Visiting the Railroad Station, Luxembourg City, and its striking, stained glass window: strongly ecclesiastical nuances
All aboard with a vision of Luxembourg!
While the Railroad Station itself (which I have generally described elsewhere) in the Grand Duchy's capital almost looks like a great Baroque Cathedral, there is a particular feature of the edifice which deserves further comment because of the intriguing use of religious-style imagery.
Executed in a combination of antique glass and lead, this stained glass window is the work of the Linster establishment, of Mondorf (2), in which a number of members of the Linster family have been active in the design of stained glass windows — principally for church buildings — since the 19th century.
This work, dating from c.1950, is displayed in the main hall of the Railroad Station, and draws on a stylized silhouette of the City of Luxembourg. This silhouette is itself based on the now dismantled Luxembourg fortress.
So, a former military stronghold become a citadel of the spirit, representatively reinforced by strongly evocative suggestions that church life dominates the citizens of Luxembourg? (1) The triple spires of Luxembourg's Cathedral are clearly visible, depicted in the window, as well as other church towers and spires, including that of St. Michael's church. Also distinctly seen are the Pont Adolphe and the former Savings Bank tower.
A rising or setting sun is an important part of the scene; symbolically, then: a sunset on the past? or dawn of a post-war era?
Stained glass is among the most evocative of artistic media, and, with its European roots in Medieval Christendom, it can be a powerful means of projecting a traditionalist message. In its historical context, also, in this stained glass window there seems to be somewhat of a blending of this medium rooted in ecclessiastical art in the Middle Ages with the Expressionist style of painting popularized in Luxembourg by artists such as Joseph Kutter (1894-1941). In the Interwar years in Luxembourg, a Salon de Sécession was active among local artists. These artists, influenced by Expressionism and Fauvism, sought both to experiment with colours and, importantly, to infuse the beholder's emotion onto canvas in a manner which went well beyond realistic and representational aspects of landscape and portrait painting. I have included a photo (right) of a 1937 painting, 'Luxembourg', by Joseph Kutter, which depicts a view of the Downtown of the City, which demonstrates a somewhat melancholic conception of the cityscape, with dark background colours. And if one cannot strictly speak of influence by Expressionist artists upon the Linster designers of the window, then one can certainly suggest here some imaginative parallels.
I think this stained glass window by the Linster establishment is a quite brilliant work, and it in any case is condusive to the imagination running riot: a thought surely not foreign also to Medieval, ecclesiastical sponsors of the ancient medium employed here, as the former pervasiveness of ecclesiastical influence was thereby projected. Instead of train schedule announcements on the public address system in this building, such is the intensity of the combination of light and colours in this stained glass window that one almost expects to hear instead a Gregorian chant, or Bach's Tocata and Fugue in G minor!
January 16, 2014
(1) Statistics showed that in 1956/57 nearly 70% of Luxembourg's mainly Roman Catholic citizens attended Easter services. (Gilbert Trausch, Le Luxembourg à l'époque contemporaine, Luxembourg: Editions Bourg-Bourger, 1981, p. 216)
(2) See also: http://www.glasmalerei-ev.net/pages/b2562/b2562.shtml
Also worth seeing
In Luxembourg City itself, its numerous visitor attractions include: the Cathedral; the Saint-Quirin chapel; the Grand Ducal Palace; the Chamber of Deputies building; the towered, former State Savings Bank building at place de Metz where General Omar Bradley had his headquarters at the end of World War Two; the Pont Adolphe over the picturesque Pétrusse Valley; Place Guillaume II ; the Gelle Fra monument; the former ARBED building; and many others.
How to get there: From Luxembourg Airport (Aéroport de Luxembourg), at Findel, car rental is available. For North American travellers who make the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. It is advisable to consult appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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A history (in French) of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg by a distinguished historian.
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