Chapelle du Rosaire                                                                                                        page 2


                                                                                  Image above, view from the rear of the nave.

Probably the design for the chapel was inspired by medieval Dominican churches in north-eastern France, which feature high walls deeply pierced by closely grouped narrow lancets. (see below)  The chapel’s rhythmic windows symbolize the prayerful Cycles of Rosary.

The chapel is not merely dedicated to the rosary, it is an architectural rosary encircling its occupants. Hence the name, Chapelle du Rosaire. Building materials oscillate between luxuriant surfaces and sparse simplicity. Moreover, the Carrara marble floors provide a luminous canvas for what Matisse called ‘the music of the light reflections’ from the stained glass arrayed in bold washes of color.

colmar dominican
        Dominican Church, Colmar, France

Matisse found an affinity between Sister Jacques-Marie cloistered life and his art work. ‘I live with my forces directed towards that same spiritual horizon,’ he wrote. ‘My effort differs from yours only in appearance.’ The chapel’s interior is dominated by the inky outlines of two figures: the image of St Dominic was modeled on Marie-Alain Couturier*, and the Virgin and Child was inspired by Sister Jacques-Marie. These two Dominicans made a deep impression upon Matisse’s work in the chapel.





*Marie-Alain Couturier, O.P., (1897- 1954) was a French Dominican friar and Catholic priest, who gained fame as a designer of stained glass windows. He assisted Matisse with the stained glass in the chapel.

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