Art Travelling: the Chagall Chapel

A remarkable discovery: a tiny chapel full of stained glass by Marc Chagall in the deep countryside

afternoon light falls on the Chagall Window, All Saints’ Church, Tudeley, UK 

Marc Chagall is one of the most genuinely spiritual of the early 20thC European artists. Born in White Russia (Belarus) in 1887, Chagall portrayed the Jewish villages of his childhood as places of dream and fantasy – though in reality they were subjected to regular pogroms by the czarist state and local bigots. Though Robert Hughes called Chagall “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century” – and he probably is – the painter himself was not limited to one faith or culture but held a broad humanistic vision that had spirituality at its core.

So when my good friend Natasha Redina invited me to accompany her to the tiny hamlet of Tudeley in the South of England to see only church in the world to have all its twelve windows decorated by Chagall, I immediately got excited.

All Saints’ Church, Tudeley, UK 

Initially, Sir Henry and Lady Rosemary d’Avigdor-Goldsmid commissioned Chagall to make one window as a memorial to their daughter Sarah, who died in 1963 aged 21. The d’Avigdor-Goldsmid family were British Jews, who distinguished themseves in the First and Second World Wars and in charity and finance. When Chagall saw the church for the first time, he was excited by the way the light fell in the tiny chapel and said “I will do all of it!”. Chagall created the windows in collaboration with the glassworker Charles Marq at Reims in northern France. The installation was completed in 1985, just before Chagall’s death.

All Saints’ Church, Tudeley, UK 

The chapel is a wonderful example of ecumenical spirituality and an even more superb example of giving something bountiful to the world in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. Because of this the chapel is a very special place, and you can feel it as you enter.

All Saints’ Church, Tudeley, UK 

When we went, the weather had been truly vile for a week, raining daily and nothing but cloud. But on the morning of our trip, I awoke to bright sunshine. The sun remained with us all day, so we got the full benefit of the stained glass. Stained glass is wondeful because it only comes alive when there is light. Bright sun or bright moonlight, but nothing else. And we got it! The very next day, the rain and gloom was back! Luck, or what?!

Natasha Redina’s stained glass:

All Saints Church Tudeley

all photos ©GillianMcIver please do not use without permission