Still Hoping for Peace on Earth

As varied as our backgrounds and beliefs, we likely share the hope of a peaceful future for (wo)mankind. Despite being constantly bombarded with narratives of interpersonal differences and strife, each of us doubtlessly knows individuals who exemplify the good in humanity, or recall instances when someone’s unexpected kindhearted conduct stopped us in our tracks, and made us reflect how we would have reacted in a similar situation. I have often pondered this question ever since the late 1980s, when I first learned about the provenance of the windows at St. Stephen’s Church in Mainz, Germany.

The earliest incarnation of this edifice dates back to the 10th century AD, having since undergone multiple modifications. After vast portions were destroyed by allied bombings in the 1940s, the following decades saw its restoration. I imagine that St. Stephen’s Pastor Klaus Mayer experienced some trepidation when he approached world-renowned artist Marc Chagall in 1973 with the request to fashion stained-glass windows for the church, to replace the temporary clear panels mounted during the postwar years. Russian-born Marc Chagall (1887-1985) had moved to France as a young artist, and after fleeing to the United States in 1941 in the wake of the Nazi invasion of his adopted country, had returned there in 1948. I can’t begin to understand what it took for him to not only forgive the German nation for its genocide of millions of his fellow Jews, but to have the grace and greatheartedness to sublimate his sadness and sorrow into some of the most magnificent stained-glass windows ever created.

To bridge the chasm between Germans and Jews, and between Christianity and Judaism, he chose to depict scenes from both the old and the new testaments. Between 1978, when he was 91, and his death in 1985 at the age of 97, nine windows of his design were produced for St. Stephen’s at the studio of Jacques Simon in Reims. Following Chagall’s passing, his friend and fellow artist, Charles Marq, continued the project, contributing nineteen additional windows. Whereas Marq’s conceptions over time became less pictorial and more abstract, they nonetheless emulated Chagall’s original color scheme and intent.

The exterior of the stately yet not sumptuous church does not suggest the splendor that awaits behind its heavy bronze doors. A deep blue emanating from the windows suffuses the interior and envelops the visitor in its calming, comforting glow. It draws one’s gaze into the distance, while highlighting other colors and figures embedded in the glass. Since first falling in love with the serene, soothing atmosphere of this space, I have returned time and again, either to contemplate in silence, attend a guided meditation, or enjoy an organ concert. No trip to Germany would be complete without setting foot in this structure.

Marc Chagall’s life and legacy inspire. If each of us were to put forth even a modest effort to respect and reach out to one another, regardless of our religious or political convictions, age, skin color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, Peace On Earth would not be relegated to a mere utopian wish, but would become a true possibility.

If this post looks and sounds vaguely familiar, it is because you have read a version of it before. When I thought about sharing my thoughts about the Chagall windows in Mainz after this year’s visit and happened to select nearly identical photos and the same title as I had used for a previous post from December 2018, I decided to simply republish that post, with some slight modifications, changing the former title “Peace on Earth” to the current one.

46 thoughts on “Still Hoping for Peace on Earth

  1. dear tanja, thank you for this:
    If each of us were to put forth even a modest effort to respect and reach out to one another, regardless of our religious or political convictions, age, skin color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, Peace On Earth would not be relegated to a mere utopian wish, but would become a true possibility.
    i agree.
    i just recognzed you have 999 followers. 🙂 congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing the link, Steve. The video gives a nice, compact overview of his life and a sampling of his beautiful art. Not surprisingly, most admirers are partial to his use of blue in his stained glass windows.

