Visualising a Sacred City: London, Art and Religion 9781350989665, 9781786730855

William Blake famously imagined ‘Jerusalem builded here’ in London. But Blake was not the first or the last to visualise

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Visualising a Sacred City: London, Art and Religion
 9781350989665, 9781786730855

Table of contents :
Author Bio
List of Illustrations
List of Contributors
Chapter 1. Seeing the Gods in Roman London
Chapter 2. Temple Church: History, Experience and Theology in the Round
Chapter 3. A New Jerusalem in Four Parts: The Holy Sepulchres of Twelfth-Century London
Chapter 4. Failure and Invention: King Henry III, the Holy Blood and Gothic Art at Westminster Abbey
Chapter 5. Citizens of ‘London’ as Members of Christ’s Divine Body in William Blake’s Biblical Illustrations
Chapter 6. ‘You May See it or Not’: John Rogers Herbert, RA and the New Palace of Westminster
Chapter 7. ‘A Crowd Flowed over London Bridge’: Visualising London through Dante
Chapter 8. ‘This Melancholy London’: Redemptive Possibilities in Some Recent Documentary Films
Chapter 9. ‘There is No Wealth but Life’: London’s Gothic Revival and Urban Resurrection
Chapter 10. The Campo Santo of the Dissenters: Bunhill Fields and Sacred Space in Victorian London
Chapter 11. A Religious Office Tower? Virgin Mary’s Outspread Cloak in the City of London
Chapter 12. Caricatures of Difference: The Changing Perception of Sikhs in London Political Cartoons
Chapter 13. Building and Becoming: The Shahporan Mosque and the Unfolding of Muslim Visual Identity in London
Chapter 14. The Desert in the City: A Post-Secular Work of Art for the London School of Economics
Chapter 15. From Punjab to Putney: Origins of the Sikh Gurdwara in London
Chapter 16. Recent Commissions at St Paul’s Cathedral
Chapter 17. The Museum Space as a Mediator of Religious Experience: Sacred Journeys at the British Museum
Chapter 18. ‘A Real Temple of Jewish Art’?: A Century of Ben Uri in London 1915–2015
Chapter 19. Blind Faith in the City: Mark Wallinger and the Religious Imaginary
Plates section
Back Cover

Citation preview

Aaron Rosen is Professor of Religious Thought at Rocky Mountain College and Visiting Professor at King’s College London. His publications include Art and Religion in the 21st Century (2015), Religion and Art in the Heart of Modern Manhattan (2015) and Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters in Chagall, Guston and Kitaj (2009). Chloë Reddaway is Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery, London, and author of Transformations in Persons and Paint: Visual Theology, Historical Images, and the Modern Viewer (2016).

‘A city with London’s antiquity, pivotal importance, and layer upon layer of material and artistic history richly deserves the scrutiny this book provides. Its chapters demonstrate, in a treatment that is as readable as it is learned and insightful, the central importance of religion and its material culture from London’s ancient past to the present day.’ Dav i d M o r g a n , Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University, author of The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity (2015)

‘This is that publishing rarity: a genuinely ground-breaking collection of cross-disciplinary contributions. Each one explores, in detail and depth, the long-standing, persistent and dynamic interconnections between art (including architecture), religion (embracing the major faith communities) and a London where political, social, class and ethnic identities have long generated both religious conf lict and creativity. At a time when the capital’s immediate futures, like those of “Art and Religion” itself, remain increasingly difficult to discern with any real clarity, Visualising a Sacred City will surely provide a rich and unique template for further public – and private – discussion and ref lection.’

Jacket image: Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo, 1999–2000, white marbleised resin, gold-plated barbed wire, life size. Installation view in Trafalgar Square, London (photograph John Riddy, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth) Jacket design: Alice Marwick

Visualising a Sacred City AW.indd 1-7

V i s ua l i si ng a

SacRed City London, Art and Religion

London, Art and Religion e d i t e d b y Ben Quash, A aron Rosen a n d Chloë R eddaway

GRA H A M H OW E S , Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Trustee of Art and Christianity Enquiry (ACE), London, and author of The Art of the Sacred: An Introduction to the Aesthetics of Art and Belief (2007)

V i s ua l i si ng a Sac R e d C ity

Ben Quash is Professor of Christianity and the Arts and Director of the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College London. His many books include Theology and the Drama of History (2009) and Found Theology: History, Imagination and the Holy Spirit (2013).

e di t e d by

Ben Quash, A aron Rosen a n d Chloë R eddaway


illiam Blake famously imagined ‘Jerusalem builded here’ in London. But Blake was not the first or the last to visualise a shimmering new metropolis on the banks of the River Thames. For example, the Romans erected a temple to Mithras in their ancient city of Londinium; medieval Londoners created Temple Church in memory of the Holy Sepulchre in which Jesus was buried; and Christopher Wren reshaped the skyline of the entire city with his visionary dome and spires after the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the modern period, the fabric of London has been rewoven in the image of its many immigrants from the Caribbean, South Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. While previous books have examined literary depictions of the city, Visualising a Sacred City is the first major examination of the religious imaginary of this great metropolis through the prism of the visual arts. Contributors to the volume address a wide range of subjects and themes: from ancient archaeological remains and Victorian murals and cemeteries to contemporary documentaries and political cartoons. In so doing they draw on insights from disciplines which include archaeology, art history, theology, philosophy and cultural studies. Not only does the volume feature contributions from leading academics in these fields, it also highlights the voices of practitioners – including reflections from curators, architects and clergy. In a welcome departure from many histories of London, and indeed other global cities, the book adopts a truly multicultural and multi-faith perspective. It explores London’s famous churches and cathedrals alongside mosques and gurdwaras, and situates works by modern Jewish artists in the company of Christian Old Masters. Visualising a Sacred City at last gives London – the site and subject of some of the world’s most inspiring religious creativity – the nuanced, wide-ranging study it deserves.

10/11/2016 10:13

BEN QUASH is Professor of Christianity and the Arts and Director of the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College London. His many books include Theology and the Drama of History (2009) and Found Theology: History, Imagination and the Holy Spirit (2013). AARON ROSEN is Professor of Religious Thought at Rocky Mountain College and Visiting Professor at King’s College London. His publications include Art and Religion in the 21st Century (2015), Religion and Art in the Heart of Modern Manhattan (2015) and Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters in Chagall, Guston and Kitaj (2009). CHLOE¨ REDDAWAY is Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery, London, and author of Transformations in Persons and Paint: Visual Theology, Historical Images, and the Modern Viewer (2016).

‘A city with London’s antiquity, pivotal importance, and layer upon layer of material and artistic history richly deserves the scrutiny this book provides. Its chapters demonstrate, in a treatment that is as readable as it is learned and insightful, the central importance of religion and its material culture from London’s ancient past to the present day.’ DAVID MORGAN, Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University, author of The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity (2015) ‘This is that publishing rarity: a genuinely ground-breaking collection of cross-disciplinary contributions. Each one explores, in detail and depth, the long-standing, persistent and dynamic interconnections between art (including architecture), religion (embracing the major faith communities) and a London where political, social, class and ethnic identities have long generated both religious conflict and creativity. At a time when the capital’s immediate futures, like those of “Art and Religion” itself, remain increasingly difficult to discern with any real clarity, Visualising a Sacred City will surely provide a rich and unique template for further public – and private – discussion and reflection.’ GRAHAM HOWES, Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Trustee of Art and Christianity Enquiry (ACE), London, and author of The Art of the Sacred: An Introduction to the Aesthetics of Art and Belief (2007)

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY London, Art and Religion


Published in 2017 by I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd London • New York Copyright Editorial Selection q 2017 Ben Quash, Aaron Rosen and Chloe¨ Reddaway Copyright Individual Chapters q Tahnia Ahmed, Peter Bance, ¨ nter Gassner, Naomi Billingsley, Hugh Bowden, Rachel Dickson, Gu David Glasser, Robin Griffith-Jones, Emily Guerry, Christopher Hamilton, Catherine E. Hundley, Jonathan Koestle´-Cate, Nancy Langham-Hooper, Michael Ledger-Lomas, Ayla Lepine, Alison Milbank, Mark Oakley, Rosalind Parker, John Pearce, Ben Quash, Shahed Saleem, James Walters and Samuel Wells The right of Ben Quash, Aaron Rosen and Chloe¨ Reddaway to be identified as the editors of this work has been asserted by the editors in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Every attempt has been made to gain permission for the use of the images in this book. Any omissions will be rectified in future editions. References to websites were correct at the time of writing. Library of Modern Religion 52 ISBN: 978 1 78453 661 9 eISBN: 978 1 78672 085 6 ePDF: 978 1 78673 085 5 A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available Typeset in Stone Serif by OKS Prepress Services, Chennai, India Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

To Rev. Tom Devonshire-Jones, who embodied the best of London, art and religion


List of Illustrations List of Contributors

xi xvii

Foreword Samuel Wells


Introduction Ben Quash


I. FOUNDATIONS: ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL 1. Seeing the Gods in Roman London Hugh Bowden and John Pearce


2. Temple Church: History, Experience and Theology in the Round Robin Griffith-Jones


3. A New Jerusalem in Four Parts: The Holy Sepulchres of Twelfth-Century London Catherine E. Hundley


4. Failure and Invention: King Henry III, the Holy Blood and Gothic Art at Westminster Abbey Emily Guerry




II. VISIONS OF A HOLY CITY 5. Citizens of ‘London’ as Members of Christ’s Divine Body in William Blake’s Biblical Illustrations Naomi Billingsley


6. ‘You May See it or Not’: John Rogers Herbert, RA and the New Palace of Westminster Nancy Langham-Hooper


7. ‘A Crowd Flowed over London Bridge’: Visualising London through Dante Alison Milbank


8. ‘This Melancholy London’: Redemptive Possibilities in Some Recent Documentary Films Christopher Hamilton


III. MATERIAL CULTURE 9. ‘There is No Wealth but Life’: London’s Gothic Revival and Urban Resurrection Ayla Lepine


10. The Campo Santo of the Dissenters: Bunhill Fields and Sacred Space in Victorian London Michael Ledger-Lomas


11. A Religious Office Tower? Virgin Mary’s Outspread Cloak in the City of London Gu¨nter Gassner


12. Caricatures of Difference: The Changing Perception of Sikhs in London Political Cartoons Tahnia Ahmed


IV. MODERN WORSHIP SPACES 13. Building and Becoming: The Shahporan Mosque and the Unfolding of Muslim Visual Identity in London Shahed Saleem




14. The Desert in the City: A Post-Secular Work of Art for the London School of Economics James Walters


15. From Punjab to Putney: Origins of the Sikh Gurdwara in London Peter Bance


V. CONTEMPORARY ART AND EXHIBITIONS 16. Recent Commissions at St Paul’s Cathedral Mark Oakley


17. The Museum Space as a Mediator of Religious Experience: Sacred Journeys at the British Museum Rosalind Parker


18. ‘A Real Temple of Jewish Art’?: A Century of Ben Uri in London 1915 – 2015 Rachel Dickson, with concluding remarks by David Glasser


19. Blind Faith in the City: Mark Wallinger and the Religious Imaginary Jonathan Koestle´-Cate




List of Illustrations

PLATE 1.1 Excavation of the ‘deep room’, Lullingstone villa, with the two busts (one in fragments) on the blocked-off stairs to the cellar and an offering vessel in a pit in the floor before them. Image source: Kent Archaeological Society from G. Meates, The Roman Villa at Lullingstone, Kent. Vol. 1, plate IVb (1979). PLATE 1.2 The hunter god from Southwark, with his Phrygian cap, quiver and sword and flanking animals. Image source: Cuming Museum, Southwark. PLATE 1.3 Front and rear elevations of the arch as reconstructed by Tom Blagg from fragments found in excavation of the riverside wall, with surviving relief sculpture indicated in its likely position. Image source: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society from C. Hill et al., The Roman Riverside Wall and Monumental Arch in London, Fig. 84 (1980). PLATE 1.4 The tauroctony of Ulpius Silvanus from the Walbrook Mithraeum. Image source: Museum of London. PLATE 1.5 The head of Mithras from the Walbrook Mithraeum. Image source: Museum of London. PLATE 1.6 Pit excavated in the Walbrook Mithraeum, with its contents in situ: right hand of Mithras, head of Serapis, small statue of Mercury. Image source: Museum of London.



PLATE 2.1 Temple Church, London, exterior. Image source: Temple Church. PLATE 2.2 Temple Church, London, interior. Image source: Temple Church. PLATE 2.3 Temple Mount, Jerusalem, aerial view. Image source: Andrew Shiva. PLATE 3.1 Reconstruction map of London, c.1270. Clockwise from the top, the arrows indicate the sites of St John’s, Clerkenwell; St Sepulchre-without-Newgate; New Temple; and Old Temple. Adapted from a map first published in the British Historic Towns Atlas, Vol. III: The City of London: From Prehistoric Times to c.1520, ed. Mary D. Lobel and W.H. Johns. Image source: q The Historic Towns Trust, 1989. PLATE 3.2 Temple Church from the north-west. Image source: Catherine E. Hundley. PLATE 3.3 Abraham Hondius, A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs, 1684. Oil on canvas. 66.9 £ 111.9 cm. The upper portion of the Temple Church rotunda is visible in the background, to the right. Image source: Museum of London. PLATE 3.4 St John’s, Clerkenwell. The outline of the Hospitallers’ round nave is marked in St John’s Square. Image source: Catherine E. Hundley. PLATE 4.1 King Henry III carrying the Holy Blood, Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 16 II, f.216r. Image source: the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi, Cambridge. PLATE 4.2 Red chalice, Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 16 II, f. 216v. Image source: the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi, Cambridge. PLATE 4.3 Last Judgment, tympanum sculpture of the south portal of Lincoln Cathedral. Image source: the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral. Photograph by Michele Vescovi. PLATE 4.4 Doubting Thomas, wall painting in the south transept of Westminster Abbey, c.1270s. Image source: the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.



