Saturday, November 16, 2013


I often feel my life has been one serendipitous event after another.

Serendipity...that word comes to mind so often lately. I looked it up for an official definition. According to Wikipedia - Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; a fortunate mistake. Specifically finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it. The word has been voted one of the ten English words hardest to translate. 

If I ever rename my blog it will have to involve that word...Serendipity.

A simple visit to a rather small church in Mainz, Germany can really set one to thinking about a lot of things. 

Opening the door to walk inside St. Stephan's Church I was at first surprised to hear a mass taking place. I had checked the church's schedule ahead of time and thought I had come well before the first mass scheduled for the day.  The priest was starting communion so I decided to sit in the back row of pews and wait to walk around after the service.

 This church has a beautiful pipe organ...and it over flows the space when it is playing. Every....every single window in the church is predominately brilliant blue in color. With the sun shining outside the colors of the windows was intense. I was quite envious of the people who regularly worship in this beautiful place.

My poor iPhone just can't handle photos of backlit windows.  I don't think photos could capture the what I saw or felt anyway. I borrowed a few photos from the Mainz website. This is wonderful photo because it captures the blue cast the interior of the church has from the colored windows.

Marc Chagall,  a Russian Jew who pursued his art in Paris from 1923 to 1941, often dealt with religious subjects in his art to include Christian symbols. He was a contemporary peer of  Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. With the Nazi occupation of Paris, Chagall fled to America.

How did Chagall come to create the windows for St. Stephan's Church in Mainz, Germany? 

According to an historian of Johannes Gutenberg, John Mann,  Mainz was once the "capital of European Jewry," containing the largest Jewish community in Europe. Starting in the 9th century, many Jews traveled up the Rhein river to settle in Mainz.  In the 10th century there was a "golden age," with Mainz serving as a central area for learned rabbis. With the turn of Christianity to the Crusades the Jewish population started to experience the violence of religious hate which plagued the Jewish people for most of the following centuries, leading to the ultimate devastation of the Jewish Mainz population during WWII.  Most of Mainz was heavily damaged from bombings in WWII and the rebuilding of the city spanned into the 1970s. The Monsignor of St. Stephan Church was a friend of Chagall and he approached Chagall about creating windows for the church which was mostly destroyed from the war. The collaboration of the windows was done with the hope of building and showing support for Christian and Jewish relationships in Germany.  Chagall had created windows for several churches in other countries but this is the only German church with his artwork.

At the age of 91, Chagall created the first of nine windows in 1978 and his last with his death in 1985. The rest of the windows with a simpler look that line the main body of the sanctuary, were completed by another artist who had worked with Chagall for 28 years, Charles Marq.

Back to Serendipitous thoughts.

I have never had a great appreciation for most modern art...I find modern art always needs explanation. It looks it took no skill to throw together. I remember Chagall from my Freshman Humanities class but it wasn't until this summer when I "stumbled," onto a Chagall exhibit while checking out the gardens around Luxemburg Palace in Paris this summer that I learned about the use of brilliant blue that he introduced into his work as a result of his living in Paris...and the color came to dominate his later works.  The official descriptions of St. Stephan's church emphasized the blue color's feeling of tranquility and peace.

 I definitely get that peaceful feeling being surrounded by that blue color. Looking through the eyes of a 50-something person is quite different than an 18-year-old.

I have a lot to think about...and thankfully...mostly about the many wonderful surprises I have...almost everyday.


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

the windows are gorgeous. If I lived near a great cathedral I would go to church just to gaze at the windows and listen to the pipe organs - I haven't been to one in years. thanks for the history surrounding this church -

Donna quilts said...

What beautiful windows! And such an interesting story of how they came to be. I must agree with you, looking through the eyes at 50 something is definitely different than at 18!