of the striking formations near the entrance is a trimmed hedge in the form of an aqueduct. Many people are familiar with the aqueduct that Herod built, onto which the Romans tacked a second aqueduct to bring water to Caesarea but there is another less well-known aqueduct. Just north of Akko, by Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot is an aqueduct from the Ottoman period built on an earlier one from the Hellenistic period that was built to bring water from the Cabri springs to Akko.

Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot was founded in 1949 by a community of Holocaust survivors, members of the Jewish underground in the ghettos of Poland, and veterans of partisan units. Integral to the kibbutz from the beginning was the Ghetto Fighters’ House – Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum for documenting and researching the Holcaust. The museum serves as a testimony to the stories of the survivors and an expression of the return of the Jewish people to our land.

Beside it is Yad Layeled (Monument to Children), an educational center commemorating the one and a half million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust. The building was designed by Ram Carmi of two main architectural elements: a central 3-story cone and a descending ramp that encircles the cone and defines the path through the space. The space is lit by natural light that enters through a circular stained-glass window on the domed ceiling of the cone that becomes dimmer as you descend until you reach the innermost sanctum and eternal flame.

Yad Layeled gives the visitor an intimate view of the children’s world during the Holocaust and opens a door to their dramatic experiences and pain. It is unique in that it is intended to reach out to young people (ages 10 and up). The other permanent exhibitionis dedicated to Dr. Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish doctor, author and educator who devoted his life to children. Many people visit Yad VaShem but fewer people know about Lohamei HaGetaot. That’s a good reason to hire a guide – a guide can take you places and share experiences that you probably won’t discover on your own.

Ardon Windows

photo, Mordecai ArdonMordecai Ardon (1896-1992) was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Tuchów, Galicia (then Austria-Hungary, now Poland) but lived a secular life. From 1921 to 1924 Ardon studied at the Bauhaus under Klee, Kandinsky, Feininger and Itten. The influence of the Bauhaus and especially Paul Klee on his artistic development was profound. After graduating from the Bauhaus he studied the painting techniques of the Old Masters, especially Rembrandt and El Greco under Max Doerner in Munich. Combining these seemingly contradictory techniques gives Ardon’s colors their depth and richness.

In 1933 he immigrated to Palestine under the British Mandate. He joined the faculty of the newly formed Bezalel Arts and Crafts School in 1935, five years later he was elected director. Through the fifties he lectured at the Hebrew University on art appreciation and was artistic advisor to the Israel Ministry of Education and Culture.

Professor Ronen, of Tel Aviv University in speaking of Ardon said:

Ardon conceived colour as possessing an absolute aesthetic and spiritual value. He therefore always strove to create the most beautiful colours possible, the deepest blue, the warmest red, the most shining yellow, the most saturated green.

Ardon believed in pure art devoid of any political or social message. He believed that a painting should be appreciated and judged solely by its inherent artistic elements, such as colour, composition and their interplay. He rejected literary, symbolic or, indeed, any other additional meaning attributed to a work of art.

Ardon loved colors and ‘pure art’ but filled his works nevertheless with mystical connotations, Jewish symbolism and enigmatic scenery. He was appalled by the horrors of war and injustice and these themes too seeped into his art. Ardon was an artist who chose to use modern, expressionistic and abstract styles, combined with a classic painting technique which created distinctly unique paintings.

As Ardon expressed in a letter he wrote to Willem Sandberg, Director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1960:

… an odd thing happened on my palette: something foreign sneaked into the group of cadmiums, ultramarines and viridiums – it was Jerusalem – ascetic, with a sack over its head.

