An Everywoman Mary in May

Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954) Rosary Chapel in Vence

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) Rosary Chapel in Vence

At the beginning of May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary, Fr Ian writes:

I find some of the piety, imagery and prose about Mary of previous (and even current) generations difficult to connect with. For me it is often too exotic, and distances Mary far away from people today.

St John Henry Newman observed that thinking about Mary must be repeatedly translated into contemporary forms if it is to continue to be meaningful. I would take Newman to mean not only intellectual thinking but also artistic and spiritual thinking, and imagery.

This May we will present four different modern (post 1900) images of Mary here on our church blog to help stimulate thought and devotion. We are also inviting people to post other modern images of Our Lady in our church facebook group during May.

We begin with a deceptively simple image by the French artist Henri Matisse, from the exquisite Rosary Chapel (1951) at Vence, north of Nice.

The Chapel was a labour of thanks and love. A Dominican nun, Monique Bourgeouis, nursed Matisse through a serious illness and in thanks he designed The Chapel of the Rosary for her order.

In contrast to many images of Mary, Matisse shows Mary not holding her son but rather offering him to the world.  Matisse, renowned for his use of colour, is here restrained. The image is blank yet profound. Here is an ‘Everywoman Mary.’ Matisse designed the chapel so that light entering the stained glass windows opposite enlightens the image. It is as if Mary, representative of women, surrounded by the clouds, peacefully and gently holds her son before us in the simplicity of the heavens.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
This entry was posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Art, Catholic, Christian, Christianity, Mary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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