PLATE 5.1 William Blake, Christ Baptizing, 1805. Pen and ink and watercolour over graphite on ivory wove paper. 31.8 £ 38.3 cm. Image source: Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of Mrs William Thomas Tonner, 1964. PLATE 5.2 William Blake, The Woman Taken in Adultery, c.1805. Pen and watercolour over graphite pencil on paper. 35.6 £ 36.8 cm. Image source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Museum purchase with funds donated by contribution. PLATE 6.1 John Rogers Herbert, RA, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, 1845. Oil on canvas. 90 £ 70 cm. Image source: Palace of Westminster Collection, London. PLATE 6.2 John Rogers Herbert, RA, The Youth of Our Lord (copy of Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth), 1856. Oil on canvas. 81.3 £ 129.5 cm. Image source: City of London, Guildhall Art Gallery. PLATE 6.3 John Rogers Herbert, RA, Moses Bringing Down the Tables of the Law, 1858 – 64. Waterglass. 320 £ 643 cm. Image source: Palace of Westminster Collection, London. PLATE 6.4 John Rogers Herbert, RA, The Judgement of Daniel, 1876 – 80. Oil on canvas. 320 £ 732 cm. Image source: Palace of Westminster Collection, London. PLATE 7.1 Domenico di Michelino, Dante and His Poem, 1465. Fresco. 2.32 £ 2.90 m. Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. PLATE 7.2 Gustave Dore´, Illustration to Inferno 31, from The Vision; or Hell, Purgatory and Paradise of Dante Alighieri, trans. Henry Francis Cary, London, 1868. Wood engraving. 37.5 £ 27 cm. Image source: Project Gutenberg. PLATE 7.3 Gustave Dore´, Newgate Exercise Yard, from Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage (London: Grant and Co, 1872). Wood engraving. 23.8 £ 19 cm. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. PLATE 7.4 Brian Whelan, London City of the Red Bus, 2012. Mixed media on canvas. 91.4 £ 121.92 cm. Image source: Brian Whelan. PLATE 7.5 Alexandre Farto aka Vhils, Bernie Madoff, 2010. Etched brick. Approx. 6 £ 4 m. Created for Hell’s Acre exhibition and



originally situated in the underground tunnel at Waterloo. Image source: Alexandre Farto. PLATE 7.6 Doug Foster, The Heretics’ Gate, 2010. Video installation at St Michael’s Church, Camden. Image source: Doug Foster. PLATE 9.1 Ernest Geldart, Reredos, St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, London, 1914. Image source: John Salmon. PLATE 9.2 Ernest Geldart and the Embroidery Guild of St Margaret, Frontal, St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, London, 1898. Image source: John Salmon. PLATE 9.3 G.F. Bodley, St Michael’s, Camden Town, London, 1881–94. Image source: John Salmon. PLATE 9.4 Ninian Comper, St Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, London, 1903. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. PLATE 10.1 Bunhill Fields, 17 January 2015. Image source: Stephen Ledger-Lomas. PLATE 10.2 Bunhill Fields Memorial Buildings inscription, 17 January 2015. Image source: Stephen Ledger-Lomas. PLATE 10.3 ‘Body Tree’, Old St Pancras churchyard, 31 January 2015. Image source: Stephen Ledger-Lomas. PLATE 10.4 Tomb of John Rippon, Bunhill Fields, 17 January 2015. Image source: Stephen Ledger-Lomas. PLATE 10.5 Tomb of John Bunyan, Bunhill Fields, 17 January 2015. Image source: Stephen Ledger-Lomas. PLATE 10.6 Tomb of John Wesley, Wesley’s Chapel Burial Ground, City Road, 17 January 2015. Image source: Stephen Ledger-Lomas. PLATE 11.1 The Bishopsgate Tower, Design Statement, 2006. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF). Image source: City of London planning applications. q Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF). PLATE 11.2 Piero della Francesca, Madonna della Misericordia for the brotherhood of Sansepolcro, 1445–62. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. PLATE 11.3 The Virgin of Mercy in the City of London, 2013. Image ¨ nter Gassner. source: Gu



PLATE 11.4 The Pinnacle ruin in the City of London, 2013. Image ¨ nter Gassner. source: Gu PLATE 12.1 Keith Waite, The Sun, 4 July 1968. Image source: British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent. PLATE 12.2 Keith Waite, Daily Mirror, 11 September 1973. Image source: British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent. PLATE 13.1 Woking Mosque, built in 1889. Image source: Shahed Saleem. PLATE 13.2 Masjid-e-Noorul Islam, Bolton, 1983. Minarets and dome added in 1995. The building typifies the wave of mosques built from the late 1970s where Islamic historical symbols were literally adapted. Image source: Shahed Saleem. PLATE 13.3 View of Shahporan Mosque, Hackney Road, London, 2014. Image source: Shahed Saleem. PLATE 13.4 View through a window inside the Shahporan Mosque showing the fretwork metal screen. Image source: Shahed Saleem. PLATE 13.5 Front elevation of the Shahporan Mosque showing the new building alongside the existing listed terraced house. Image source: Shahed Saleem. PLATE 14.1 Christopher Le Brun, Desert Window, LSE Faith Centre, 2014. Image source and copyright: Christopher Le Brun. All rights reserved, DACS 2014. PLATE 15.1 The Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala, established by the Khalsa Jatha British Isles, 79 Sinclair Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London, c.1930s. Image source: Peter Bance. PLATE 15.2 Sikh women preparing food for the free kitchen, known as ‘Langar’ at 79 Sinclair Road, London, c.1960s. Image source: Gurpreet Anand. PLATE 15.3 Members of the early Khalsa Jatha British Isles, seated in the garden of The Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala in 1934. Seated in the centre is Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. Image source: Peter Bance. PLATE 15.4 Opening of the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat at 1a Campbell Road, East London, 1959. Image source: Ranjeet Singh Lohia.



PLATE 15.5 Central Gurdwara London, Queensdale Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London, 2008. Image source: Jasprit Singh. PLATE 16.1 Yoko Ono, Morning Beams / River of Life / Wish Tree, 2006. Copyright the artist. Image source: Graham Lacdao. PLATE 16.2 Gerry Judah, Commemorative Crosses, 2014. Copyright the artist. Image source: David Barbour. PLATE 16.3 The Eucharist celebrated on the feast day of the Ugandan martyr, Janani Luwum, in 2015 in front of Bill Viola, Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), 2014. Copyright the artist. Image source: Graham Lacdao. PLATE 18.1 Lazar Berson, Portfolio of Hebrew Text Works, 6 of 8, c.1916, pen and ink on paper, 32 £ 26 cm. Image source: Ben Uri Gallery and Museum: Art Identity Migration. PLATE 18.2 Samuel Hirszenberg, Sabbath Rest, 1894, oil on canvas, 149.5 £ 206.5 cm. Image source: Ben Uri Gallery and Museum: Art Identity Migration. PLATE 18.3 Jacob Kramer, The Day of Atonement, 1919, pencil, brush and ink on paper, 63.5 £ 93 cm. Image source: Ben Uri Gallery and Museum: Art Identity Migration, q Estate of John David Roberts. PLATE 18.4 Natan Dvir, Homesh Evacuation # 01 (Taken Down), 2005, Digital C-Type lambda print mounted on aluminium, 105 £ 70 cm, edition of 6. Image source: Ben Uri Gallery and Museum: Art Identity Migration, q Natan Dvir. PLATE 18.5 Marc Chagall, Apocalypse en Lilas: Capriccio, 1945, Gouache on paper, 51 £ 35.5 cm. Image source: Ben Uri Gallery and Museum: Art Identity Migration, Chagall (R) / q ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014. PLATE 19.1 Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo, 1999–2000. White marbleised resin, gold-plated barbed wire. Life size. Installation view in Trafalgar Square, London. Photograph by Dr Paul Walker. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. PLATE 19.2 Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo, 1999–2000. White marbleised resin, gold-plated barbed wire. Life size. Installation view in Trafalgar Square, London. Photograph by Peter White. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

List of Contributors

TAHNIA AHMED is a PhD candidate at King’s College London. PETER BANCE is an independent researcher, author and historian. Dr NAOMI BILLINGSLEY is Visiting Researcher at King’s College London. Professor HUGH BOWDEN is Professor of Ancient History at King’s College London. RACHEL DICKSON is Head of Curatorial Services at the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London. ¨ NTER GASSNER is an architect and Lecturer in Urban Design at Dr GU the University of Cardiff. DAVID GLASSER is Chair and Chief Executive of the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London. Rev. Dr ROBIN GRIFFITH-JONES is Master of Temple Church, London and Senior Lecturer in New Testament at King’s College London. Dr EMILY GUERRY is Lecturer in Medieval History and Visual Culture at the University of Kent. Dr CHRISTOPHER HAMILTON is Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London. CATHERINE E. HUNDLEY is a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia.



Dr JONATHAN KOESTLE´-CATE is Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Dr NANCY LANGHAM-HOOPER is Honorary Fellow in the School of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne. Dr MICHAEL LEDGER-LOMAS is Lecturer in the History of Christianity in Britain at King’s College London. Dr AYLA LEPINE is Fellow in Art History at the University of Essex and an ordinand at Westcott House, Cambridge. Dr ALISON MILBANK is Associate Professor of Theology at Nottingham University. Rev. MARK OAKLEY is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. ROSALIND PARKER is a PhD candidate at King’s College London. Dr JOHN PEARCE is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at King’s College London. SHAHED SALEEM is Founder and Director of Makespace Architects, London. Rev. Dr JAMES WALTERS is Chaplain of the London School of Economics. Rev. Dr SAMUEL WELLS is Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London.

FOREWORD Samuel Wells

This is a book about three things: art, London and religion. What makes them interesting when considered together is that each has, at different times and in different ways, become a substitute for God. Art always struggles with making the portraying more impressive than the portrayed. The traditional, and perhaps rather heavyhanded, word for this is idolatry. Fear of this is what often makes Islamic art so reluctant to represent anything beyond abstract forms. Disregard for this is what makes the glorious medieval European cathedrals so awesome while their relationship to the baby in the manger and the condemned man on the cross remains so ambivalent. The intention of religious art is invariably iconic – that the viewer be able to look through it and gain new perspective on the challenging truth, transforming will, or splendid array of God. But (say it in hushed tones) the artefact can as often obscure, or distort, the God portrayed as render or clarify that divinity. Not always by eye-catching glamour; just as often by shocking horror, or mundane blandness. God is, without doubt, beauty beyond describing, truth beyond naming, goodness beyond embodying. That dooms every work of religious art to fall short; hence the necessity of humility, humour, self-deprecating modesty – the qualities of synecdoche, in which there is no pretence to say all that could or should be said. In his luminous book Culture and the Death of God, Terry Eagleton explores the variety of substitutes for God that have emerged



since the Enlightenment, seeking to fill God’s large shoes with reason, art, culture, imagination, the nation, humanity, the state, the people, society, morality ‘or some other such specious surrogate’.1 ‘It is remarkable’, Eagleton says, ‘how resilient the faith that art might prove our salvation turns out to be.’ Such faith pervades the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, and survives ‘the collapse of the high Victorian consensus and the carnage of the First World War’.2 This exaltation of art, what Eagleton calls ‘the mildly desperate notion of the aesthetic as a secularised form of transcendence’ brings with it a number of problems.3 Eagleton suspects it can be patronising, elitist and disingenuous all at the same time – noting acerbically that ‘if art is indeed the modern version of transcendence, an even smaller number of men and women are recipients of grace than the most rigorous Calvinist might suppose’.4 London, too, is a cipher for God. Its frequently cited designation as ‘a world city’ is a way of saying, officially, that London is a node in the global economy; but unofficially, that if you have London, you have the world – because the world is in London. Samuel Johnson urbanely observed, ‘Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ In the intervening 250 years his opinion has come to be even more widely held than it was in his day. London is becoming so different from the rest of the United Kingdom in economic flourishing, cultural opportunity, ethnic diversity and social capital, that some are beginning to wonder how long Londoners will be willing to carry the rest of the nation on their backs, while others suspect the rest of the nation will lose patience with the way London aggregates privilege and advantage to itself. More subtly, London is taking on the attributes of God. A 24-hour city, like the Lord who watches over Israel, neither slumbers nor sleeps (Ps 121:4). It looks on other cities – and, courteously and nostalgically, on the countryside – not as equals but with benevolence or pity. The conventional substitute for God in our era is a human being of maximal potential – a person of athletic prowess, ultimate fitness, technological command, informational comprehensiveness; and godlike action is that which overcomes all barriers of creaturely limitation. London is, accordingly, a hub of medical, sporting, intellectual, virtual and cultural endeavour, all arranged to break through Promethean limits.



London is thus, as Samuel Johnson almost said, what life should be – or could be. And that is the closest contemporary culture gets to God. Surely it is absurd to call religion a substitute for God? Not for Karl Barth. The danger, as Barth highlights, is that religion becomes a ‘work’ in a characteristically Protestant sense – a means by which to acquire righteousness, to buy God’s favour. It not only claims righteousness, when righteousness properly only comes through grace; it besmirches what would otherwise be a good by making it serve anthropocentric ends. Indeed, because the stakes are higher with this work than any others, religion is the worst work of all. In heaven there will be neither religion nor even any worship – because the preconditions that made such a configuration of humanity over against God will have been removed. Just as in Eden, in the new Jerusalem there will be no altar, no temple. When I served as dean in the magnificent setting of Duke Chapel in North Carolina – a 1,700-seat 1930s gothic tribute to the glory of tobacco-generated wealth and the ability of Methodism to redeem such wealth through benefaction – I used to remind the congregation that God was lucky to have founded a religion that could raise up such a magnificent edifice as this. My sarcasm had a purpose: I was pointing out that religion, in its morals and rituals, its hierarchies and powergames, its habits and nostrums, or in this case its architecture, can easily become so full of itself that it is empty of God. This is why Christ is more often made known among the poor than in the echelons of dignity: faith flourishes where there is nothing to depend on but God; for the grandly religious and the reverently superior, news that Christ’s resurrection had been proved to be a fiction would disturb the daily solemnity little or not at all. Thus art, London and religion each come with profound risks, temptations and idolatrous legacies. And yet time has proved that each one, deeply, movingly and frequently, has been discovered as icon rather than idol. This book tells the tale of such discoveries, not severally, but synthetically: for it is a book of how God has been made present when art, London and religion converge. The variety of contributions signals the humility of the project: for art goes wrong when it assigns to itself unique or superior status in offering a window on heaven (or prophecy against hell); London goes wrong when it accords to itself special favour in the eyes of God, the world, or indeed anyone but itself; and religion goes wrong when it



mistakes its own, particular, partial, contingent practice as the unique and determinative way in which God and humankind draw close to one another. And the tendency to lack such humility is reduced when the three aspects – art, London and religion – get to tease, play with, brush against and energise one another. That is what this book is about. NOTES 1. T. Eagleton, Culture and the Death of God (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014), p. 151. 2. Ibid., p. 180. 3. Ibid., p. 181. 4. Ibid.