What is Jerusalem doing amongst the bright cadmiums? How can one scratch it off the palette? Sometimes it can be scared away and hidden behind the ivory black. But in vain – the next morning it settles down again in the midst of the cadmiums…

One cannot get away from it. The alien Jerusalem always gives orders: “Thou shalt”, “Thou shalt not”, like a black woodpecker Jerusalem keeps knocking on your bark – Thou, Thou, Thou. Thou and the orphan, Thou and the widow…

In 1963 Ardon retired and finally was able to focus solely on his artwork. During these years, moving between Paris and Jerusalem, he created eight monumental triptychs – the last ‘Hiroshima‘ when he was 92. One of these was executed in stained glass by Charles Marq (who had collaborated with Chagall 20 years earlier) at Atelier Simon in Rheims, France between 1982 and 1984. A set of three large stained-glass windows (measuring (6.5×17 meters) cover one wall in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, dedicated to Isaiah’s vision of eternal peace with visual elements from the Kabbalah.

And many people shall come and say, “Come let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations and decide for many peoples and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.   Isaiah 2:3-4

Click on the thumbnail above to display a larger image (these are quite incredible stained glass images).

The left panel depicts the winding roads taken by the nations on their way up to Jerusalem, up to the Mountain of the Lord, each road marked with its own language and alphabet (Latin, Greek, English, French, Arabic).

In the central panel Ardon represents Jerusalem, where the city’s stone walls are represented by the Isaiah Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls), a spiritual wall combined with the Kabbalistic tree of the sefirot, a symbol of the mystical divine presence, a merging of the earthly and heavenly Jerusalems.

The right panel is the vision come true, guns and shells beaten and transformed into spades which hover above.

Ardon was considered by many to be Israel’s greatest painter.
For images of Ardon’s paintings check out the website http://www.ardon.com/

Two Churches: Mary and Jesus

Two Churches: Old and New

In the Kidron valley is a church built on a rock cut cave that is the tomb of Mary, mother of Jesus. Through the centuries the cruciform (in the shape of a cross) church was destroyed many times but the facade and wide staircase descending to the tomb is from the Crusader period. On the left side of the staircase a chapel to Joseph, Mary’s husband, on the right a chapel to Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne; Queen Melisende is also buried there. Today the Greek Orthodox Church is in possession of the shrine, sharing it with the Armenian Apostolic Church (the Syriacs, the Copts, and the Abyssinians have minor rights). A niche on the southern wall is a mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca, installed when Muslims had joint rights to the church.

In a courtyard off the Via Dolorosa in the Old City is a small church that reminds me of the Crusader church. The Church of the Flagellation, marks the Second Station of the Cross, where according to tradition, Roman soldiers flogged Jesus and placed a crown of thorns on his head after he was brought to Pontius Pilate. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, rebuilt this church in 1929, in medieval style over ancient ruins. Barluzzi designs churches so that the style and decoration preserve the history and recall the events that happened at the site. The facade has one central opening with a Crusader style pillow-shaped arch that incorporates a crown of thorns. There are 10 icons under the roof, a crown of thorns, two representations of a cat of nine tails (see if you can recognize the others, for example there is an image of a rooster and 3 stars*). The floor is made of small, inlaid colored stones in geometric patterns.

Probably the most impressive part of the church are three large stained glass windows: on the left, Pilate washing his hands of the affair, on the right, the victory cry of Barabbas, in front, the flogging of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns amidst the soldiers. Above is a dome in gold mosaic and decorated with a crown of thorns intertwined with flowers.


Click on the thumbnails above to display a larger image (these are quite incredible stained glass images). Included below is a closeup of the dome.

Near the church of the Tomb of Mary are two other Barluzzi churches, the Church of the Agony at Gethsemane, also known as All Nations and the Franciscan chapel farther up the Mount of Olives, Dominus Flevit. You can contact me about arranging a tour to visit Barluzzi churches including:

  1. St Veronica Church, VI Station of Via Dolorosa
  2. Chapel, XI Station in Church of Holy Sepulcher
  3. Church of Visitation, Ein Kerem
  4. Church of Lazarus, Bethpage
  5. Mount of Beatitudes, Galilee
  6. Church of Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

* Rooster and 3 stars refer to Jesus’ prophecy at Gethsemane that Peter will deny him 3 times before the cock crows