Work

Abbaye de la Fille-Dieu, Romont

Route de Fribourg, Romont, Switzerland

19951997

The complementary relationship of Clarke's stained glass windows to the rest of the restoration is exemplary. In an almost monochrome edifice, all shades of beige-ochre (the floor, the walls, the painted murals, the wooden elements), Clarke's stained-glass windows vigorously gather the other elements into a living whole. The architectural role that the old painted decoration, preserved in a too-fragmentary way, can no longer fulfill has been taken over by Clarke's stained glass windows in an admirable way. A striking achievement, not figurative, resolutely contemporary, they were to be the expression of a life of hope in a convent inhabited continuously since its founding in the thirteenth century.” – restoration architect Tomas Mikulas.

Between 1995 and 1996, Brian designed and fabricated a suite of 15 stained glass windows for the restoration of the 13th century Cistercian Abbaye de la Fille-Dieu in Romont, Switzerland. The restoration of the still-active convent was undertaken by architect Tomas Mikulas. The colour of the windows is in relation to the path of the sun’s movement and to the nun’s daily liturgy and prayer – ‘starting from the mystical and blue morning in the sanctuary, to warm tones in the nave later in the day’ – and the glass chosen and developed for the windows, some hand-painted by Brian, responds to the orientation of the building, with richly textured transparent glass in the east, south and west windows, and opaque glass in restrained colours in those that face north, which face onto cloisters and receive only weak natural light. The windows are the subject of a book, Les Vitraux de la Fille-Dieu de Brian Clarke/Die Glasgemälde der Fille-Dieu Von Brian Clarke; the designs for the windows were first exhibited in Brian Clarke and Linda McCartney: Collaborations at the Deutsches Glasmalerei-Museum, and the Musée suisse du vitrail et des arts du verre.

From the first vision of the project of Monsieur Brian Clarke, I was seized by the beauty of these windows. I knew immediately that they were fulfilling my dream for the crowning of our church. I can not say anything other than that I find them very beautiful and that I love them. I asked the artist before the creation of his stained glass that they carry a message of hope for those who come to share our prayer. I feel that my wish is wonderfully realized in this joyous, dynamic rise towards a future made all of light.” – the late Mother Abbess Hortense of Fille-Dieu.

"The choice of the author of the new stained glass windows was not based on a competition but on spontaneous contacts that the nuns made with various artists. Brian presented his designs in September 1995, a complete project for the fourteen windows of the church (a fifteenth oculus window was added to the final work). This project immediately conquered the vast majority of nuns, architects, members of the working group and the committee of the Association. The choice of Brian Clarke's project is based on ideas very clearly expressed by the nuns. The windows were to be in harmony with the depth of the monastic life.” – Josette Oberson

"L’ensemble des vitraux de la Fille-Dieu se compose de 15 fenêtres. La grande verrière du chœur à l’est, 8 fenêtres côté sud, l’oculus sur la façade ouest et 5 fenêtres côté nord. La composition est caractérisée par la présence d’une trame dans toutes les verrières. Ses brins assez larges se croisent orthogonalement et font apparaître le fond sous la forme de petits carrés. Sa rigueur calme rappelle la tradition cistercienne et crée un lien direct avec les éléments géométriques des fragments de décor peints.

Sur cette trame, en un élan vertical, se meuvent des éléments libres, non figuratifs, des motifs, des « amorphes » comme les définit Brian Clarke. Le contraste qui ressort de cette superposition crée un dynamisme inattendu. Brian Clarke explique à ce sujet qu’on trouve maints exemples de ce type dans la nature : feuilles de lierre sur une grille, vol d’oiseaux sur fond de buildings, flaque d’eau sur les pavés … et qu’il a remarqué que lorsque cette rencontre de formes se produit, la grille est dédramatisée, les formes libres prennent leur place et cela crée un équilibre étonnant. Ces formes évocatrices animent chaque verrière. Dans l’oculus le système est inversé : trame verte sur grand fond bleu et blanc, peut-être pour rappeler qu’à l’origine du projet il était prévu que cette ouverture ne recevrait pas de vitrail, laissant la priorité à la vision sur le plein ciel." – Josette Oberson, Les Vitraux de Brian Clarke a l'Abbaye de la Fille-Dieu de Romont, 2013.