Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
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Ordo Fratrum Minorum

At the Heart of the Stained Glass: the Tree of Life

At the Heart of the Stained Glass: the Tree of Life


“And now, on this blue expanse, rises, as above an ocean, the Tree of Life. It occupies the central space of the stained glass window, writes Éloi Leclerc. It’s a huge multicolored bouquet. Its impetus and deployment, as well as the abundance of its foliage and the diversity of its colors, make it a hymn to life. It symbolizes creation as a whole, in its dynamic unity and prodigious fertility.”

The image of the Tree of life in the Bible is at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, where the Garden of Eden is mentioned: “Yahweh God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden” (Gn 2:8-9). This tree, which man was deprived of as he left the Garden of Eden, will be given back to him in the new Jerusalem as mentioned in Revelation: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life set in God’s paradise.” (Rev 2.7) “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yeilding its fruit every month. Leaves on the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22, 2)


The original human couple.

“Chagall placed, in the heart of the Tree and carried by him, the original human couple: the first man and the first woman. It does not constitute a separate reality, external, it is an integral part of this burst of life symbolized by the Tree… The human couple and not the lonely man: the man and woman turned towards each other, forming together the image of God, witnesses and subjects of the Love from which sprang the world and life.” (Éloi Leclerc)

This huge stained glass is presented as a big multicolored bouquet, around and inside which gravitate several scenes of peace in the Old and New Testaments. From left to right we see the Entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, the Crucifixion, the Good Samaritan and the Sermon of the Beatitudes. On the right, the character, who reads and meditates on the biblical message of peace, is overcome by Isaiah’s vision, and crowned by three major elements of the Jewish faith: the Torah (tables of the Law), the Menorah (the seven-branch lampstand) and the animal of sacrifice. The Tree of Life is the manifestation of this union of the two testaments.

“This Tree,” writes Éloi Leclerc, “carries us, too, in its impetus. The breath that shakes its foliage lifts and inflates our chest. It is the blood of the whole universe that flows and beats in our arteries. This is the Tree of Life that Chagall gives us to contemplate. He does so by drawing inspiration from the Bible.”

Let us bless the Lord, on this feast of St-Francis of Assisi, cantor of creation. During this beautiful fall season, the trees are ablaze with colours: Praised be you, my Lord, through all the trees of the Earth and especially through the Tree of Life!


Marc Chagall : The stained glass of the Tree of Life (1976) at the chapel of Cordeliers (Franciscans) of Sarrebourg.