      Like

  2. A wonderful reminder of the great artists who give us such beautiful visions to behold. I can well imagine being there in person through your images and words.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I wasn’t reading your blog in 2018, I had not read about the stained glass. So glad you decided to share it again. That is quite a story. And those windows are utterly beautiful. We should all follow Chagall’s example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Laurie, I’m glad this was new for you. Most of us probably don’t remember all the details of what we read 3 years ago anyhow.
      I’m glad you also enjoyed the windows. Regardless of how many times I have seen them, they always cast a spell on me, and I thank Marc Chagall for his gift.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Inese, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we focused on what unites rather than divides us, and if we really tried to do what’s best for the world and all its inhabitants? I keep hoping that we can find a way to do so.
      Sending you warm wishes,
      Tanja

      Like

  4. A wonderful post and message of peace! Thank you for sharing so much of your writing and images this year. May you and your loved ones have a safe and happy, healthy holiday season and New Year ahead.
    My warmest wishes always from Japan,
    Takami

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this outstanding, timely post, Tanja (and for telling me more about Marc Chagall than I’ve ever known before…such shameful ignorance!)

    Your penultimate paragraph says it all: “Marc Chagall’s life and legacy inspire. If each of us were to put forth even a modest effort to respect and reach out to one another, regardless of our religious or political convictions, age, skin color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, Peace On Earth would not be relegated to a mere utopian wish, but would become a true possibility.” Well said, Tanja.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this most touching post and its message really does bear repeating. The beauty of the windows and the story of Marc Chagall and his legacy should profoundly remind us of our common humanity rather than us fixating on what we disagree on and fostering intolerance and hostility. It is sad that the pandemic has not led to compassion for others as one might have expected, but instead divisions real and fomented are growing deeper. It is helpful to imagine the serenity of the church as a healing space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We seem to be living in particularly divisive times, which is very upsetting. I only hope that there are enough people with a different vision for the future of this planet who can affect some positive change.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Art both keeps us grounded (as a species) and helps connect those of us separated by petty differences in thought and ideas. ‘Peace on Earth’ is an easy phrase to say to each other, but will we make it reality through individual actions? Only time will tell. Yes, that beautiful blue hue is calming and the history you captured behind the art is quite compelling. Let’s hope humanity can focus on the simple task of Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward [All] so we can get at a couple of the many difficult tasks behind us. My best to you and yours in 2022, Tanja. Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Liebe Tanja, 1000-Dank für deine wunderschönen Fotos und deine liebevollen Gedanken zu einem nicht ganz einfachen Jahr – “Friede auf Erden” ist sicherlich der größte Wunsch für jeden von uns. Ich wünsche dir ein schönes, frohes Weihnachtsfest voller Zuversicht, Lebensfreude und kreativer Ideen! 🎄🎅🎁🎄
    Alles Liebe für dich….von Rosie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Herzlichen Dank, liebe Rosie. Laß uns weiter auf Frieden hoffen und uns dafür einsetzen.
      Ich hoffe, Du hattest schöne Weihnachtstage und ich wünsche Dir, daß die letzten Dezembertage besinnlich verlaufen und Du gesund ins neue Jahr kommst.
      Liebe Grüße,
      Tanja

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m glad you reposted this, Tanya. I do remember it, but after all: we re-read favorite books, see good movies multiple times, and listen repeatedly to music that moves us. Each time, there are new discoveries awaiting, and new pleasures to be had.

    This post is especially pleasurable. Chagall’s art always has appealed to me, and his windows prove that religously-themed art doesn’t have to be formulaic. As for peace on earth, the phrase always reminds me of the camp song I learned in my earliest years: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Choosing peace in everyday situations and relationships is the first step toward a broader peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love this story–so absolutely timely. What amazing windows. I hadn’t read this blog before, so I am really glad you re-posted it.
    “If each of us were to put forth even a modest effort to respect and reach out to one another…Peace On Earth would not be relegated to a mere utopian wish, but would become a true possibility.”
    Amen to that!
    Happy New Year,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am glad that you reposted this as we did not know each other yet for it’s original date. It’s a fine post as speaks so well of not only forgiveness, as exemplified by Chagall, but the drive for peace between peoples as his intent with the window designs signify. Although I am a pessimist, I do believe that the vast majority of people wish for peace, dignity, respect, and the comfort of fellow humans. Unfortunately the other smaller percent make the most noise and create the most trouble…somewhat simplified, of course.
    Thanks for this post, Tanja. Happy New Year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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