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Why did Chagall choose to be buried in a Christian cemetery?

Final resting place ... Marc Chagall’s tombstone in the village of St Paul de Vence

The article about Marc Chagall (ESRAmagazine 172) by Helen Schary Motro was indeed timely for us. We've recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise out of Rome. A shore excursion in Cannes included a visit to the beautiful mountain village of Saint Paul de Vence, where we found Marc Chagall's final resting place.

We're curious to know why someone with such a strong Jewish background and connection to his people and to Israel would choose to be buried in a Christian cemetery. He never severed his ties to his Jewish roots (in fact the opposite). Extensive internet searches have not given us any answers.

Regarding the Selwyns' question re Chagall's gravesite:

"On March 28, 1985 Marc Chagall died at his home in his ninety-eighth year. He was not buried in the Jewish cemetery in Nice but in the Christian cemetery of his own village, St. Paul de Vence. The Mayor himself gave Chagall a place in his family lot. At the funeral a lonely voice recited the Jewish Kaddish (a prayer for the dead). A big cross loomed above Chagall's grave, to the chagrin of his Jewish friends, but it was subsequently removed. It is hard to imagine Chagall making that choice, but given the information we have on Vava's [Chagall's second wife] clandestine conversion to Christianity, the matter seems clear. Ida [Chagall's daughter by his first wife Bella], apparently, had no say on the matter or was confused herself."

- Marc Chagall and His Times, by Benjamin Harshav, Stanford Univ. Press (2004) p. 957.

Prof. Harshav of Yale is a leading authority on Chagall.

Helen Schary Motro

Kfar Shmaryahu 



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