Sunday, March 22, 2009


Church Windows

Union Church of Pocantico HillsYou wouldn’t think it, but the unassuming little church to the right (click to enlarge) houses some of the greatest art treasures of the Hudson Valley.

The church is the Union Church of Pocantico Hills, and it’s the small, neighborhood church that the Rockefeller family attended when they were at their “country home”. When you’re a Rockefeller, you can spend lots of money on anything you choose. And what the Rockefellers chose was to spend money making their church beautiful. In particular, to buy stained-glass windows for it.

They commissioned the windows, actually. From Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall; maybe you’ve heard of them?

Matisse was a friend of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and he did the rose window at the request of her son, Nelson (maybe you’ve heard of him, too: he was the U.S. Vice President for a while, under Gerald Ford). It was the last piece that Matisse did before he died.

The Chagall windows were done at the request of Nelson’s brother David, in memory of their father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. They’d initially planned only the largest, The Good Samaritan (the one visible on the right side of the photo), which opposes Matisse’s rose window. In the end, though, Chagall did eight smaller windows, as well, four on each side of the church.

Read David Rockefeller’s recollection of the commissioning of the windows in the link above.

And they’re beautiful. I love the colours and the designs. Chagall is a favourite of mine, in general, and I stop and visit these windows once or twice a year.

You can, too: they’re open for viewing from April through December, church schedule permitting. If you’re in the area, they’re worth a stop. And you can take a walk in the nearby Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

[Classical music fans may recognize this entry’s title as the name of a set of pieces by Ottorino Respighi. Best known for his Pines of Rome set, Respighi wrote a number of thematic pieces for orchestra, including Fountains of Rome, Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions, and Ancient Airs and Dances.]

1 comment:

Marcy Webb said...

I like the architecture of churches. Especially stained glass windows.

My brother and I traveled to England and Scotland in 2006. We visited Cambridge on our 8 day tour. There is a church which has stained glass windows, designed by Peter Paul Ruebens. There is also a round church - one of four in England. On very limited time, my brother and I opted to see the round church. Ha, ha. Perhaps one day, we'll get back there to see the Ruebens stained glass.