THE LONDON PALIMPSEST In 2009, the British pop band Madness, whose heyday was in the 1980s, staged a comeback with a new album all about London, their home city. Its signature track, which gave its name to the album as a whole, was a major departure from anything they had written previously, both in duration (it is over ten minutes long) and in style. The ska-inspired bounce of earlier albums gives way in The Liberty of Norton Folgate to a much more varied palette of musical colours – some exotic, some dark – as a complex human story unfolds, in which multiple identities (including religious identities) interact in the cauldron of the ancient metropolis. Early in the song we hear echoes of Eastern European Jewish melodies jostling with the oom-pah-pah of the music hall, the jaunty whistled tune of the cockney trader (accompanied by jangling pub piano), and finally an exuberant Bollywood-esque explosion of sound that evokes the musical energy of the Indian subcontinent. What is significant is that all these styles pick up and reprise the central refrain: In the Liberty of Norton Folgate, Walking wild and free In your second hand coat, Happy just to float In this little taste of liberty, You’re a part of everything you see.



In a hectic finale, all the different musical styles that have woven in and out of the song as it progresses come back, and are overlaid one upon another, sounding through each other, and creating a cacophonous sense of climax. The Liberty of Norton Folgate thus ends up being a sort of musical palimpsest which – in auditory form – artfully expresses a truth about London, and (in particular) its East End. The history of this area is one of wave upon wave of new cultural influences and settlements as immigrants from different religious and cultural backgrounds – including economic migrants, and the religiously or politically persecuted – have moved in and added layers to the place. The ‘Welsh and Irish Wagtails’ (to quote the song’s lyrics) combine with: Sailors from Africa, China and the Archipelago of Malay [who] jumped ship ragged and penniless into Shadwell’s Tiger Bay.

The ‘liberty’ of the title is one of the historic areas nestled near to the ancient City of London, which (like similar liberties in other parts of England) were outside the country’s normal administrative system of so-called ‘hundreds’ and ‘boroughs’, and over which the fiscal rights of the Crown were waived. It had an unusual degree of selfjurisdiction. It was thus an area that could define itself by contrast with the external control and regulation that characterised civic life elsewhere. For Madness, its spirit as a liberty seems to represent a certain licence, and (perhaps) creative ferment: it is a place to ‘walk wild and free’. The musical palimpsest of Madness’ song is a counterpart to a visual palimpsest written into the very fabric of the city: its architecture, its street names and its decorative schemes. Brick Lane in Spitalfields is, famously, the home of a Huguenot chapel which became a synagogue which then in turn became the present-day Brick Lane Mosque. And it is with the visual culture of London, and especially its religious dimensions, that the present book is principally concerned. The fact that musical examples also come to hand so easily (as literary ones will too) shows how multiple strands of the arts have found common cause in witnessing to the densely layered quality of this urban environment: the visual media that will be examined in this book mirror a wider field of artistic responses. The book that follows takes seriously Robin Griffith-Jones’s challenging statement that there is far more to interpreting visual



culture than describing ‘what we see’. The really interesting questions here have to do with ‘what we see in what we see’. This is because sight is in every case a form of construction as well as of response; our vision (as an interpretative activity) is always pre-loaded with expectations, priorities and desires, and these filter and mediate the data picked up by our eyes. The seeing of London would be a very crude sort of seeing if all that was registered were objects: London’s surfaces and discrete parts, rather than its human depth and interconnectedness. The chapters that follow will prioritise depth over data. Rather than attempting to be some sort of comprehensive survey, which would by the same token inevitably risk superficiality, they will look long at selected aspects of the manifestation of London in art, and at the manifestation of religious concerns in that same art. And it will look especially at visions of London (and theophanies in London) that have at certain times and for certain communities of people had a social force rather than just an individual interest. That it is timely to think about art, London and religion together is confirmed by some remarkable recent initiatives taken by London’s principal custodian of visual art, the National Gallery. Since Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ was staged in the spring of 2000, the National Gallery has displayed a steadily increasing interest in the religious content and context of its collections. Standing at the north end of a corridor of governmental power running along Whitehall to Parliament, approximately one-third of its 2,300 paintings has Christian subject matter. No set of Christian images has such public prominence in the UK. In 2000, a public gallery talking about religion was perceived by many as courageous.1 But if religion seemed a rather esoteric topic in 2000, the events of 9/11 changed that, and the early twenty-first century has been marked by the combination of an almost frenzied interest in religion, particularly in its more extreme forms, and a growing recognition of widespread religious illiteracy. As though to address this deficit, the Gallery has instituted an art and religion research strand, which acts as an umbrella for a variety of research, including in-depth analyses of individual paintings, and joint ventures with university partners in the area of theology and religious studies.2 The impetus provided by Seeing Salvation has continued in The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600 – 1700



(2009 – 10) and Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces Before 1500 (2011).3 Devotion by Design specifically sought to create a church-like atmosphere in its display, and both exhibitions engaged seriously with the religious subject matter of the objects displayed. They recognised the devotional significance of the objects in living religious traditions,4 rather than focussing purely on their provenance or the artistic techniques that were employed in making them in the past. MATERIAL MNEMONICS The depth of the urban palimpsest is not just structural (a glimpse of something behind another thing); it is also historical (a glimpse of something in the past of another thing, which – in so far as it is glimpsed – means that it is still in some way in its present). The lyrics of The Liberty of Norton Folgate talk of the eccentric and occasionally threatening figures who populate London’s streets, including its ‘extortioners and night wanderers’. In fact, the reference is a quotation from what is, arguably, the very first travel book about London, written in the twelfth century by Richard of Devizes, a monk from Winchester.5 London’s ‘continual dark river of people’ (as the song puts it) is thus shown (‘in its transience and in its permanence’) to represent a ‘perpetual steady echo’ of the past. The ‘echo’ is strong in the city’s physical fabric too. London has rarely had the appetite to recreate itself so radically that a new blueprint has overridden past configurations of the city. Even after the Great Fire in 1666, proposals for reconstruction along more ‘rational’ lines were frustrated by deeply embedded historic interests, so that old streets and alleys still wind oddly around irregularly shaped plots of land, and state-of-the-art new buildings must defer to these time-honoured parameters. London’s core does not boast the boulevards of Paris or share the grid plans of Berlin or New York. It retains the idiosyncrasies of a city whose history presses upwards from beneath it to shape it even now; it has the peculiarities of a crafted rather than a machine-made object, which is perhaps why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called it ‘great, hand-made London’.6 The cartoons that Tahnia Ahmed explores in her chapter in this book make visible the disquiet of a white British newspaper readership in recent decades that certain sorts of overlay will in some



way violate what pre-exists them. Under such perceived threats, so it is feared, the ‘perpetual steady echo’ which has carried the city’s collective memories forward in a recognisable way will cease to be steady or perpetual. The idea of the palimpsest is made disturbing as a mosque-like dome is shown atop an iconic red London bus, for example. This suggests anxiety about the likelihood of competitive rather than additive relationships between present and past; clashes of culture in which the new threatens to trump7 the old. Paradoxically, this sort of fear may precisely be one of the steadiest echoes in London.8 Although the city may seem energetically to embrace its palimpsest nature, it has often only learned to love any new configuration of itself after first fearing the latest level of inscription. In such circumstances, the earlier ‘London’ that is celebrated as pure or authentic is sustained precisely by the suppression of its own prior admixtures. The present book shows that to dismantle such artificial ‘purifications’ in order to show London’s lively cross-fertilisations is to offer an enriched vision of the city’s distinctive energy and character. There is no doubt of course that collective memories, like individual ones, can indeed become selective, and parts of any city’s history can disappear from view to a majority who live there. But, ironically perhaps, the white Britons whose anxieties about a loss of cultural memory were reflected in the newspaper cartoons Ahmed discusses may in other respects have been as good at forgetting their past as anyone. When Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo was installed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2000 – a work discussed with great insight by Jonathan Koestle´-Cate in Chapter 19 of this book – it had the startling effect of giving high visibility to a Christ-like figure at a great London crossroads. This proved discomfiting to a city that has become very unadept at seeing the Christianness of its own deep structures. Trafalgar Square, London’s largest square, is only where it is, after all, because a chapel of ease (St Martin’s) was once built there (‘in the fields’) to enable monks from Westminster Abbey tending the convent garden (which is now Covent Garden) to say their prayers at intervals throughout the day without having to return to the Abbey itself. Yet many members of a now more de-Christianised populace did not know what to make of Wallinger’s statue, and many of its interpreters chose to downplay the specifics of its religious reference, speaking of the figure as a sort of ‘Everyman’.



But radical forgetting and total erasure are less common in London than these examples suggest. The arrival of new communities and new visual styles has, in practice, been aggressively substitutionary only on rare occasions. For example, the gold dome of the Singh Sabha London East Gurdwara added to a disused Quaker’s meeting house at Barking (and discussed by Peter Bance in Chapter 15) does not confirm the fears of those, like the newspaper cartoonists, who conjure the spectre of an obliteration of the ‘native’ by the ‘imported’. For one thing, the Queen Anne style of the building was retained, so that its past remained a visible part of its present. As a consequence, it also calls into question the very idea of a binary opposition between native and imported, by (rather) adding possibilities to what might count as native. This is typical of a great many other adaptations in the city, as well as of some of its most brilliantly inventive new designs, like Shahed Saleem’s contribution to London’s ever-evolving mosque architecture (discussed by him in Chapter 13). And there might be an even more interesting riposte to the fearmongering of Ahmed’s cartoonists. As Catherine Hundley’s and Robin Griffith-Jones’s chapters both show us, an Orientally inspired London skyline is nothing new. The round churches of the Knights Templar were in very early medieval times a way of signalling London’s spiritual affiliations with holy sites in other continents, and holy histories whose roots were a long way from England. Just as the architectures of gurdwaras and mosques and synagogues can evoke associations and bonds with other times and places (spiritual geographies and spiritual histories) so the Temple churches were ‘an external reminder of the tomb of Christ to London pedestrians [. . .] a London building type associated with resurrection, pilgrimage, and the Holy Land’. Just as architecture could help to define the city’s sense of itself, situating its story in the context of bigger stories, and locating it in far-reaching geographical networks that stretched well beyond the English Channel, so too could other material reminders. Relics like that of the Holy Blood, brought to England by King Henry III and discussed by Emily Guerry in Chapter 4, were ways of deepening the sacred associations of London, reinforcing its connection to other holy sites by making it (like them) a place where the deposits of Christ’s earthly presence could be encountered. Even in Protestant



Victorian England, ‘material mnemonics’ could sustain London churches as places of ‘proxy pilgrimage’ (Ayla Lepine’s phrase) because of their power to express spiritual linkage by means of visual quotation. Diaper work in the stones of St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, communicated links to British cathedrals and abbeys, to Ravenna, and to other ancient buildings, making ‘this late Victorian church [. . .] a cumulative expression of the histories of these holy sites’. Nancy Langham, in her chapter, explores the concern of the Catholic painter John Rogers Herbert to import the mystical presence of the holy judges and rulers of the Old Testament into the heart of British government by means of works that would make their spirit ‘incarnate’ in the Peers’ Robing Room at Westminster. Meanwhile, as Michael Ledger-Lomas shows, Victorian advocates of the preservation of the dissenters’ cemetery at Bunhill Fields saw a significant strand of London’s (and Britain’s) sacred history incarnated in that place. The visibility of its memorials made links to a past that could still offer a sort of benediction. It re-presented ‘a crowd of worthies and confessors whose learning, piety, and public services, not only adorned the age in which they lived, but have proved a permanent blessing to the land, and whose names the world will not willingly let die’. Even the most pugnaciously Protestant Protestants, observes Ledger-Lomas wryly, thus reveal themselves to have a penchant for holy relics. LONDON IMAGINED To recommend that a viewer of London ought to cultivate a good historical memory is not just to make a narrowly empirical proposal – suggesting, for example, that all Londoners need to do is to be up to date with the latest archeological scholarship. As we have seen in the previous section, histories are also in significant measure produced by the imagination. This is a shared enterprise. London has been so intensively painted, drawn, written about and (now) filmed, that it is impossible to view it uninflected by the imaginations of others. The London that meets our eyes will at every turn strike us as being ‘like’ Londons we have met before, for example in works by Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot and the 1930s essayist Jan Struther,9 or by Canaletto, J.M.W. Turner and those designers of wartime posters who depicted St Paul’s Cathedral as a focal point for patriotic feeling.



