The Abbell Synagogue in Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem is not the most obvious place to find world-class art. But it is the site of incredible stained glass windows created by artist Marc Chagall in 1962. The chapel itself is small and plain, but the light filtering through the colorful windows casts brilliant hues across every surface.
Chagall was born in 1887 to a poor Hassidic family in Belarus, but when his natural artistic talent was spotted he was sent to study under Leon Bakst in St. Petersburg. His artistic style is influenced by contemporary Russian artists but has a naive touch. Chagall went on to live and work in Paris from 1910 to 1914 where he painted some of his most famous works.
Here he developed some of his trademark style including the dreamlike quality, and simplistic images infused with religious symbolism and Jewish folklore. His work often features nostalgic images from his time growing up in a Jewish shtetl. During WWII, in 1948 he fled France for America and his work began to express his horror over the Jewish massacre in Europe. He worked in many artistic mediums including painting, ceramics, and tapestry.
Chagall has previously visited Israel for the opening of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 1931. And in 1962 he created and donated the twelve stained glass windows for the Hadassah Medical Center. Among Chagall’s most famous works are murals at the New York Metropolitan Opera, the ceiling of the Opera House in Paris, and a glass window at the United Nations building.
The twelve stained glass windows depict Chagall’s love for the Jewish people through religious symbols, Biblical scenes, and scenes from 20th-century Jewish history. The windows were inspired by Jacob’s blessings on his twelve sons, and Moses’ blessings on the twelve tribes of Israel. Each window has a specific theme, color, and quote from the biblical blessings.
It took Chagall and his assistant, Charles Marq two years to complete the project. Marq created a special way of applying color to the glass which allowed Chagall to use three colors on each pane of glass, rather than the traditional method of separating each color with a strip of lead.
The Hadassah University Medical Center is on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem and shouldn’t be confused with Hadassah Ein Kerem, Ein-Tal Hadassah, or the Hadassah Medical Ramat-Gan. The synagogue is open to visitors Sunday to Thursday 8:30 am to 4 pm, and is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
To see the Chagall Windows please join Jerusalem Private Tour.