Mosaic and stained-glass art as spotlighted
Eric Bleize
Mosaic and stained-glass art as spotlighted

Text: Annemieke Klijn

In the former Jesuits Monastery at Tongersestraat 53, which today houses the School of Business and Economics, various works of art can be admired that testify of the religious life of the Jesuits. Prior to the establishment in Maastricht of State University Limburg, today called Maastricht University, the Jesuits played an important role locally and regionally, given the fact that the city was home to a theological faculty, which had been granted the ius promovendi by the pope. After the Jesuits moved out, the university took over the building, using it initially for its medical faculty. This decision marked a first step in the effort to breathe new life into the monumental buildings found all over Maastricht’s inner city. This was also a bold step at the time, because in this period most newly opened universities were conceived as so-called campus universities.

The building of the School of Business and Economics is home to several artworks that from a cultural perspective are highly valuable. In today’s university life, however, marked as it is by a constant dynamics and hurried pace, many users and visitors of the building may hardly notice these artworks. This will also be true in a literal sense, because various other objects – copiers, projection screens, coffee corners and stands filled with glossy leaflets – actually block their gaze onto these artworks. Precisely for this reason photographer Eric Bleize has put the following artworks in the spotlight: original stained-glass windows by Henri Jonas (1878-1944) and Hubert Levigne (1905-1989) and a fine mosaic by Marianne van der Heijden (1922-1998). 

Bleize first points the lens of his camera on three beautiful stained-glass windows in the hallway of the monastery’s original main entrance. Henri Jonas designed the window in the middle in 1938. It was a gift to the Jesuits on behalf of the Maastricht population. This window depicts the Treason of 1638, when a Franciscan monk wanted to make sure that the city of Maastricht would be part of the Spanish empire again. In this period, the Jesuits were under duress because they – as passionate opponents of the Reformation – refused to take the oath of loyalty before the Dutch (Protestant) States-General. As adherents to the Spanish king, the Jesuits were implicated in this treason, and therefore they were expelled from the city of Maastricht, together with the Franciscans. Only by the middle of the nineteenth century the Jesuits would return to Maastricht. The slightly dark scene on this window also well reflected the tormented soul of its maker, Henri Jonas, who suffered from depressions so badly that several times he had to be hospitalized in mental asylums.

The two outer windows date from 1944-1945 and were made by Hubert Levigne, as a gift to the Jesuits by the Red Cross. The windows remind us of the role of the Red Cross right after the Dutch army surrendered to the German armed forces in May 1940. In consultation with the German occupier, the Red Cross equipped this building as a hospital for wounded prisoners of war. At one point, it accommodated over 600 patients, including Belgians but also Moroccans and Algerians, who received care from Dutch, Belgian and French physicians.

Finally, Bleize shows us the splendid triumphal arch by the versatile artist Marianne van der Heijden, who worked with glass, mosaics and textiles but who was also a painter and graphic designer. In 1956-1957, commissioned by the Jesuits, she designed this triumphal arch in the chapel of the Collegium Canisianum, as was the name of the Jesuits Monastery at the time. If she had to follow strict guidelines, she created a fine mosaic inspired by Byzantine art. The arch depicts the communion of the twelve apostles. On one side, Christ hands them the bread representing his Holy Body, and on the other side he holds the cup containing his Holy Blood. Christ is shown here as a triumphator with a lamb: he was the Messiah, after all, who as the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world.

© 2022 Art and Heritage Commission, Maastricht University