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January 19, 2011 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Hitler. In stained glass. In France.

A stained glass window in a small church has caused a sensation in France. Unveiled in 1941, it depicts Adolf Hitler executing a saint who symbolizes the Jewish people. Local priests have praised the work as a brave act of resistance against the Nazi occupiers.

In the popular imagination, the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France is associated with heroic acts of guerrilla warfare, such as blowing up bridges or derailing trains. But in one small town near Paris, two artist brothers also resisted the occupation in their own quiet way -- with a politically charged stained-glass window.

Local historians in the town of Montgeron have rediscovered a stained-glass church window that criticizes the Nazi occupation by depicting Adolf Hitler as an executioner. The dictator is shown in the act of killing St. James, who was one of Jesus' 12 apostles.

Although Hitler's distinctive hairstyle can easily be recognized in the portrait, his trademark moustache has been left out. "The glassmakers hid it behind his arm, to avoid any trouble," local priest Dominique Guérin told the French newspaper Le Parisien.

Political Message

The church's stained-glass windows were unveiled in July 1941, during the Nazi occupation. Locals believe that the two artists, the Mauméjean brothers, deliberately depicted Hitler as the executioner of St. James, whom the church is named for, as an act of artistic and religious resistance.

Guérin's predecessor Gabriel Ferone told Le Parisien that the saint represents the Jewish people, as his name in Hebrew has the same etymology as Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Stained-glass windows created by the brothers in other churches also mix political and religious messages, according to historian Renaud Arpin.

Authorities in the town are now hoping that the media attention will turn the church into a tourist attraction. Montgeron is only 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Paris and is easily reachable by train.
posted by bwg (44 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
St. James = The Jews is sort of a stretch, but then again if I said something was a stretch every time I thought it I would have failed art history.
posted by theodolite at 5:53 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know who else is portrayed in a stained glass window?





I'm sorry, I couldn't resist...
posted by awfurby at 6:02 PM on January 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


So who did kill St. James?

And man, is that a story of it's all how you spin it or what?
Authorities in the town are now hoping that the media attention will turn the church into a tourist attraction. Montgeron is only 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Paris and is easily reachable by train.
They say that now, but when the skinheads show up to se Hitler with a sword they'll be singing a different tune.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:03 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Probably no need to copy and paste the entire article into the post.
posted by aaronetc at 6:07 PM on January 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


St. James = The Jews is sort of a stretch

Dude was a Jew.

The Acts of the Apostles record that Agrippa I (Herod's grandson) had James executed by sword.

They Saved Hitler's Pane
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:09 PM on January 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


aaronetc: "Probably no need to copy and paste the entire article into the post"

The article was short, hence "more inside". Probably no need to derail. " )
posted by bwg at 6:11 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's nice and all, but doesn't Hitler look a little too ... heroic?
posted by Paragon at 6:13 PM on January 19, 2011


So who did kill St. James?

Hitler, dude. Look at the photos in the article.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:15 PM on January 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


St. James the Elder being used as an emblem of "the Jews" in general isn't unusual, partly because he was executed by Agrippa I (called "Herod Agrippa" in the New Testament, and in general among non-scholars until quite recently).

The idea, as I recall it from my studies in medieval Christian typology, is that James the Elder is an archetype of the Jews because he is the first-born of the Apostles and was killed by King {Herod} Agrippa, just as the first-born sons of the Jews were killed by King Herod.

I think that Gabriel Ferone is misremembering a bit as to why James the Elder is seen as representing the Jews, though I imagine that someone somewhere elaborated the whole "He's like Jacob!" bit because typology rolls like that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:20 PM on January 19, 2011


So if these stained-glass windows were unveiled in 1941, why now?
posted by crunchland at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2011


Also, the "Hitler = Herod" thing isn't so unusual, either. The whole being an arguably deranged despot who kills lots of Jews business.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


And mother rabbits would tell their kittens that if they did not do as they were told, the General would get them. Such was Woundwort's monument: and perhaps it would not have displeased him. - Watership Down.
posted by SPrintF at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


So if these stained-glass windows were unveiled in 1941, why now?

New pastor who thinks it's interesting, perhaps also new parish council or whoever who want tourism. According to the original article in Le Parisien, everyone in town knows about it, and it has been written up in a national catalogue as recently as 2005.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:26 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


crunchland: "So if these stained-glass windows were unveiled in 1941, why now?"

Exactly what I was wondering. Why is this all of a sudden a big deal? It's interesting and all, but how is it possible this was just now noticed when it's been there for a long time?
posted by Deflagro at 6:30 PM on January 19, 2011


Hitler. In stained glass. In France.

I can't stop hearing it in this voice.
posted by chambers at 6:31 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


how is it possible this was just now noticed when it's been there for a long time?

Well, it wasn't just noticed--that Spiegel article is a bit truncated. It was noticed by the people in town, but nobody else cared much. Now there's a new pastor, who apparently has a stronger gift for PR than his predecessor.

It's a somewhat ambiguous honor, anyway, to have a stained-glass window depicting an ultra-buff Hitler as the executor of St. James the Elder. On the one hand, yeah, it's cool and the Resistance is cool. On the other hand, ultra-buff Hitler, WTF?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2011


Soo is someone going to throw a brick through it?
posted by pwally at 6:37 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


St. James = The Jews is rather a stretch...