We might ‘see’ traces of all these Londons in a single walk on a single day. Sometimes, the ways in which today’s city planners conserve or even develop London will be influenced as much by the legacy of such earlier acts of creative imagination as by that tangible legacy of the city which is available for physical inspection. Once people have bought into a vision of what London is, or should be, that vision can exercise a remarkable authority on the way they then actually treat the city, and live in it. And if we must have active imaginations in order to be able to conjure up the London(s) of the past, then they are equally necessary in informing our sense of the city’s present possibilities – and, of course, in envisioning its future ones. Mark Oakley shows how proactive St Paul’s Cathedral has sought to be in ensuring that its visitors do not come away feeling they have visited a mausoleum, but rather a place in which the present moment is slowed (as it is when one stands and witnesses Bill Viola’s Martyrs – ‘witnesses’ to the dignity of the human spirit in extremis, and perhaps the first group of moving images to be used as an altarpiece in a Christian cathedral) and new visions are fostered of what might be desired and endeavoured in the world outside the cathedral’s great West Doors. ‘London imaginaries’ can often coexist in highly mutually contradictory ways, however. As Alison Milbank demonstrates in her chapter, the city can be visualised in quick succession as hell, heaven and purgatory, while Naomi Billingsley shows how for a poet and artist like William Blake it can be at once the New Jerusalem and also Babylon (or as Vincent Lacovara calls it ‘Babylondon’10). Positive Londons are often a ‘Gestalt switch’ away from negative Londons, and the passing of only a few decades will modulate the imaginative options available. The building of London’s major international airports in the twentieth century has prompted new configurations of the London of our imaginations. Suddenly it is not just land and sea that connect London to a wider world but the skies too, and the ancient gates of the city (Lud, Ald, Moor, Bishop, etc.) are supplemented by many more, opening onto Sydney, Bangkok, Lahore, Lagos, Ottawa and a hundred others. Some long to quit the city through these gates, but it can seem as though many more press to come in through them. Wallinger, again, responds to this very contemporary theme, in works that display a fascination with the way that passport control



and customs at London airports can be seen in quasi-religious terms as thresholds of judgement, admitting some and refusing others. Here is another way of imagining London: London as precarious and quasi-eschatological destination. There is a recognition here, too, of how the city is defined in great measure by the movements of immigration and emigration. Rachel Dickson and David Glasser remind us that 38 per cent of London’s population are immigrants, and this proportion is growing. There is an imaginative vision of London at work in nearly every desire to get out of it as there is in every longing to come in. You do not have to be a Londoner (or even British) to be intensely active in imagining this city.11 Not all goings out or comings in are permanent. Christopher Hamilton shows in his chapter on cinematic London that the city has repeatedly been imagined as both starting point and goal, and sometimes the return is already implicit in the departure. We might think once again of pilgrimages, ‘proxy’ or otherwise, which re-situate our imaginative sense of the city by relating it very deliberately to other places. Our imaginations (and sometimes also our bodies) move away in order to come back again – changed in some important way. Rosalind Parker shows how this may be true for Muslim Londoners in her analysis of the success of the British Museum’s Hajj exhibition in Chapter 17. The growth of a significant Muslim population in London in recent decades made possible (and vivid) this new activation of material resources in the museum’s collections. But to explore this contemporary imaginative possibility was at the same time to reactivate earlier ones from London’s past: the Hajj exhibition was a reminder of Southwark’s Tabard Inn in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. That too was a gateway to pilgrimage, the springboard of a journey to another (this time Christian) destination, which allowed its readers to see London as linked to a wider world of holiness, and capable of sacred aspirations. The rhythm of exit and return has a long religious history. The extraordinary success of the Hajj exhibition was due in part to the British Museum’s ability to engage our mind’s eyes, opening an imaginary doorway from the heart of Bloomsbury to the Arabian desert.12 (Note how deserts, in their tension with the city landscape, recur several times in this book as an object of urban fascination: it was said admiringly of Herbert’s House of Lords painting of Moses that ‘[y]ou forget you are in London, you believe yourself to be in the desert’.) One might say of Hajj that in displaying the meaningful



pathways that now exist between London and Mecca, the exhibition actually became one of those meaningful pathways through the power of the imagination. And to gaze, or travel, through this opening was to be reminded once more that London is not simply a city that is a portal (the ‘UK Border’, bureaucratically conceived) but that in the world of the imagination it is full of portals. This is true artistically as much as it is religiously – not that the two can easily be separated. In literary imagination, for example, the city is riddled with secret passages, wormholes, trapdoors, ladders, chimneys – all possibly leading to other realities. C.S. Lewis made a London cabbie one of the first humans accidentally to escape through a magical portal to the Wood Between the Worlds, and thence to the newly born world of Narnia, in which he becomes the founder of a new royal race. Meanwhile, one of the best works by the neglected Victorian writer George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind, has its London urchin, Diamond, discovering that he can pass through the shape-shifting, feminine body of North Wind (who represents death, a regular visitor to the city) into a heavenly realm; and few children visiting the city today will have been unaffected by J.K. Rowling’s evocation of Diagon Alley or Platform 934 in the Harry Potter series. But to echo Christopher Hamilton again, those who depict London in the modern period are as likely to show us centripetal as centrifugal dynamics. Imagined avenues outwards have as their counterpart the frustrated experience of London as prison, or as inescapable magnet; indeed, some of the images of escape may precisely be forms of longing and defence against acute feelings of entrapment. In T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which makes direct though ironic reference to Chaucer by turning his sweet April into a cruel one, London has become a sucker-in and consumer of life, as St Mary Woolnoth (designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor to bring a bit of Jerusalem into the City with its Solomonic columns and muscularly ‘primitive’ style) becomes just a huge urban clock proclaiming the relentless passage of time. The dark river of people we encounter here, flowing over London Bridge, is a procession of the spiritually dead. BORROWED GROUND In the light of massive industrial expansion (an expansion which fostered those conditions of proximity-without-intimacy that still



haunt the contemporary city) London is one of the first cities that had to re-imagine answers to the biblical question ‘who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29). The anonymity of the city means that the person walking by me or sharing an elevator with me may be my future lover or my future murderer – or simply someone I will never see again. The London of Peter Pan and of Mary Poppins is also the London of Count Dracula and Professor Moriarty – all of them are ‘strangers’ whose appearances in the city, from unknown places, offer avenues to the magical or to the ghastly. Such imagined Londons, with their clandestine entrance and exit points, retain all of their vigour in the present day (as recent works like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere testify). T.S. Eliot’s modulation of the ‘who is my neighbour?’ question, posed in his Choruses from The Rock, runs as follows: When the Stranger says: ‘What is the meaning of this city? Do you huddle close together because you love each other?’ What will you answer? ‘We all dwell together To make money from each other’? or ‘This is a community’?

Bram Stoker may have made London the perfect location for his arch-vampire to prey undetected on his victims, but the Victorian buildings discussed by Ayla Lepine show critics and architects wrestling with more hopeful visions of a civic commonwealth: testing their ideas of ‘God, society, fairness, and beauty’ in a London context. They mined ‘historical strata of architectural and theological precedent’, in dialogue with the highly influential ideals of John Ruskin, to articulate what it meant to them to share space morally and intelligibly, such that rich and poor Londoners could face one another hopefully as fellow actors in a common ‘story’. In this way, ‘their writings and buildings charted new ways of experiencing the self in the city as holy territory’. The search for ‘community’ can easily both overrate and also underrate its chances. Michael Ledger-Lomas sees the decline of Bunhill Fields as a sign that it is living communities that make places religiously significant, and that it is frequently harder to conserve such communities than to conserve the physical spaces to which they are attached. Communities can and do decay, and sacrality decays with them. Alison Milbank, on the other hand, counsels against too much despair over the alienation of urban living, pointing especially



to transport as ‘an image of the common good, of the just exchanges of the sacred city, where different sorts of people travel together’: [I]t is an act of religious faith to trust the driver of the red bus or the tube train to take us home; to trust the public lavatory cleaner not to poison us, or the shop-keeper not to defraud us. Hence it is we who make a city by our creative construction.

The fragility of our civility may be real, but London keeps on opening visions of perhaps surprising reciprocity, mutual regard and interdependence. It does so (both historically and in the present day) without seeming to require an imposed homogeneity, whether of custom or of belief. For Jim Walters, there is no reason in what he sees as a ‘post-secular’ London for religious difference to entail either warfare or uniformity. His proposal is that the most productive circumstances for ‘cohesion’ (a cohesion that also preserves strong distinctions) are circumstances that both harness resources internal to religious traditions, rather than foisting secular ‘solutions’ on them from outside themselves, and also work inventively with the energies that are released when they interact. Walters is hopeful that signs of this dynamic can be discerned in the newly realised window in the Faith Centre of the London School of Economics. The ambition was ‘not to seek an insipid lowest common denominator or neutralise difference but to see what creativity follows when those in disagreement are brought into dialogue’: ‘Thus [Christopher Le Brun’s] central pane depicts an interaction where [the] intensely hot and cold colours are refracted but not dissipated’. The arts show themselves a major beneficiary of such explorations of religious disagreement and dialogue.13 If its contemporary condition is usefully described as post-secular, London can expect to find that what initially seems radically new is not without precedent. There has always been something at once highly cosmopolitan and deeply parochial about London. It is successfully diverse because it is endlessly particular, and these twin aspects of the city’s character perhaps aid each other in sustaining its mixture of change and continuity. The sense of local know-how and practice, enshrined for example in the ‘liberties’ and parishes of London, is a flexible prototype that admits variation as part of (rather than as the enemy of) each area’s ancient identity. The city’s patchwork of communities can be assimilative because the English’s



historical religious settlement was from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onwards non-centralised and permissive of a certain latitude. In this connection, it is noteworthy that Madness’ song The Liberty of Norton Folgate was inspired by their chance discovery of a book about Spitalfields, subtitled ‘A Travel Book in One Place’, published in the 1990s by a priest who has lived and worked there over several decades.14 Imbued with a responsibility for the ‘cure of souls’ in each local area, his Anglican eye had been trained to see even in densely urban parishes ‘curatable’ human and material fabric. This is training in a sort of spiritually funded local ethnography, a ‘chaplaincy to place’,15 that at its best does not try to force a false conformity onto what it finds, but attends to its pre-existing dynamics and tries to work with them creatively. Attention to what is there, preveniently, gives a certain humility to one’s views about what London should and must be (reminders of London’s mongrel hybridity are too numerous to license a tidy picture), and this should resource a concomitant openness to what London may yet be. A multiculturalism premised only on a thin set of conceptual principles (the parity and rights of individuals as philosophical, legal, or economic entitites) is shaky indeed, and typically rests on the idea that the physical spaces in which association happens are neutral ground. A multiculturalism with better chances of success will regard the physical spaces in which people co-habit as richly primed with stories, meanings and habits that are able to generate resources for the people who live there – not only those with roots there, but new arrivals too (who of course bring their own roots with them). Indeed, as Hugh Bowden and John Pearce prove, no Londoner’s roots will ever be deep enough to make her anything other than a newcomer when compared to the Roman gods whose effigies lie beneath her feet in the London mud, occasionally rising to a new epiphany when a fresh archaeological discovery awakens them. The double meaning of ‘parish’, as both a religious and a territorial entity, signals a more than merely administrative significance to such places. They are certainly nothing like ‘neutral ground’. All London’s land has an aura of some earlier consecration, even if simply a ‘consecration’ of prior occupation and use. The consequence of this non-neutrality is that in every ‘parish’ of the city one feels oneself a guest, needing somehow to be inducted or initiated into it. But who is the host? Does the claim that there is no neutral ground in London



imply that there is no public ground either?; that it is all ‘someone’s’? It does not (provided, at least, that the idea of the ‘parish’ is strong) because, although not neutral, ‘parishes’ do not belong to anyone either. This means that the status of guest is a collective and exceptionless one for all in the city, however much the greed of property magnates may try to suppress the fact. And if we are all guests, then this means, in turn, that what is not conceivable as neutral can nevertheless be conceived as mutual. This is perhaps why the singer in The Liberty of Norton Folgate rejoices in the fact that he is wearing a ‘second-hand coat’. No one enters London without becoming an inheritor. And this need not be of the sort of terrifying, sublimely unmanageable, apocalyptic debt ¨ nter Gassner explores in his discussion of the aborted project that Gu to build a building called ‘The Pinnacle’ in London. Here was ruthless capitalist ambition dressing in the borrowed garments of the Virgin of Mercy, and parodying (even if unintentionally) the way that historically she has spread her cloak wide in protection of the city states under her patronage.16 Good debt meanwhile – like all benign inheritances – is a condition not of exclusion but of participation. It is only by willingly donning a second-hand coat, one might argue, that a Londoner can be ‘a part of everything they see’, as the song has it. The community of goods suggested here – and presented principally as a visual experience – is one that rests on a sort of radical renunciation of appropriative ownership, a renunciation which verges on the theological. St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 – 430) observed of the faculty of sight itself that it is morally superior to the other senses, and a better image of holy wisdom, because it is so shareable. Some things do not have to be less mine because they are yours too, and this is supremely true of things we see. We can all look together. Such lookings can include shared visions of what our habitations are and might be. And this, in turn, may tell us that our habitations are never just our own. In Alison Milbank’s explicitly theological version of such an outlook: [A]ll places are holy, and belong primarily to their Creator. Human beings are but custodians of the earth.

Or in Madness’s closely allied insight: We’re all dancing in the moonlight. We’re all on borrowed ground.



NOTES 1. See G. Davie, ‘Seeing Salvation: The Use of Text as Data in the Sociology of Religion’, in P. Avis (ed.), Public Faith (London: SPCK, 2003). 2. These include a pioneering MA in Christianity and the Arts in partnership with the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College London. 3. 99,669 visitors attended The Sacred Made Real and 47,793 attended Devotion by Design, during three month runs. 4. Including the ongoing usage of some items in The Sacred Made Real. 5. The city is described in Richard’s Cronicon as being full of ‘[a]ctors, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatterers, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorceresses, extortioners, night-wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons’ (The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes of the Time of King Richard the First, ed. and trans. John T. Appleby (London: Thomas Nelson and Son, 1963), pp. 65 –6. 6. A. Conan Doyle, The Five Orange Pips and Other Cases (London: Penguin, 2012), p. 168. 7. Similar issues were raised in an earlier century by the debates, explored in this book by Michael Ledger-Lomas, about whether and how to preserve cemeteries. Isabella Holmes argued in the late nineteenth century for closed burial grounds to be turned into spaces for children’s recreation, asking whether the ‘dead beneath the soil object to the little feet above them? I am sure that they cannot.’ Others feared a consequent loss of memory. 8. See for example Dr Samuel Johnson’s London: A Poem: In Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal, which laments the corruption of a more wholesome and homogeneous urban culture by the arrival of new influences from abroad: LONDON ! the needy Villain’s gen’ral Home,

The Common Shore of Paris and of Rome; With eager Thirst, by Folly or by Fate, Sucks in the Dregs of each corrupted State. Forgive my Transports on a Theme like this, I cannot bear a French metropolis. 9. Struther’s fictional character ‘Mrs Miniver’, made even more famous by a film of the same name (though the film made less reference to London), was credited by Winston Churchill as having played a crucial role in winning American support for the war effort. 10. V. Lacovara, ‘Babylondon’, in Royal College of Art Architecture Annual (London, 2006); (accessed 15 August 2015). 11. We might recall the ‘Icarus fall’ of a migrant from under the wheel carriage of a plane flying over Richmond in June 2015. What image must




14. 15. 16.

