Last week, Algaida Council and the Church of Sant Peter and Sant Paul Church of Algaida unveiled a stained glass window dedicated to the figure of Ramon Llull which has been created by Nils Burwitz.
Nils, who was born in and grew up in the Baltic port of Swinemünde as the allied bombs dropped, has lived in Valldemossa since 1976 after having qualified in the arts and lived in West Germany, South Africa and the UK. He is probably best known within the British community for his stained glass windows of the 12 Apostles which were installed in the Anglican Church in 1991. The ever modest Nils puts it all down to the hard work of George Giri and the then Reverend, Jim Hawthorn.
And since branching out into the field of stained glass windows, his work can also been admired in Santa Eulalia, the oldest church in the Balearics; the rose window in the Basilica in the Monastery of Lluc; the Hermitage of the Holy Trinity, Valldemossa; in Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Algaida; in the Consolat de Mar, the Balearic government headquarters; in the Ergoline Training Centre in Windhagen, Siebengebirge, Germany; in East Worldham, England; in the Royal Carthusian Monastery of Valldemossa; and the monastery of Cura in Randa. He installed the glass cupola, ‘Ars Brevis’, in the Castillo Hotel Son Vida in 2006, the ‘Ten Commandments’ in Son Ferriol, and the window ‘La Misericordia‘ in Palma Cathedral.
His works have been included in the Grand Livre du Vitrail Contemporain, edited by the Centre International de Vitrail in Chartres, France, and now his Homage to Ramon Llull, which is the last window in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Algaida, is his latest creation, which he is extremely proud and moved by. This said, he still remembers fondly when the late Sir Harry Secombe came to Mallorca to present Songs of Praise, which featured the first of his stained glass windows at the Anglican Church.
“It was George Giri who started the whole thing. The church wanted to do something with this large pane of glass above the entrance and he got in touch with me. I was actually in Frankfurt en route to South Africa where my mother was suffering from cancer. But I agreed and, by my mother’s bedside, I set up my easel and began painting what were to become the windows. At the time my mother had little interest in the Apostles, but she was fascinated by the time I had finished, having watched me paint every day,” Nils told the Bulletin last week.
His latest window has been on the table for many years. Algaida was where Ramon Llull, mathematician, polymath, philosopher, logician, writer and mystic, grew up, having been born in Palma in 1232. There is a cave featuring a restored sculpture of him near the Puig de Randa, which the local authorities visited after the presentation of the window.
“It was a low-key affair with leading members from the Council of Majorca, local council, the church, representatives from the Bishop, but we’re hoping something bigger to mark Three Kings, that’s the plan anyway,” Nils said.
“But it was a great moment of euphoria for everyone present, some of whom had been through the whole process dating back many years since the idea was first muted. It’s a very moving piece with some very distinct optics, but most importantly it transcends some of the many messages Llull wrote in his some 250 works in Catalan, Latin and Arabic.
“The window is large, daring and full of colour and what’s amazing is that every midday the sun shines through the window and it reflects on the opposite side of the large nave in a kind of cloud, which is what Llull often referred to as a form of dialogue. Ironically today, all these centuries later, we’re all using the iCloud option on our computers to communicate.
“Its main message I suppose is ‘love illuminated’ and the illumination of the clouds. It transcends his message of ‘common sense within willpower’ and I think it’s extremely poignant, considering the conditions we are having to live under today.
“On the one hand, since my wife Marina’s passing just before Covid broke out, I’ve been shut away in Valldemossa, meditating more on my work and the world around me while preparing a book in memory of my late wife, Terraces for Marina, which will feature 100 water colour drawings, some writing and poems. I’ve also managed to convince the local church to set up a wall of remembrance and that is an idea I got from the one the Anglican Church has in Palma.
“On the other, there has been the pandemic, it’s all very distressing. Just to think about all the people who have been lost and no one really knows where they’ve gone. Families who have been unable to properly say farewell to loved ones who have fallen victim to the virus. The dead have just been taken away with no proper send-off. I feel that must be heartbreaking. We were lucky we were able to say goodbye to Marina, but when you look around and see what’s happening it’s very distressing, certainly not inspiring as an artist to be honest. It makes me wonder how the majority of artists manage to keep going. The art market has crashed. I sold a few at a recent exhibition in Pollensa, but I’m now 80 and have enjoyed a wonderful and fulfilling career to date and hope to continue. For the new generations of artists, it must be extremely challenging,” Nils said.
“But I feel that all those involved in the window in Algaida have brought a new ray of light to Mallorca and, more importantly, have added further evidence and reason as to why Ramon Llull should be made a saint.
“His romantic novel Blanquerna is considered the first major work of literature written in Catalan and possibly the first European novel, but he also taught us so much and continues to do so today for those who are new to his work. Within the Franciscan Order, Llull is honoured as a martyr. He was beatified in 1847 by Pope Pius IX but now there is a strong movement for him to become a saint. We have already written to the Vatican and they have in their possession various works of his. We now intend to use this latest window as part of another application to the Pope, which I have been asked to write, and gladly will, so that Llull not only receives the recognition he deserves but so does his home of Algaida and Mallorca. My message from this experience would be: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself. Have faith and try to do the right thing’.”