Delve Deeper - Marc Chagall Window

Many visitors to Chichester Cathedral come just to see this beautiful window. It is the result of the combination of the inspiration of Walter Hussey (Dean of Chichester 1955-1977) who suggested the theme of ‘The Arts to the Glory of God’, and the interpretation of Marc Chagall (1887-1985) who, as a Jew, realised that Psalm 150, which urges the readers to...

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”

Psalm 150

...was a perfect illustration of this theme.

In 1969 Dean Hussey, inspired by the strong colours of Chagall’s windows in the Hebrew Medical School in Jerusalem and in the church at Tudeley in Kent, approached the artist who had visited Chichester, and asked him if he would design a window for the Cathedral. At that time Chagall was too busy, but Hussey contacted him again in 1975; this time Chagall accepted the commission.

The window was manufactured in the studio of Charles Marq (Rheims, France); it was unveiled by the Duchess of Kent and dedicated by the Bishop of Chichester in October 1978. Many people regard it as the crowning achievement of Hussey’s time at the Cathedral.

Chagall's Window & Psalm 150

Chagall's design is a brilliant visual interpretation of the great song of praise which we know as Psalm 150.

The window contains all the musical instruments mentioned in the psalm, from the Jewish harp played by King David at the top, to the strings (bottom left) and the trumpet (bottom right). There is also a reference to literature: a creature on the extreme right (fourth section down) is holding a book, whilst two figures (centre left) hold aloft the seven-branched candlestick. 

A number of animals and birds appear in the window, perhaps representing members of God’s kingdom who join in the praise.

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall grew up in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, in a world which was destroyed by the Nazis only to blossom afresh in the free air of the Western democracies. Drawing his inspiration from Jewish religious life, and especially the mystical Hassidic sects that flourished in his home town of Vitebsk, Chagall inspired - and continues to inspire - men and women of all faiths to a greater spirituality and to an understanding of the beauties of creation and the ineffable majesty of the Creator himself.

Chagall & Stained Glass

One of Chagall's particular skills, and perhaps the medium in which his work will remain best remembered, is his work in stained glass. Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester, saw the windows that he created for the synagogue of the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem at a special exhibition at the Louvre in 1960. They inspired him to commission Chagall to create a window for the Cathedral. The hospital windows and the Cathedral window are the only glass by Chagall which are predominantly red; his preferred colour was blue.

The Chagall window in Chichester Cathedral and the window in the church at Tudeley, near Tonbridge, are the only Chagall glass in Britain. At the grander of the two locations (Chichester) there is a single window, whereas at the country church (Tudeley) there are twelve. 

The creation of the window was not without problems, as the 88-year-old Chagall did not speak English and all communication had to be translated by his wife; and in fact the completed window was not dedicated until after Walter Hussey had retired as Dean. 

Psalm 150

Praise ye the Lord.  Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.  Praise ye the Lord.