All Saints Church, Tudeley
Tudeley TN11 0NZ
Something of a surprise in this unassuming Kentish village, All Saints, Tudeley looks ordinary enough from the outside – a pretty medieval church, much altered in the eighteenth century, with its own peaceful graveyard. You could easily drive by without giving it a second glance. However, this is no ordinary parish church. Head inside and take a moment to absorb what you are seeing – all the church's twelve stained-glass windows are the work of the Russian artist Marc Chagall. Swirling with rich colour, movement and his characteristically folksy flourishes, the windows imbue the place with a sweet melancholy, counterbalanced by their sheer vivacity – whatever your religious beliefs, it is impossible to deny their elemental beauty. The East Window, above the altar, was the first, commissioned in 1963 by Sir Henry and Lady d'Avigdor-Goldsmid in memory of their daughter, Sarah, who had been killed aged just 21 in a boating accident. Soaked in blues and violets, the design is undeniably affecting, evoking not only the rich azure of the Virgin Mary's robes but also of the deep, dark blue of the sea. When Chagall visited the church to see the window he was so pleased by the result that he offered to create all the others, and proceeded to do so over the next twenty or so years until his death. It's rare to be able to experience great works of art so close up and so clearly, in such a peaceful and intimate space – just passing by would be to miss something very special indeed.
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