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY one have of London to be so determined to get here that death is a reasonable risk to take? And in an eschatological reading of the airport gateway might there also be found a judgement on the ‘quick’ of London who shut out far more people than they let in? In Parker’s words, the exhibition took ‘a baseline of normalcy, of expectation which the museum setting brought with it’, and then ‘unsettled’ it. Like so many efforts of the religious and the artistic imagination, a conscious defamiliarisation here helped serve a new evaluation of what London ‘contains’; of what we may see in what we see. Emily Guerry notes this as well, when discussing a far remoter time; then, too, ‘an adversarial situation’ showed itself capable of ‘spurr[ing] creative invention’. W. Taylor, This Bright Field: A Travel Book in One Place, 2nd edition (London: Methuen, 2001). To use a phrase of another priest-ethnographer, the social anthropologist Timothy Jenkins. Might it be that the architects of the building recognised at some level (with a clumsiness which does not preclude exploitative cynicism) that even when creating something new they might benefit from ‘buying into’ a pre-existing aesthetic in order to find a place on London’s skyline?



Seeing the Gods in Roman London Hugh Bowden and John Pearce

INTRODUCTION Images were central to Roman religion. For Romans, and for the inhabitants of Britain at the time of the Roman conquest, there were no sacred texts, and while the Roman Senate had responsibilities for aspects of religion, it had no concern with doctrines or beliefs.1 Encounters with the divine usually involved representations of gods – solid, in the case of cult images, votive offerings, or depictions in painting or sculpture, or evanescent, as in dreams. The gods engaged the other senses as well,2 but here we will concentrate on sight. In 2011, excavations on London Bridge Street in Southwark brought to a light a fragment of an inscription on which two Roman freedmen dedicated a statue to the god Silvanus.3 The statue itself has not (yet) been found but another Southwark discovery illustrates the kind of image they commissioned, a half-size limestone figure of a male hunter god, perhaps Silvanus, more likely Apollo, excavated beneath Southwark cathedral crypt from a well in which it had been dumped in late Antiquity. The findspots of statue and inscription lie to either side of the main road which ran through Roman Southwark; from shops and workshops fronting on the same road have come numerous smaller images of gods in metal and clay, as well as from the Thames nearby.4 These examples typify surviving divine images from London: a handful in stone (and bronze), the



few survivors of the lime kiln or melting pot, and many more smallscale representations of gods and their attributes. The latter now number several hundreds, the fruit of centuries of collection of Roman finds from the city and of systematic excavations since World War II. Such discoveries have resonated beyond scholars and collectors, being recruited, for example, in support of the antiquity of London’s churches or identified as nodes in the energy grids mapped by pyschogeographers.5 For a wider public the temple of Mithras on the Walbrook, unearthed in 1954 during post-war reconstruction, epitomised the special fascination of Blitz-related discoveries, revelations from a defamiliarised landscape and tokens of a city’s resilience.6 For students of Roman London, divine representations have been central to writing the city’s religious history. Together with finds of inscriptions and temples they have enabled the reconstruction of a pantheon for the city, comprising the gods from Rome (the imperial cult, Capitoline Triad and other deities), from Britain and other regions of the empire as well as Christianity and mystery cults which largely developed within the setting of the empire. This diversity is typical of larger provincial cities, although the limited numbers of investigations of cult places, pagan and Christian, mean it is by no means fully mapped.7 Whichever god was represented, the very existence of images of divine beings represents a key change from the largely aniconic practice of the preceding era in north-west Europe. If we may apply to this region attitudes and practices, which are better attested in the centre and east of the empire, the centrality of such images to religious experience is difficult to overstate. While the work of human hands, the image also embodied the deity itself; ancient descriptions do not observe a clear distinction in the names for god and representation. The images were (often) created in a process of prayer, subsequently manifested the gods’ participation at sacrifice and the associated ceremonies, and were intertwined with divine apparition in epiphany. They were also the key medium for the communication and reproduction of religious knowledge.8 The biography of these images also sometimes ends in complex processes of fragmentation and deposition. Despite its lacunae, evidence from London is among the richest from any Roman city in Britain to explore this engagement between worshippers and divine



images. Using the archaeological evidence from the city and its hinterland, the first part of the chapter sketches this engagement, from making and display to displacement and destruction, drawing on varied examples from the city and environs. The second part comprises a case study of the marble sculptures from the temple of Mithras, an internationally important group for the study of Roman mystery cults because of their iconographic richness and close relationship to the original setting in which worshippers interacted with them. THE STRUCTURE OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN LONDON To establish a framework within which images of the gods were created and engaged with, it is necessary to sketch the likely organisation of religious activity in Londinium. On analogy with better documented Roman cities, a close relationship between political and religious organisation can be anticipated, even if uncertainty over the city’s municipal status frustrates the delineation of a detailed model.9 As a likely colony, we would expect London’s foundation charter to have specified (part of) the festival calendar and a structure of priesthoods for public cults. The town would have accommodated a major sanctuary for the imperial cult, perhaps supported by seviri, wealthy freedmen often documented as key sponsors of this institution. The Capitoline triad and a tutelary deity particular to the city would have been similarly prominent in the city’s religious life and sacred architecture. That London also accommodated the provincial assembly and the governor, procurator and their staffs from the later first century AD strengthens the expectation of finding a major sanctuary focused on the imperial cult.10 The complex established in the mid-second century AD in the south-west of the city, south of Queen Victoria Street between Peter’s Hill and the Salvation Army HQ (see below) is the likeliest candidate. The dedication from Nicholas Lane near Cannon Street to the numen of an emperor by the province (a substantial piece to judge from the massive letter size) is a rare surviving offering to be unequivocally put in such a context.11 The diversity of the better documented ‘private religion’ of the city, i.e. groupings of worshippers based around work, residence,



geographical origins, initiate status and so on, is to be attributed to the city’s size, socio-economic complexity and role as the principal entrepoˆt for Britain, with a concomitant mobility of people, commodities and ideas.12 The interspersal of shrines serving such groups with houses and workshops is best illustrated in the Walbrook valley, owing in part to better survival of archaeological deposits compared to the hills to east and west where the city’s major public spaces were located.13 South-east of the city, the villa at Lullingstone offers the best preserved example of a household shrine, but the ‘deep room’ complex and later house church are atypical (Plate 1.1).14 In the more typical mixed domestic and working spaces, figurines of gods were probably accommodated within niches or cupboards or on tables, but direct evidence rarely survives anywhere in the Roman world outside Pompeii.15 DYNAMIC IMAGES The creation of images The Southwark inscription documents a process repeated many times over during Londinium’s four centuries of existence where a divine image was offered in relation to the god’s intercession, its dedication being the culmination of a process of prayer and response (the votum).16 The few other surviving texts generally record major gifts to gods which must often have included an image, for example when the provincial governor, Martianus Pulcher, restored a temple to Isis in the AD 250s or Tiberinius Celerianus, moritix (presiding over a corporation of merchants?) and a citizen of Beauvais in northern Gaul, made a dedication to the numina of the emperors and to Mars Camulos in the extensive precinct at Tabard Square, Southwark.17 In London as elsewhere in Britain individuals of local origin remain epigraphically near-invisible but nonetheless the votum is likely to be responsible for many of the images which survive, both the few larger-scale statues in bronze and stone (in relief and in the round), and the more numerous small images which represent deities and their attributes in bronze (c. 80), clay (.100), and occasionally other materials, for example a silver ‘leaf’ plaque with repousse´ decoration of three seated matres. Representations of gods on wood, textile or other perishable material are lost.18



Some of these images were brought to the city, either as a commercial cargo, for example pipe clay figurines from eastern Gaul and the Rhineland, or by a devotee, for example the Mithraeum marbles (see below). It is otherwise usually impossible to establish whether they were made in London or imported, but their number and diversity suggests that images of the gods were commonly created in the city itself, both in relation to the vow and also to embellish the fabric and furnishing of houses and mausolea with mythological images in mosaic, wall painting and stone as well as in perishable materials.19 The variety of making processes directly or indirectly attested in London, additionally including metal-working (precious and base) and intaglio carving, reveals the potential capacity of craft workers in the city to bring images of gods into being, supplemented by peripatetic craftsmen working on major sculptural projects.20 Even the most conventional of images must have required dialogue between patron and artisan over how to represent the god for a particular intended purpose, but the less common pieces from the city reveal both the application of sophisticated knowledge of religious imagery and its creative adaptation.21 This learned character is illustrated by the painting of the nymphs in the cellar shrine at Lullingstone villa, where water pours from the breast of the central figure, a very rare motif only otherwise known from the Roman world in one of the commentaries on mythological paintings by Philostratus, in this case of the mangled and dying Hippolytus mourned by nymphs.22 Whether they demonstrate intellectual accomplishment or embody philosophical and religious principles, the juxtaposed mosaic images from the fourth-century phases at Lullingstone villa of Europa and the bull, Bellerophon spearing the chimera, and a Latin couplet referring to the jealousy of Juno, also demonstrate a sophisticated familiarity with Greco-Roman myth and literature.23 The hunter god from Southwark illustrates the adaptation of Greco-Roman iconographic conventions to render a deity attested in statue form in London and the Cotswolds (Plate 1.2). His attributes and circumstantial evidence link him to Apollo, although the stag and dog also link him to some manifestations of Silvanus, a deity whose representation is widely drawn on when Gallic deities are rendered in stone.24



The surviving elements of the architectural sculpture of the second to third century AD cult complex documented in the south-west of the city (south of Queen Victoria Street) on steeply sloping ground by the Thames suggest the same potential complexity in the commissioning of images for major public buildings. These mainly comprise relief carvings from a screen and the higher parts of an arch that admitted worshippers to the precinct, probably from the first phase of the complex’s existence, which were reused in a nearby section of the fourth-century wall along the riverfront. On the arch are larger figures of four gods in niches, including Hercules and Minerva, while the planetary gods are rendered as busts on the attic, in the order of days of the week. Personifications of the seasons may fill the roundels on front and rear (Plate 1.3). The combination of planetary and seasonal deities is shared with the decoration of contemporary columns in eastern France and Germany which supported free-standing images of Jupiter subjugating a giant.25 The London images too may allude to cosmic order, its preservation and reproduction. The larger figures on the piers were perhaps the main deities of shrine and city. Without the inscription which might once have adorned the arch’s front face, the identity of the arch’s sponsor is unknown. An explicitly political context for such images is more apparent in the coinage of Carausius, a contender for imperial power, minted in London in the last decades of the third century AD . This uses images of deities, including members of the Greco-Roman pantheon and personifications, as well as tags from Virgil’s Eclogues to present the reign as restoring order and abundance. The recherche´ character of the textual allusions in particular reveals the sophistication of patron and (anticipated of the) viewer.26 Images in use In the setting of temple or shrine the (images of the) gods presided over the business of the city and household or workshop. With the partial exception of the Mithraeum, we can do little more than guess at the dynamic relationship between image and worshipper, but evidence from elsewhere in the empire allows something of its character to be suggested. A ‘ritual-centred visuality’, the mutual gaze of god (through divine image) and worshipper which was central to religious experience in antiquity, sometimes culminating in epiphany, is as likely to have applied in London as elsewhere. However poor survival



of temples, usually reduced to foundations and robber trenches, does not aid the reconstruction of the experience of seeing the god.27 For some images access was perhaps hedged about by screens, hangings and doors, for example in the small Romano-Celtic temple at Gresham Street. At Tabard Square and in the south-west complex the gods were also met in the precincts and porticoes that surrounded the shrine proper.28 The ‘deep room’ at Lullingstone (formerly the shrine of the nymphs), is the most evocative context for such encounters. In alterations of the late third century, the niche with the painting of the nymphs was bricked up and two life-size marble portrait busts of second-century AD date, one complete, the other in pieces after deliberate dismemberment, were placed on the steps of the cellar. A stone block placed nearby had cavities within it which may have held lamps or candles. The poor lighting and constrained access (probably by a trapdoor in its ceiling) well evoke the potentially charged nature of such encounters between worshipper and image.29 At Lullingstone the busts, co-opted into cult practice, witnessed pots containing offerings set in the concrete floor before them. In other cases we can guess at the robing, coiffing, garlanding, perfuming or petitioning of the gods through their statues, as well as the offering of animal and other sacrifices at festival time.30 We can also anticipate their participation in religious processions related to such occasions; finds of musical instruments or of incense burners allow us to imagine the sounds and smells of days of sacrifice around them.31 Such processions plausibly saw the gods borne between the major public spaces, perhaps between the forum and the temple complex at Peters Hill or the amphitheatre by Guildhall, or to the margins of the city; the Tabard Square precinct on the edge of Southwark was large enough to accommodate a substantial crowd.32 Divine images also contributed to the repertoire of apotropaic signs on and around the bodies of humans and animals, or on, or embedded within, the fabric of furniture, vehicles or buildings. The jet pendant figuring the gorgoneion, placed with the burial of a young adult male (?) from the city’s eastern cemetery and a worn as (a low-value copper coin) with a representation of Fortuna with cornucopia and ship’s rudder, placed in the socket for the mast-step of a sea-going vessel that sank off Blackfriars, illustrate their diversity; the former was made as an amulet, the latter co-opted as such, an



