For day 22 of our #KentAdventCalendar we take a look at the magnificent Marc Chagall stained glass windows of Tudeley. All Saints’ is the only church in the entire world to have all of its windows created by Chagall. (There is only one other Chagall window in the UK, in Chichester Cathedral.) I had no idea such an extraordinary artistic treasure existed in Kent… and less than half an hour away from Barnfield House.
An immersion in blue
Stepping inside this diminutive rural church is a surreal and profoundly spiritual experience – an immersion into a world of intense marine blues. I was so lucky to visit in brilliant December sunshine. The breath-taking windows blazed in the light, casting shimmering patterns of blue and gold on the bare walls and flagstone floor. I had the church to myself, and was able to contemplate the windows close up – no museum barriers, no crowds, no sea of mobile phones. Unusually, the windows are at eye level … you are so close, you can trace the marks Chagall made on the glass, his painted signature. An amazing experience!
How did this great Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall come to bestow his art on an Anglican church in the Kent countryside? The story is one of love and loss. The daughter of a local landowner drowned off the East Sussex coast in a dreadful boating accident in 1963, aged 21. Her parents persuaded Chagall to accept a commission for a memorial window for her. When the artist visited in 1967 to oversee the installation of the east window, and saw the church for the first time, he reportedly declared “It’s magnificent. I will do them all.” He did…and they were finished in 1985, the year of his death aged 98. All Saints’ informative website tells the story here.
Even in a county blessed with so many things to do and places to see, the Chagall windows at All Saints’ Tudeley are exceptional. A donation of £3 towards the upkeep of the church is appreciated, and you may also be able to book a local guide in advance (for a £25 fee) to show you around.