Rocked on up to “La Gallerie” the other day, a very fine Italian restaurant in the Gaustrasse shadowed by St Stephan’s church and nodded to the folks at the adjoining table.
“Don’t you see who it IS?!” hissed Ms jb
“Who?” I said.
“If you’d quit doing your owl impersonations all the time and read the NEWSPAPERS, you’d know that it’s Monsignore Mayer, the priest from the Stephanskirche who talked Marc Chagall into creating the new windows after the war”
“Oh” I said.
Ms jb kept surreptitiously eavesdropping throughout the meal, very resistant to my suggestions that she ask him politely to confirm her assumptions.
So when they were about to leave, I said “May I ask you a question? Would you be the person whom we should thank for the Chagall windows?”
He started hum-ing and ha-ing and looking faintly embarrassed until one of his party said “Perhaps I might be permitted to answer on his behalf? In a word – yes”.
I just said “Thank you. You have no idea how much pleasure and tranquility you’ve gifted me and others”
Which kicked off a most enjoyable conversation which ranged from the challenge of first approaching Chagall to the proven pyschotherapeutic effects of the colours in the windows and the fact that he’ll be 90 in a few weeks.
Then I mentioned that I just HAPPENED to have my camera with me and that I just HAPPENED to be a member of City Daily Photo and could I perhaps portray him for a post?
He very graciously agreed.
There appears to be little – if any – documentation of Monsignore Mayer in English (shame on thee, Stadt Mainz…), so here’s a brief summary:
Born in Darmstadt in 1923 as the son of a Jewish father (which put him full in the cross-hairs of the 3rd Reich). He was able to game the system to complete his high school studies in Mainz (barely escaping deportation in February 1945) and was ordained as a priest in 1950. He was appointed to St Stephan in 1965, was instrumental in its rebuilding after the war and convinced Marc Chagall – to the surprise of many – to work together with him to create a symbol of German-Jewish reconciliation and St Stephan as a church of peace.