I remember the first time Melissa told me about All Saints’ Church Tudeley. I could scarcely believe this fantastic story about how a world-renowned artist came to design and paint the windows of a tiny church in Kent. Marc Chagall was commissioned by Sir Henry and Lady Rosemary d'Avigdor-Goldsmid to design a window in memoriam to their daughter Sarah who had died in a sailing accident off Rye at the age of 21.
The east window is the first thing you see when you enter All Saints’ Tudeley and it depicts the tragic events surrounding Sarah’s death. Although initially reluctant to go ahead with the commission, it is said that when Chagall arrived at the church for the installation of the window in 1967, he exclaimed “c'est magnifique! Je les ferai tous!” (It's beautiful! I will do all!) and thus insisted on decorating the remaining eleven windows.
Look! Chagall’s signature on the window! He signed all the windows!
There is something quite thrilling about seeing original pieces of art, especially if you view collected works or attend a retrospective, but this experience was especially awe-inspiring. Here we were in the very location where Chagall intended these works to be displayed, in the place that inspired him so, to witness his epic tale of creation; death and new life; and joy and hope. Chagall relied heavily on symbolism and we certainly took our time as we made our way around the church. These were some of my favourite windows.
Chagall was a Hassidic Jew from the Russian town of Vitebsk which now lies in modern day Belarus. Many of his works focused on Old Testament stories but Chagall came to be fascinated with the process of painting on glass (or “painting in light” as he called it) and he decorated windows in synagogues, churches and museums across Europe, in the USA and in Israel. All Saints’ Tudeley proudly declares to be the only church in the world with all its windows decorated by Chagall but you can also find one of his decorated windows at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Chichester, Sussex.
And if the beautiful windows haven’t convinced you, then perhaps I can tempt you to visit All Saints’ Church, Tudeley with some photos of the churchyard and Kent, the Garden of England.
Kent has a rich hop farming heritage and in this area you will see oast houses, the distinctive Kentish buildings specifically designed for drying hops in the brewing of beer. Most oast houses have been converted into houses these days but hop farming still goes on in Kent.
I don’t think I’ll ever see a scene like this and not be thankful that I live in Kent.
Quirky English pronunciation alert! ‘Tudeley’ is pronounced Tood-lee which my American readers probably got right but I bet everyone else was saying “Choodlee”. All Saints Tudeley is open every day during daylight hours.
It took me a long time to visit All Saints’ Tudeley and it is not easy to get to. The Transport for London Journey Planner site says it’s not possible to reach on public transport but that is not true. You can catch a train from central London to Tonbridge and then the 205 bus towards Paddock Wood. Honestly, it might be best to visit by car because there is so much to see in this fantastic area and we had a super lunch at nearby Hop Farm (let me just say, best pizza ever).
I recently figured out that if more than two of you are travelling, it can actually be cheaper and easier to hire a car if you’d like to explore Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire or any of the counties surrounding London. Simply plug your postcode into a site like Momondo and hire a car for a day.
All Saints’ Church
Website: All Saints Tudeley