German artist Gerhard Richter created and donated three impressive stained glass windows to the apse choir of Germany’s oldest Benedictine monastery, the Tholey Abbey, in the district of Sankt Wendel in Saarland. The stained glass windows, which the artist himself described as “his last large work of art”, were presented to the public on September 17. Richter, 88 years old, has recently worked on very few projects of such proportions. Last summer, the announcement of the realization of the nine-meters-high kaleidoscopic windows immediately caught the attention of the media.
The small town of Tholey has only a few thousand inhabitants and the abbey has been at a financial risk for years. First mentioned in historical sources dating back to 634 A.D., the abbey reopened for liturgical services last week, after two years of closure for restoration. Enormous confidence is placed in the attractiveness of the new project, but it is unlikely to reach the 100,000 visitors expected for the first year, due to the limitations introduced for the Coronavirus emergency.
The large windows, 9.3 x 1.5 metres, are handmade in the historic Gustav van Treeck glass laboratory in Munich. The colourful, psychedelic motifs are inspired by Richter’s “Patterns” series. The number of works created by the German artist, who has always numbered his creations, rises to 957. Such works do not represent a surprise in his repertoire. In 2007, Richter created a large pixelated abstract design for Cologne Cathedral. Richter’s installation will be flanked by 34 figurative windows created by Mahbuba Maqsoodi, an Afghan-born artist living in Munich. The presence of the works of Maqsoodi, an artist of Muslim faith, will further enrich the abbey with effects of light and colour, representing a significant message of peace, tolerance and rebirth.