example of the latent capacity of divine images made for other purposes for activation to engage a god’s protection.33 Signa consumpta – images unmade The gods’ integrity was impermanent. Few images survive, especially larger representations, and those that do are often reduced to fragments, often demonstrably removed within the Roman period itself from their context of use. For this final stage the surviving evidence is most abundant, but it is challenging to reconstruct the process which reduced them to this condition.34 Temples and their images were of course prone to the hazards which afflicted the fabric of ancient cities. City-wide calamities such as the fires of the Boudiccan revolt and the Hadrianic period which affected much of the city or more localised disasters, for example the subsidence which caused partial collapse of the Mithraeum and the south-west complex, may have taken their toll on images. The inscriptions which record restorations of temples of Isis and Jupiter may illustrate similar episodes, but the phrasing (vetustate conlapsum, ‘collapsed through old age’) is a cliche´ of Latin building inscriptions, endowing the restorer with the (implied) faculty of reversing the effects of nature itself.35 The communities which curated the statues and the spaces within which they were housed were equally susceptible to such misfortunes, exposing images to neglect, deterioration and reuse. This might explain, for example, the mutilated and weathered remnants of images of Mercury seemingly left in the mud of a workshop yard in Moorgate in the later second century AD or in a field ditch at Bow in the fourth. Figurines, whole and fragmentary, also often occur among rubbish deposits.36 The abundant architectural sculpted blocks from the temples in the south-west of the city in the riverside wall may represent opportunistic reuse of suitable building materials. The city must have periodically witnessed the politically and religiously motivated destruction of statues through the breakage and burial of images both of emperors and deities. However although iconoclasm has been held responsible for the isolated limbs and truncated torsos documented in London and beyond, unambiguous evidence for it is rare. The most plausible case is that of the life-sized or slightly larger left hand and forearm of a gilded bronze statue deposited within sediments accumulating in a pond in a disused gravel pit on the city’s western edge in the mid-first century AD , the



likely product of destruction of images during the Boudiccan revolt or in the damnatio memoriae of Nero, i.e. in the period between AD 60 and 68.37 Such damage did not however stop the broken bust from Lullingstone becoming a focus of cult activity in the villa’s deep room.38 Contextual associations sometimes suggest more complex processes of fragmentation and deposition. The hunter god in the well fill beneath Southwark cathedral crypt was found broken in two with a mass of building material, much of it blackened by burning, as well as other sculpted stone images, including small figures of a marine deity, a genius and an altar as well as funerary sculpture. In the fill beneath was a layer of charcoal overlying the remnants of a dog and cat.39 A headless pipeclay figurine of Minerva was deposited with a mass of broken (used) flagons and an incense burner in a fill which closed the use of a well in the late first- or early second-century date from the city’s northern margins at Newgate Street.40 In these and other cases the recurring associations of images, whole or incomplete, are with animal carcasses or limbs and large quantities of ceramics and sometimes other objects in near-complete but often broken condition, as well as building debris. The term ‘structured deposits’ has been borrowed from the study of the Iron Age to characterise the deliberate and ritualised character of these contexts, widely recognised in London and beyond.41 These assemblages may be the residue of processes with varying purposes, to deposit the remnant of sacrifice within temples like the favissae documented elsewhere in the Roman world, to convey an offering to divine powers associated with earth or water, to mark the terminated use of the feature or building in which the material is deposited or from which it derives, or to fragment the image to create representations of limbs or organs as ex votos.42 Whatever the specific character of the process, now difficult to recover, the image is transformed as an object without (entirely) losing its sacred qualities. THE LONDON MITHRAEUM Several of the processes described so far can be seen at work in the history of the temple of Mithras which was discovered and excavated at Walbrook in 1954. The temple was constructed in c.AD 240– 50, and in the first quarter of the fourth century it suffered a partial



collapse. At that point a number of marble sculptural figures were carefully buried under a new floor, and it seems likely that the worship of Mithras there came to an end, and the building was given over to the cult of Bacchus. Around the end of the fourth century it appears to have been abandoned altogether, and collapsed.43 Material remains from the site, combined with knowledge of Mithraic practice across the Roman empire allows us, with due caution, to reconstruct something of the experience of worshippers there, and to see the role of images in Roman cult practice. The mysteries of Mithras The worship of Mithras in the Roman empire took the form of a mystery cult, where worshippers underwent initiation and became members of a group under the leadership of a pater (‘Father’). The cult probably developed in Italy in the first century AD , and spread fairly quickly across the empire. There was no central organisation, and there were no Mithraic ‘scriptures’.44 As initiates moved to new places in the empire some will have set up their own new groups, and built Mithraic temples for them. Near a small wooden Mithraic building in Tienen in Belgium the remains of a large summer solstice feast have been excavated, and this presumably celebrated the consecration of the building, with fellow initiates invited from the surrounding communities.45 Such feasts would have enabled Mithraists to identify themselves as members of a community larger than their own group, and would have ensured some continuity of understanding across the cult network. However the main way in which ideas would be transmitted and shared would have been through visual imagery, and above all through the bull-slaying, or tauroctony, which was the central image in every Mithraic cult-building. A votive relief depicting this scene discovered in 1889 is now recognised as coming from the Walbrook Mithraeum (Plate 1.4).46 It shows Mithras kneeling on the back of a bull, stabbing it with a dagger as he looks away. A dog and a snake (mostly broken off) reach up to drink blood from the wound, while a scorpion menaces the bull’s testicles; a raven (also missing) looks on from behind the god’s back; his two companions, Cautes and Cautopates stand on either side with raised and lowered torches. The pose of Mithras is identical to that of Nike (Victory) sacrificing a bull, which is a common subject for sculpture in the imperial period.47



The London tauroctony has the central scene within a circular band that contains the symbols of the zodiac, and in the upper corners outside the band, the chariots of the Sun and Moon; the lower corners have the heads of two wind-gods.48 Astrological symbols are found on may other tauroctonies, often in the form of seven altars or seven stars, to represent the seven planets, and it is possible to read most of the figures in the tauroctony as having celestial counterparts (the dog, scorpion, snake and raven correspond to the constellations Canis Major, Scorpius, Hydra and Corvus, for example). It is not clear however that the scene as a whole had a single meaning understood by all initiates: it was potentially open to multiple interpretations, and it is likely that the Mithraic pater in each group will have had the strongest influence on how it was understood. The sculpture of the Walbrook Mithraeum The London relief was dedicated by Ulpius Silvanus, who describes himself as emeritus (veteran) of the Second Legion, and notes that he was factus Arausione (literally ‘made’ at Orange in southern France – possibly this is where he was initiated). He will either have commissioned the relief, or chosen it: in either case it may be taken to reflect something of his understanding of Mithras, whose sacrifice of the bull somehow relates to the circling days, seasons (represented by the winds) and years.49 Since the relief was mounted in a prominent position at the front of the dais on which the main cult image of the temple stood, it is assumed that Silvanus was pater of the Mithraeum, and possibly responsible for its creation.50 The other marble sculptures found at the Mithraeum are made of the same material as the relief.51 They were all made in Italy in the second century – so significantly before the construction of the temple, and were buried together, and it is likely that they form part of the original decoration of the temple.52 We need therefore to consider the assemblage as a whole. As indicated above, images might be decommissioned and carefully buried when they had ceased to play a role in cult. This is what appears to have happened at Walbrook in the early fourth century, when the Mithraeum was rebuilt as a temple to Bacchus. Two pits were dug, with the new floor covering them. In one was found what have been identified as the heads of the god Mithras (Plate 1.5) and the goddess Minerva. In another, a head of the god



Serapis, a small statue of Mercury and a right hand of Mithras (Plate 1.6). This last is not to the same scale as the head, but nearly twice life-size. Three other marble pieces, which probably came from the same deposit as Serapis, had been discovered in earlier excavations in 1889: these were the upper half of a water-deity, a statuette of a ‘genius’, missing its head, and the tauroctony we have already considered. There have been alternative identifications of some of these pieces,53 and it must be recognised that those used in the publication of the excavation remain guesses in several cases. But this uncertainty is itself a feature of pre-Christian Roman religion. It is assumed that the building contained an image of the tauroctony in the round, and that this image was acrolithic: Mithras’ head and hands would have been made of marble, while the rest of the sculpture was some cheaper material. If the marble head and hand did belong to the same image it would have looked somewhat odd, but we should not rule out this possibility. Silvanus may have acquired the sculptural pieces first, and then had them assembled as effectively as he could.54 The other marble sculptures would have been displayed within the building, and would have taken on meaning in part from their collocation. The water-deity may have been interpreted to represent the divinity of the Walbrook stream, or of the nearby River Thames.55 The ‘genius’ holds a cornucopia, and has a snake coiled around his wrist, and these symbols may be associated with fertility, and death and rebirth.56 The cult of Serapis, a god represented as a bearded man with a modius (a corn measure, and a symbol of fertility) on his head, emerged from Ptolemaic Egypt in the third century AD . He was initially depicted as consort of Isis, but increasingly emerged as a figure in his own right, and might be identified with Jupiter, or indeed with Pluto, also sometimes shown with a modius on his head.57 The identification of Mercury is secure from the presence of small wings on his head, and the tortoise under his feet: the presence of these, and of a sheep and a money bag refer to a whole range of myths associated with the god in Roman contexts, and to his role as patron of commerce. His role as psychopompus, leading the souls of the dead to the Underworld, is not so obviously represented, although the sculpture would have included a metal caduceus held in the god’s right hand. Overall this is a Mercury of the classical Mediterranean world, rather than the god worshipped in Celtic contexts.58 Minerva had even less to do with the sort of themes



(death and rebirth) usually assumed to be associated with mystery cult, and this is the only example of an image of the goddess in a Mithraic context.59 We must therefore be careful not read this group of images too narrowly. Experiencing the gods If Silvanus brought these marble sculptures to the Mithraeum which he constructed, they will have had a set of meanings for him associated with where he acquired them, and his ambitions for a cult site of his own. But for his fellow Mithraists they will have had potentially rather different meanings, relating to their own experiences in the Mithraic building. Cult of Mithras was not exclusive, in that it was not incompatible with the cult of other gods in other contexts, and it was not unusual for images of other gods to be found in Mithraea. Consideration of how these images will have appeared to worshippers is therefore a way of approaching how the members of the Mithraic group will have responded to the images, and related to the gods they represented. Mithraic buildings were often referred to as caves (the Latin word is speleum). The London building would have been windowless, dark and probably rather damp. It would have held no more than around 20 people, possibly rather fewer, who would have met regularly and taken part in various activities. These may well have included painful and humiliating initiation rituals, such as we see illustrated in the frescos of the Mithraeum at Capua Vetere, and on the Mainz Cup.60 We know from the archaeological material that they ate together in the building, a diet largely of cockerel.61 All this we may imagine taking place lit by torchlight or lamplight, with the polished marble of the sculptures (possibly painted) gleaming in the background. Rather than a series of easily identifiable images offering a coherent story, or set of stories, such as we might find in a Roman Catholic (or High Anglican) church, we may imagine some half-seen presences, dominated by the central figure of Mithras engaged in his vital, but not easily interpreted, slaying of the bull. The experience of shared ritual activity in that place, rather than a set of beliefs and expectations about the future would have been central to the religion of Mithraic initiates.62 The Walbrook Mithraeum offers us in a confined space an idea of the religious experience of living in Roman London more generally.



The city was full of gods: some recognised, and some that would have been hard even for Londoners of the period to identify. In such a city, it would be pointless to ask questions about belief in the gods – they were too visible for their existence to be denied. Now we can only see the broken piece of a fraction of these representations, but they allow us to imagine what might once have been.

NOTE Inscriptions from Roman London are referenced using the conventions of the key corpus, Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB). They may also be accessed via its online version (http://romaninscriptions A catalogue of larger images of gods in stone and bronze from London was published in 2015 in the 10th British fascicule of the Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani. All but the most recent finds of figurines are documented by Emma Durham’s 2012 article on finds of this type from Britain. Recent discoveries are reported in the annual summaries of archaeological fieldwork published in the journal Britannia and in the London Archaeologist.