I took that not quite as far as that -- more like, "we can't be TOO obvious with this....let's have Hitler executing some single guy rather than a whole lot of people. WE'LL know what it's really about."

"Who should we say that single guy is?"

"Uh...some saint."

"But which one?"

"Oh, who cares?"

"We've gotta pick one!"

"Okay, okay, fine -- uh....oh, say, it's Jim's birthday. Let's say Saint James. Okay?"

"Got it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, back in Montreal, Mussolini still rides in a Little Italy church...
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:50 PM on January 19, 2011


You know who else is portrayed in a stained glass window?

YEA!, MATHOWIE
posted by tustinrick at 6:52 PM on January 19, 2011


Yeah, the hair, maybe, but the nose is all wrong.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Francisco Franco is entombed in one of the largest basilicas in the world.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:10 PM on January 19, 2011


Stupid Sexy Hitler
posted by Flashman at 7:13 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


...now to find 'Whelm' and 'Wave'.
posted by clavdivs at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't get it.
The whole esthetic almost fits into Triumph of the Will. Hitler might have been proud of it.
How is that an act of resistance?
posted by sour cream at 8:02 PM on January 19, 2011


How is that an act of resistance?

The executioner of St. James (especially in a church consecrated to his honor) is the Bad Guy. Especially when he's one of the Herods.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:04 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Godwindow
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:11 PM on January 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


Hitler = Herod is an unambiguous anti-Nazi statement. It's a pretty bad-ass window.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2011


Soo is someone going to throw a brick through it?

Yes, but it will have to be someone without sin, for the first brick anyway.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, but it will have to be someone without sin, for the first brick anyway.

JESUS: (annoyed) Mom!
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:18 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's nice and all, but doesn't Hitler look a little too ... heroic

I think this could go either way, I mean if the gestapo turned up it looks like a monument, when they drive off it's back to being a protest. I mean, wold Hitler object to being pictured as an executioner of the Jews? I doubt it.

It would have been better if it was s stained glass window of Hitler fucking a turtle or something - that would be a protest.
posted by the noob at 8:59 PM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


>>St. James = The Jews is sort of a stretch

>Dude was a Jew.

>The Acts of the Apostles record that Agrippa I (Herod's grandson) had James executed by sword.


Agrippa was also a Jew. In fact, he was the (actual) King of the Jews, and the Talmud views him favourably.

St. James, on the other hand, was one of Jesus' closest pals, later adopted by Christian Spaniards (by means of a particularly eyeroll-inspiring "miracle") as the patron saint of their genocidal Reconquista against the Moors (with considerable Sephardi collateral damage) and a certain Inquisicion, during which any remaining Sephardi Jews were given the choice of conversion, expulsion, or burning at the stake.

So, really, if the analogy has St. James, Patron Saint of Spain, representing Jews, and Hitler in the place of Agrippa, well, it's a flawed analogy at best.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would have been better if it was s stained glass window of Hitler fucking a turtle or something - that would be a protest

Why, that's not just a bad man, son
posted by Hoopo at 9:45 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Local priests have praised the work as a brave act of resistance against the Nazi occupiers.

What? They don't know the definition of so many words in that sentence. Totally wrong.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:06 AM on January 20, 2011


According to the encyclopedia of saints:

James is the patron saint of hatmakers, rheumatoid sufferers, and laborers.
posted by empath at 5:39 AM on January 20, 2011


Downfall parody in 3, 2, 1, ...
posted by _Lasar at 5:45 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Totally wrong.

Let's just say that this needs a whole lot more in the way of backstory. Because, frankly, Resistance was not the first thing that sprang to my mind when I saw this.

Then again, I am nowhere near as subtle as the French....
posted by IndigoJones at 5:53 AM on January 20, 2011


awesome how everyone in this thread thinks they understand religious symbology better than a bunch of nazi-fighting french priests.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of my favourite bits of modern, war-related stain glass is in Sainte Mère Église, in France, up in Normandy. When they rebuilt the church they installed two windows honoring the American paratroopers who liberated the town at the very beginning of D-Day.

The biggest window shows Mary holding Jesus in the heavens with paratroopers descending from the sky into the town. It's an astonishing fusion of symbolic and literal imagery. There's also a more martial window honoring the 25th anniversary of the liberation.
posted by Nelson at 7:32 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think that Gabriel Ferone is misremembering a bit as to why James the Elder is seen as representing the Jews, though I imagine that someone somewhere elaborated the whole "He's like Jacob!" bit because typology rolls like that.

It's because his name was, in fact, Jacob. (James is the Anglicised version of Jacob.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:34 AM on January 20, 2011


Maybe the U.S. can parachute some Little Leaguers in and they can hit a baseball through that window.
posted by Kabanos at 10:07 AM on January 20, 2011


Soo is someone going to throw a brick through it?

UGH. FINE.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:30 AM on January 20, 2011


Best use of the Hilter tag.
posted by Eideteker at 2:26 PM on January 20, 2011


Maybe the U.S. can parachute some Little Leaguers in and they can hit a baseball through that window.

C'mon. The Americans can do better than that. Like this, for example. Or this.

Hooray for the senseless destruction of history!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:29 PM on January 20, 2011


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