Rosary Chapel by Matisse

Rosary Chapel by Matisse

The Rosary Chapel by Matisse is together with the cathedral in the old town Vence’s biggest attraction and one of Henri Matisse’s greatest masterpieces.

The rosary chapel in Vence by Henri Matisse
Matisse’s masterpiece – The Rosary Chapel in Vence

The Rosary Chapel is famous for the stained glass windows

The white rosary chapel by Matisse is famous for its stained glass windows that reflect a myriad of exquisite colors on the white marble floors. Visit the chapel on a day where the sun is shining, and you get all the beautiful light in through the beautiful painted windows. Matisse used only three colors: yellow, green and blue. Yellow symbolizes the sun’s light and God, green symbolizes nature and blue symbolizes the Mediterranean, the sky and the Madonna.

Colorful windows in the rosary chapel in Vence done by Henri Matisse
The intense and colorful windows in the Matisse chapel in Vence

Matisse lived in the city himself and was responsible for everything from architecture, furniture and not least his painting work. The painting work that combines the artistic and the spiritual is a lasting proof of Matisse’s genius. It all took four years (1949-1951), and the work was done in gratitude to the Dominican nuns who had helped him over a serious illness. He started working as a 77 year old and he died 3 years after its completion. He regarded it himself as the masterpiece of his life, the result of a lifetime’s search for the truth.

Matisse moves to Vence

In July 1943, Matisse moves to Vence in fear that Nice, where he has lived for many years, would be bombed during World War II. He stayed at Villa Le Rêve, where he lived until 1949.

The Rosary Chapel – a building across art and faith

During his stay in Vence, Matisse reunited with sister Jacques-Marie, who was his nurse and night nurse in September 1942 after a serious operation in 1941.

She lived in the Lacordaire home not far from “Villa Le Rêve”. In addition to being a model for him, their friendship also became the starting point for what was to become one of Matisse’s most important works – the decoration of the The Rosary Chapel.

In the summer of 1947, the sisters offered Matisse to decorate the oratorio in their convent. But Matisse had bigger ideas and ambitions. He wanted to design a chapel. With the help of architects Auguste Perret and Milon de Peillon, Matisse began work on the chapel for the next four years. At the age of 77 and in poor health, Matisse began the biggest and most challenging work of his entire career.

The
The “divine” light streams in through the beautiful panes

A tribute to the sisters of the Dominican order which was completed in 1951, just 3 years before Matisse’s death.

The Rosary Chapel by Matisse was not build without problems and crooked glances

The project did not go completely without resistance. Some of the Dominican Sisters were strongly opposed to the work, suggesting that they were confused by the simplicity and abstraction that prevailed within the painter’s work.

Another great artist of Matisse’s day, Pablo Picasso, also stated that he was concerned and upset to see his artist colleague involved in a church project!

Henri Matisse, however, was a steely atheist who once wrote, that ‘my only religion is love of the work to be created and total sincerity’.

Henri Matisse posing in his studio in front of one of his paintings
Henri Matisse in his studio

The chapel was officially inaugurated on June 25, 1951. Since then, it has invited visitors to experience this unique building across art and faith.

Read the biography of Matisse here.

By Tommy Sverre – 2022

1. March to 31. October
Monday          closed
Tuesday          10-11.30 & 14-17.30
Wednesday  14-17.30
Thursday        10-11.30 & 14-17.30
Friday               10-11.30 & 14-17.30
Saturday         14-17.30
Sunday            closed

1. November to 28/29. February
Monday          closed
Tuesday          10-11.30 & 14-16.30
Wednesday  14-16.30
Thursday        10-11.30 & 14-16.30
Friday               10-11.30 & 14-16.30
Saturday         14-16.30
Sunday            closed

Other experiences in Vence
  • All
  • Churches & chapels
  • Fountains
  • Hiking
  • Markets
  • Museums
  • Viewpoints
  • Wash-houses
Hiking

Hike to Saint-Paul de Vence

This hike to Saint-Paul de Vence from the center of Vence is neither too long nor too strenuous, but rather beautiful and cozy.

Churches & chapels

Saint Elisabeth chapel

Saint Elisabeth chapel in Vence impresses with its rediscovered fresco paintings by Giovanni Canavesio, and its history dates back to the 14th century.

Markets

The markets in Vence

A visit to the markets in Vence is a must if you really want to feel the character and authenticity of the city.

Art

The Museum of Vence

The Musée de Vence / Fondation Émile Hugues is situated in the heart of the historic city center and is among the very popular sights on the Côte d’Azur.

Churches & chapels

Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité

Here in the middle of the old medieval town of Vence you will find France’s smallest cathedral. Usually one expects cathedrals to be large and impressive…

Fountains

The Peyra fountain

It stands in the city’s most idyllic square and has been watered from the Foux spring since its birth in 1822.

Viewpoints

Viewpoint – F. Moutet

From near and far you can see the Baou Mountains rising majestically on the horizon. Depending on from where one looks at the mountains, they assume different…

Wash-houses

The Wash-house at Avenue des Poilus

The wash-houses have their own history, which dates from the 19th century and testifies to the challenges of the …

Museums

Gombrowicz Museum

Dedicated to the Polish master writer Witold Gombrowitz and beautifully situated in Villa Alexandrine.

Churches & chapels

Chapel Pénitents Blancs

This chapel is the largest and most interesting chapel in Vence. Centrally located, just a few hundred meters from Place Grand Jardin, on the ancient Roman road to Castallane…

Selected experiences in cities close to Vence
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  • Aqueducts
  • Churches & chapels
  • Food & Wine
  • Museums
Saint-Paul de Vence

The Collegial Church

The 17th century marked the golden age of the church in Saint-Paul de Vence. Here, in 1666 the church was raised to the rank of Collegial Church by the bishop Antoine Godeau of Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence

The Cemetery of Saint-Paul de Vence

One of the most visited cemeteries on the Côte d’Azur – here rests several celebrities – including Chagall & Maeght

Saint-Paul de Vence

Célestin Freinet school

The famous schoolteacher and educator Célestin Freinet (1896-1966) taught in Saint-Paul de Vence between 1928 and 1933.

Saint-Paul de Vence

The Folon chapel – The White Penitents

Experience the admirable Folon Chapel, a design work of Jean-Michel Folon and learn more about an artist who had strong ties to Saint-Paul de Vence for over thirty years.

Saint-Paul de Vence

La Colombe d’Or

This is one of the world’s most famous restaurants, visited by the most famous people in the world.

Saint-Paul de Vence

The Maeght Fondation art museum

The Maeght Fondation art museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors in a unique architectural building designed by Josep Lluis Sert.

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