NOTES 1. M. Beard, ‘Priesthood in the Roman Republic’, in M. Beard and J. North (eds), Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World (London: Duckworth, 1990), pp. 17 –48. 2. See e.g. C. Weddle, ‘The Sensory Experience of Blood Sacrifice in the Roman Imperial Cult’, in J. Day (ed.), Making Senses of the Past: Towards a Sensory Archaeology (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), pp. 137–59. 3. The fragmentary text can be reconstructed as Silvan[o. . .sacrum] j P(ublius) Fab[ius P(ublii) l(ibertus). . .] j P(ublius) Fab[ius P(ublii) l(ibertus). . .] j ex [voto. . .]; ‘Sacred to Silvanus. . . Publius Fabius [. . .], freedman of Publius (and) Publius Fabius [. . .], freedman of Publius, in accordance with their vow. . .’. R.S.O. Tomlin, ‘Roman Britain in 2011. III. Inscriptions’, Britannia, 43 (2012), pp. 295–6, no. 1. 4. C. Cowan, F. Seeley, A. Wardle, A. Westman and L. Wheeler, Roman Southwark, Settlement and Economy: Excavations in Southwark 1973 –91 (London: MoLAS, 2009), pp. 143–57. 5. J. Clark, ‘The Temple of Diana’, in J. Bird, M. Hassall and H. Sheldon (eds), Interpreting Roman London. Papers in Memory of Hugh Chapman (Oxford:











Oxbow, 1996), pp. 1 –9; I. Sinclair, Lights out for the Territory (London: Penguin Books, 2003), pp. 113–16. P. Ackroyd, London: The Biography (London: Chatto & Windus, 2000), pp. 744 – 5; J. Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, London: Excavations by W. F. Grimes and A. Williams at the Walbrook (London: English Heritage, 1998). J. Hall and J. Shepherd, ‘Places of Worship in Roman London and Beyond’, in D. Rudling (ed.), Ritual Landscapes of Roman South-East Britain (Oxford: Oxbow, 2008), pp. 27–44; I. Haynes, ‘Religion in Roman London’, in I. Haynes, H. Sheldon and L. Hannigan (eds), London Under Ground: The Archaeology of a City (Oxford: Oxbow, 2000), pp. 85 –101; M. Henig, ‘Art in Roman London’, in I. Haynes, H. Sheldon and L. Hannigan (eds), London Under Ground, pp. 62–84. R.L. Gordon, ‘The Real and the Imaginary. Production and Religion in the Greco-Roman World’, Art History, 2 (1979), pp. 5–34; V. Platt, Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), for the fullest examination of ancient literary and artistic exploration of this double nature. M. Dondin-Payre and X. Loriot, ‘Tiberinius Celerianus a` Londres: Bellovaque et moritix’, L’Antiquite´ Classique, 77 (2008), pp. 147–59; R.S.O. Tomlin, ‘Was Roman London Ever a Colonia?’, in R. Wilson (ed.), Romanitas: Essays on Roman Archaeology in Honour of Sheppard Frere on the Occasion of his Ninetieth Birthday (Oxford: Oxbow, 2006), pp. 58–64. M. Beard, J.A. North and S.R.F. Price, Religions of Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 328–63; W. Van Andringa, La religion en Gaule romaine (Paris: Errance, 2002), pp. 198–200, on the cult of tutela and the municipal genius. RIB 5 (imperial numen); Haynes, ‘Religion in Roman London’, pp. 86 –7; T. Bradley and J. Butler, From Temples to Thames Street – 2000 Years of Riverside Development: Archaeological Excavations at the Salvation Army International Headquarters (London: Pre-Construct Archaeology, 2008). G. Woolf, ‘Polis-Religion and its Alternatives in the Roman Provinces’, in ¨ pke (eds), Ro¨mische Reichsreligion und Provinzialreligion H. Cancik and J. Ru ¨ bingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), pp. 71– 84. (Tu For evidence from the Walbrook, RIB 2, dedication by the neighbourhood to the matres, Hall and Shepherd, ‘Places of Worship’, pp. 38–40; J. Leary and J. Butler, Roman Archaeology in the Upper Reaches of the Walbrook Valley: Excavations at 6 –8 Tokenhouse Yard, London EC2 (London: Pre-Construct Archaeology, 1997), pp. 84 –7; R. Merrifield and J. Hall, ‘In Its Depths, What Treasures – the Nature of the Walbrook Stream Valley and the Roman Metalwork Found Therein’, in J. Clark, J. Cotton, J. Hall, R. Sherris and H. Swain (eds), Londinium and Beyond: Essays on Roman London and Its Hinterland for Harvey Sheldon (York: Council for British Archaeology,



15. 16.

17. 18.




22. 23.

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY 2008), pp. 121–7. Soldiers and administrators almost certainly would have formed religious associations, though these are not yet directly attested. G.W. Meates, The Roman Villa at Lullingstone, Kent, Vol. 1 (Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society, 1979), pp. 35 –9, 59–69; D. Petts, Christianity in Roman Britain (Stroud: Tempus, 2003), pp. 79 –81. ¨ pke (ed.), A A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, ‘Religion in the House’, in J. Ru Companion to Roman Religion (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), pp. 188–201. T. Derks, Gods, Temples and Ritual Practices (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 1998), pp. 216–19; W. van Andringa, La religion en Gaule romaine, pp. 118–22 on vota and dona. RIB 3001 (Isis); RIB 3014, Dondin-Payre and Loriot, ‘Tiberinius Celerianus a` Londres’ (Mars Camulos). T.F.C. Blagg, ‘Architectural Munificence in Britain: the Evidence of Inscriptions’, Britannia, 21 (1990), pp. 13 – 31 (epigraphic habit); E. Durham, ‘Depicting the Gods: Metal Figurines in Roman Britain’, Internet Archaeology, 31 (2012), 4.3; M. Fittock, ‘Broken Deities: the PipeClay Figurines from Roman London’, Lucerna, 47 (2014), pp. 18 –20; J. Toynbee, ‘A Londinium Votive Leaf or Feather and its Fellows’, in J. Bird, H. Chapman and J. Clark (eds), Collectanea Londiniensia. Studies in London Archaeology and History Presented to Ralph Merrifield (London: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1978), p. 142. The diverse representations of Hercules illustrate such commissions. J. Bird, ‘A Samian Bowl by Crucuro and the Cult of Hercules in London’, in J. Clark, J. Cotton, J. Hall, R. Sherris and H. Swain (eds), Londinium and Beyond. Essays on Roman London and its Hinterland for Harvey Sheldon (York: Council for British Archaeology, 2008), pp. 134–41. Hall, ‘Shopkeepers and Craft workers’. The example of the screen of gods from the south-west sanctuary, with some parallels for its carving style in the middle Rhine-Moselle area, may illustrate the presence of peripatetic sculptors. C. Hill, M. Millett, T.F.C. Blagg and T. Dyson, The Roman Riverside Wall and Monumental Arch in London: Excavations at Baynard’s Castle, Upper Thames Street, London 1974 – 6 (London: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1980), p. 182. Henig, ‘Art in Roman London’; P. Stewart, ‘Geographies of Provincialism in Roman Sculpture’, RIHA Journal, 5 (2010). The emphasis on creative engagement of local patrons with the Greco-Roman tradition has largely replaced the disparaging judgements of earlier scholarship. N. Davey and R. Ling, Wall Painting in Roman Britain (Gloucester: Sutton, 1982), pp. 137–8; Philostratus, Imagines, II.4.3. M. Henig, ‘The Lullingstone Mosaic: Art, Religion and Letters in a Fourthcentury Villa’, Mosaic, 24 (1997), pp. 4–7; D. Perring, ‘Gnosticism’ in Fourth-Century Britain: The Frampton Mosaics Reconsidered’, Britannia, 34 (2003), p. 117.



24. R. Ha¨ussler, ‘Interpretatio Indigena. Re-inventing Local Cults in a Roman World’, Mediterraneo Antico, 15 (2012), pp. 143–74; R. Merrifield, ‘The London Hunter-God and his Significance’, in J. Bird, M. Hassall and H. Sheldon (eds), Interpreting Roman London (Oxford: Oxbow, 1996), pp. 105–13. 25. C. Hill et al., The Roman Riverside Wall, pp. 175–81; T. Blagg, Roman Architectural Ornament in Britain (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2002), pp. 165– 74; G. Woolf, ‘Representation as Cult: the Case of the Jupiter Columns’, in ¨ pke (eds), Religion in den germanischen W. Spickermann, H. Cancik, J. Ru ¨ bingen, 2001), pp. 129– 30. Provinzen Roms (Mohr Siebeck, Tu 26. P.J. Casey, Carausius and Allectus: The British Usurpers (London: Batsford, 1994), 54 –69; G. de la Bedoye`re, ‘Carausius and the Marks RSR and INPCDA’, Numismatic Chronicle, 158 (1998), pp. 79 –88. 27. J. Elsner, Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 22; B. Gladigow, ‘Zur Ikonographie ¨ mischer Kultbilder’, in H. Keller and N. Staubach (eds), und Pragmatik ro Iconologia sacra: Mythos. Bildkunst und Dichtung in der Religions und Sozialgeschichte Alteuropas (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994), pp. 9–24; W. van Andringa, Quotidien des dieux et des hommes: la vie religieuse dans les cite´s du Ve´suve a` l’e´poque romaine (Rome: E´cole Francaise de Rome, 2009), pp. 121–30. 28. 54 –66 Gresham Street, C. Maloney, ‘Fieldwork Roundup 2006’, London Archaeologist Supplement (2007), p. 62; Tabard Square, N. Durrani, ‘Tabard Square Excavations, Southwark’, Current Archaeology, 192 (2004), pp. 540– 7; D. Killock, An Assessment of an Archaeological Excavation at Tabard Square, London SE1 (London: Pre-Construct Archaeology, 2009); RIB 3014; R.S.O. Tomlin, ‘Roman Britain in 2013. III. Inscriptions’, Britannia, 45 (2014), pp. 431–62; south-west complex, see above. 29. Meates, The Roman Villa at Lullingstone, pp. 35 –9; J. Toynbee, Art in Britain under the Romans (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 60–2. Martin Henig (pers. comm.) argues that they may represent the short-lived emperor Pertinax and his father. ¨ pke 30. U. Egelhaaf-Gaiser, ‘Roman Cult Sites: A Pragmatic Approach’, in J. Ru (ed.), A Companion to Roman Religion (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007); Gladigow, ‘Zur Ikonographie’. Martin Henig, Religion in Roman Britain (London: Batsford, 1984, pp. 39 –41, vividly evokes the wider setting of this activity. 31. For finds of sistra and a syrinx see J. Schuster, ‘A Lead Bust of the Goddess Isis from Groundwell Ridge, Swindon, Wiltshire’, Britannia, 42 (2011), pp. 309–14 and H. Clare, ‘Roman Panpipes Found in London’, London Archaeologist, 7:4 (1993), pp. 87 –92. E.g. Cowan et al., Roman Southwark, p. 148 for tazze and incense burners. 32. D. Perring, ‘Two Studies on Roman London’, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 24 (2011), pp. 275–9; van Andringa, Quotidien des dieux et des hommes, pp. 180–95.



33. P. Marsden, Ships of the Port of London, First to Eleventh Centuries AD (London: English Heritage, 1994), p. 49. B. Barber and D. Bowsher, The Eastern Cemetery of Roman London (London: MoLAS, 2000), burial 709, pp. 226–7. 34. J. Bayley et al., ‘A Gilt-Bronze Arm from London’, Britannia, 40 (2009), pp. 151–62. 35. RIB 3001, 3002. E. Thomas and C. Witschel, ‘Constructing Reconstruction: Claim and Reality of Roman Rebuilding Inscriptions from the Latin West’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 40 (1992), pp. 135–78. 36. Images of Mercury, Old Ford, Merrifield, ‘Art and Religion in Roman London’, p. 394; W. McIsaac, I. Schwab and H. Sheldon, ‘Excavations at Old Ford, 1972 – 1975’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 30 (1979), pp. 81 –3. Moorgate Street, Haynes, ‘Religion in Roman London’, p. 93. Figurines, L. Miller et al., The Roman Quay at St Magnus House, London (London & Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1986), pp. 205–9; J. Hill and P. Rowsome, Roman London and the Walbrook Stream Crossing: Excavations at 1 Poultry and Vicinity (London: MoLAS, 2011), pp. 404–8. 37. R. Merrifield, ‘Art and Religion in Roman London – An Inquest on the Sculptures of Londinium’, in J. Munby and M. Henig (eds), Roman Life and Art in Britain (Oxford: Archaeopress, 1977) pp. 375–406; Idem., The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London: Batsford, 1987), 96–105; J. Bayley et al., ‘A Gilt-Bronze Arm from London’; D. Perring, ‘Two Studies on Roman London’, pp. 279–80. Martin Henig (pers. comm.) notes a further example, possibly from London of a mutilated head of Geta. 38. Meates, The Roman Villa at Lullingstone, pp. 35 –9. 39. M. Hammerson, ‘Excavations Beneath the Choir of Southwark Cathedral 1977’, London Archaeologist, 3:8 (1978), pp. 206– 12; Cowan et al., Roman Southwark, pp. 143–4. 40. J. Hall and B. Watson, ‘A Figurine of Minerva from London’, Minerva, 11:2 (2000), pp. 4–5. 41. Ralph Merrifield was the first to flag their existence in London: Archaeology of Ritual and Magic, pp. 40–50. Cowan et al., Roman Southwark, pp. 149–56, describe further examples. Haynes and Chadwick consider recent scholarship on deposits of this kind: I. Haynes, ‘Advancing the Systematic Study of Ritual Deposition in the Graeco-Roman World’, in A. Scha¨fer and M. Witteyer (eds), Rituelle Deponierungen in Heligtu¨mern der hellenistischro¨mischen Welt (Mainz: Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz, 2013), 7–19; A. Chadwick, ‘Routine Magic, Mundane Ritual: Towards a Unified Notion of Depositional Practice’, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 31 (2012), pp. 283–315. 42. J. Bayley et al., ‘A Gilt-Bronze Arm from London’; B. Croxford, ‘Iconoclasm in Roman Britain’, Britannia, 34 (2003), pp. 81 –105. 43. Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, pp. 220–9.



44. On the cult of Mithras in general see R. Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); H. Bowden, Mystery Cults in the Ancient World (London: Thames & Hudson: 2010), pp. 181–97; M. Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and his Mysteries (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000); ¨ pke R. Gordon, ‘Institutionalised Religious Options: Mithraism’, in J. Ru (ed.), A Companion to Roman Religion (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), pp. 392– 405. The description of Mithraism in Henig, Religion in Roman Britain, pp. 97 –109, is no longer widely accepted. 45. M. Martens, ‘The Mithraeum in Tienen (Belgium), Small Finds and What They Can Tell Us’, in M. Martens and G. De Boe (eds), Roman Mithraism: The Evidence of the Small Finds (Brussels: Vlaams Instituut voor het Archeologisch Patrimonium, 2004), pp. 56 –80. 46. J. Toynbee, The Roman Art Treasures from the Temple of Mithras, Special Paper no. 7 (London: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1986), pp. 29 – 30. 47. Two examples from the mid second-century AD can be found as part of the Townley Collection in the British Museum (BM 1805,0703.4–5). 48. Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, pp. 172–4. 49. As such it should not be compared to representations of the crucifixion in Christian ritual contexts, which was understood as a once-and-for-all intervention in human history ( pace Henig, Religion in Roman Britain, p. 101). 50. RIB 3. Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, p. 228. 51. ‘Fine-grained saccharoidal marble, probably from Carrara, Italy’: Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, pp. 165–74. 52. The sculptures are discussed in Toynbee, The Roman Art Treasures from the Temple of Mithras. 53. A.N. Oikonomides, Mithraic Art: A Search for Unpublished and Unidentified Monuments (Chicago: Ares, 1975), pp. 9 –22. 54. Amongst the other finds in the Mithraeum was a left hand, on a smaller scale than the head of Mithras (and therefore much smaller than the right hand). It was made from Cotswold limestone: Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras London, pp. 170–1. While this would make a proposed acrolithic image look even more odd, the survival of two hands and a head in a ‘structured deposit’ is otherwise quite a coincidence. 55. Toynbee, The Roman Art Treasures from the Temple of Mithras, pp. 25–7. 56. Ibid., pp. 27 –9. 57. Ibid., pp. 13 –18. On the cult of Serapis see S. Taka´cs, Isis and Sarapis in the Roman World (Leiden: Brill, 1995). 58. Toynbee, The Roman Art Treasures from the Temple of Mithras, pp. 18 –21. For the association of Mercury with local gods in Roman Gaul (noted by Julius Caesar, de Bello Gallico 6.17) see Derks, Gods, Temples and Ritual Practices, pp. 115–17. 59. Toynbee, The Roman Art Treasures from the Temple of Mithras, pp. 10–13.



60. M.J. Vermaseren, Mithriaca I: The Mithraeum at Santa Maria Capua Vetere (Leiden: Brill, 1971); R. Beck, ‘Ritual, Myth, Doctrine, and Initiation in the Mysteries of Mithras: New Evidence from a Cult Vessel’, Journal of Roman Studies, 90 (2000), pp. 145–80. 61. Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, pp. 213–14. 62. For the importance of experience in mystery cults see W. Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 89– 114; Bowden, Mystery Cults in the Ancient World, pp. 212–21.


Temple Church: History, Experience and Theology in the Round Robin Griffith-Jones

A world ends when its metaphor has died. An age becomes an age, all else beside, When sensuous poets in their pride invent Emblems for the soul’s consent That speak the meanings men will never know But man-imagined images can show: It perishes when those images, though seen, No longer mean. Archibald MacLeish

The Temple Church in London, built by the Knights Templar, is in two parts. Its rotunda, the Church’s western section, was in use by 1162 and may have been the first Gothic building built in England; it was consecrated in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. The present chancel, a lovely Early English Gothic hall-church, was built to be the funerary chapel of King Henry III and his queen, and was consecrated in 1240 in the king’s presence. In 1608 the church, as part of the whole area known as The Temple, was granted by King James I to the two legal colleges Inner and Middle Temple; it has ever since been their shared collegiate chapel. To these three totemic dates in the history of the church I add a fourth, more immediately pertinent to the present volume, for reasons which will soon become clear: 2015, the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.1



The history of visual culture is the history not just of what our predecessors saw, but of what they saw in what they saw. It is hard enough to determine the first, in a church that has undergone successive and drastic refurbishments. More elusive still is the second, with which I am chiefly concerned here. To begin at the church’s beginning: we can speak generally of the significance, in the Middle Ages, of the roundness of round churches. Richard Krautheimer published in 1942 the classic account of such churches built in western Europe in imitation of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.2 It is not clear how we should best describe them: perhaps as copies, evocations, re-presentations, even recreations of Jerusalem’s Sepulchre. We will want in our description to do some justice to these churches’ role in the devotion, thought and imagination of those who spent time in them. It is a commonplace that twelfth century devotion became more vividly and immediately linked with Jesus’ life and death on earth. This may have been fostered by – and was certainly consonant with – the accessibility of the holy sites in Jerusalem. To do justice to our predecessors’ sensibilities, we need to be alert both to such devotional instincts and to the symbolic freight that buildings could carry. In this task we have learnt little until we can say concretely and with some confidence who noticed and who cared about this freight, and then further (with an eye on the building’s patrons, paymasters and architects) who noticed who noticed, and who cared who cared. Whose response, whether conscious and articulable or latent and diffuse, as a part of what wider social and devotional setting, are we trying to describe? What difference and how much did it make to whom that the Temple’s Round was round? Within the first decades of its use (to go no further) it will have been seen by the London Templars, their priests, their sergeants and servitors, some of whom will have been to Jerusalem, others not; royal, diplomatic and political visitors, and Templars from other English and continental houses; clients of the Templars’ banking services; pilgrims to the church itself and its tombs; members of crafts and trades doing business in and around the Temple and using its access to the river. We are likely, in any reconstruction of the building’s significance, to privilege an imagined ideal auditor at mass or participant in a liturgical procession, probably male and free, disposed to devotion, and aware of the Templars’ roles and their links



to Jerusalem and to its sacred buildings. This imagined viewpoint is, when reflectively adopted, better than arbitrary; but it leaves a lot still unspecified and within its specificity a lot unknown.3 We are likely, then, to invest our imagined medieval viewer with some awareness, prior to any visit and without any self-conscious preparation for it, of the symbols and significance realised in the Round. To put it at its strongest: the Round recreated the shape and thereby the sanctity of the Sepulchre itself; to be in the Round was to be ‘in’ Jerusalem. Christ’s own tomb is in the centre of the Holy Sepulchre’s rotunda. Catherine Hundley emphasises that there were burials in the centre of the Temple’s Round while the Round was being built. The placing must have been deliberate: the dead were being laid to rest where Christ rested, in the expectation of rising with Christ to life. We can invoke some nice analogies. The Latin kings of Jerusalem were aptly buried in the Holy Sepulchre near Calvary.4 Bishop Lanfranc was said to have brought shiploads of soil from the Holy Land to Pisa to be the earth of his walled cemetery, Campo Santo; those buried there were indeed buried in holy ground. The round baptistery at Pisa was among the baptisteries based on the rotunda of the Sepulchre; for to be baptised into Christ was to be baptised into his death, and so to share his risen life (Col. 2.12, 3.1). And more locally to ourselves in London’s Temple: William Marshal, of whom we will hear more, spent two years in the Holy Land, 1183 – 5. While there he gave his body to the Templars, ‘in whatever place I happen to die’; he brought back silks from the Holy Land to be buried in. On his deathbed he became a Templar and had his almoner Geoffrey (a Templar) bring in the Templar cloak that had been made for him a year before; and was buried ‘in front of the cross’ in the Temple Church, that is, in the Round, to the west of the rood-screen and its cross.5 William’s donation to the order, his admission to the order and his wish to be buried in the silks and ground (actually or figuratively) of the Holy Land are closely interlinked. I qualify my earlier sketch of our imagined medieval visitor, who needed no particular instruction in order to be affected by the roundness of the Round. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke up for the Templars at the Council of Troyes, helped to write their Rule and composed De Laude Novae Militiae (In Praise of the New Knighthood) to extol them. De Laude’s second part evokes Jerusalem.



In the Holy Sepulchre itself, writes Bernard, the knight should be raised up to thoughts of Christ’s death and of the freedom from death that it had won for his people: ‘The death of Christ is the death of my death.’ Bernard draws on Paul’s account of baptism, and finds in the pilgrims’ weariness the process of their necessary ‘dying’: ‘For, as Paul said, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, so we shall be also in the likeness of the resurrection’ (Rom. 6.3 – 4). Bernard wrote of pilgrims reaching the Sepulchre ‘after the great weariness of a long journey, after so many dangers of land and sea, and resting where the Lord had rested’.6 Bernard was writing as much for readers who had never been and would never go to Jerusalem or to a round church, as for those Templars or pilgrims who had seen the Holy Land. We might wonder what similar encouragement or instruction was offered locally to congregations in such churches as London’s Temple. By contrast, the modern silence of our stones is unsettling. Few observers now, even among churchgoers, have a vivid sense of God’s power concentrated at a church’s altar and realised at the eucharist, when heaven and earth, history and eternity intersect in the sanctuary. Our own Round will have been used for the Templars’ chapter meetings.7 But we can now muster by self-conscious effort only a faint intuition that such a rotunda expressed both the equality of those gathered round its pan-symmetric walls and, in its perfect shape, the perfection of God’s wisdom invoked and sought in the chapter’s deliberations. Sebastian Salvado writes eloquently about the westwards processions of the canons in the Holy Sepulchre itself from the rectangular choir and sanctuary to the rotunda and Christ’s tomb.8 These processions varied in their route over Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide, to honour the course of Christ’s own passion and resurrection. Salvado suggests that the Templars and Hospitallers in their European rotundas recreated these processional liturgies; and Martin Biddle has wondered whether such Rounds would once have housed internal wooden chapels modelled on the aedicule over Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem.9 To envision such a procession is to sense a movement from the quasi-heavenly choir and sanctuary to the round cosmos of the world, redeemed and sanctified by Christ’s



resurrection at its centre. It is not easy now to recover in our imagination even the elements in this drama, let alone the drama itself or its possible affective power. We may find ourselves, in evoking such history, deepening the awareness in our congregations and visitors of just the Temple Church itself in an ad hoc catechesis unconnected with our auditors’ experience of other buildings or their rituals. In such instruction the church itself, as seen, can become little more than a (beautiful and ancient but) stolid token for historical, theological and conceptual links, a symbol that can be reduced almost without loss to its articulable elements. A contrary danger lurks in the romance of an ancient building. (Here I set aside – but I do not denigrate – the popular enthusiasm for the past and in particular for the supposedly mysterious Templars and the scene set here in The Da Vinci Code.) Every church is rooted in a distant past whose reality is also, in Christian imagination, eternally present. The sacrifice of Christ, once and once only undergone (Hebr. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10), is also re-presented at the altar or table in the drama of the Eucharist in which the temple of God (1 Cor. 3.16) is gathered in the Temple of God, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.12 – 27) is fed with the Body of Christ, and the earth-bound, time-bound participants of every particular church are united with Christ’s whole Church of all times and places at the threshold of heaven for the anticipation of the banquet of the age to come. Of all the numinous sites at which this intersection might be brought vividly before us, none could be more transparent than the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple and the tomb from which Christ rose and defeated death. But there may be a danger in an emphasis on such long and rich history. Two thousand years of Christendom do not in themselves lift us above its traditions, its artefacts and their beauty, into a recognition of the eternity that once inspired and still informs them. Memorials of the past can vitally re-embed us in our shared identity and home, and so can stabilise and strengthen us; but they can seem as well to beguile us sentimentally and wistfully away from our present community, our future hope and the vaster setting in which past, present and future belong. The question confronts us at the Temple Church, what can or should be the importance, to our present congregations and visitors, of the specific history of this building? We might take some guidance and encouragement from one part of that history: the deliberate and



programmatic and evolving evocation of both the distant past and the urgent present by our own predecessors here. THE NEW TEMPLE, LONDON Catherine Hundley has elegantly evoked the rotundas of the Templars and Hospitallers in London.10 In Jerusalem, the Templars’ headquarters were the Aqsa Mosque, whose entrance faced the octagonal Dome of the Rock, believed by the crusaders to have been the Temple of the Lord, Templum Domini, in which the infant Jesus was presented to the Lord (Luke 2. 22 – 38). The crusaders’ Dome was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Virgin was sedes sapientiae, seat of wisdom. The octagon, evoking the perfection of the eighth day, is a shape as perfect in its own way as the pan-symmetrical circle itself; such linked perfection of time and space is, as we shall hear below, fundamental to the Crusaders’ rotundas. Octagon and circle are both shapes of wisdom, of the vault of heaven and of Mary its queen.11 To be gathered in such a building was to be in the house of Wisdom, where she tabernacles with humankind (Sir. 24.7ff). Her human servants are in the presence there of a mystery even deeper than the mystery of the Virgin herself: ‘then the creator of all things instructed me and spoke to me, and he who created me rested in my tabernacle’ (Sir. 24.12).12 Abbot David of St Augustine’s Bristol, wrote to the Dean of Wells, 1218 – 20, to ask for the loan of the mastermason at Wells, ‘to hew out the seven pillars of wisdom’s house, meaning of course our Chapel of the blessed Virgin’.13 It is no wonder that English chapter houses, places of wisdom, were round. We hear of Lincoln Cathedral: ‘beside the church stands the chapter house . . . within, its space is round, vying with Solomon’s temple in material and craftsmanship.14 We are back to Solomon, and the octagonal Temple on his Temple’s Mount. We may then wonder if an apparently happy coincidence at the Temple Church is more than it seems.15 In 1184 – 5 Heraclius, the Latin Patriarch, travelled Europe to win support for the kingdom and in particular to find a king to succeed the dying Baldwin IV. On 2 or 10 February 1185, on or near the feast of Candlemas, he consecrated the Temple Church in honour of the Virgin Mary.16 On 6 March he consecrated the Hospitallers’ Church at Clerkenwell in honour of John the Baptist. The Templars’ and Hospitallers’ churches had both



been in use for several years; the orders were making good use of the Patriarch’s presence in London. And in this visit of six weeks, he was at the Temple at Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The building in Jerusalem most directly linked with this feast is not the Sepulchre, but Templum Domini, the Dome of the Rock. At this point, it is possible to attempt an either/or: the inspiration behind the Round was either the Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock. But this is too blunt. For those who knew Jerusalem, the two buildings were closely linked.17 Mosaics in the Sepulchre showed the boy Jesus, glowing as far as the navel, with youthful and pleasing face, flanked by his mother and by Gabriel, with Gabriel’s words at the Annunciation inscribed in Latin and Greek around the boy.18 The second, smaller, dome of the Sepulchre, over the omphalos (the world’s navel) and the place of the kings’ coronation, had been designed to sound at the Sepulchre an echo of the two domes of the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque. The double doors to the Sepulchre were modelled on the double portals of the Temple Mount’s Golden Gate; the acclamation at Christ’s entry into Jerusalem was echoed by the acclamation of the Frankish kings outside the Sepulchre. The kings’ coronation procession from the Sepulchre to Templum Domini and to the Palace of Solomon (the Aqsa Mosque) took in all three buildings.19 For those who knew Jerusalem, then, there was a rich harmony of associations between the city’s sacred buildings.20 We will wonder for whom this polyphony was audible, and in even more concentrated form, in the single, highly evocative space of the London Temple’s rotunda. Then comes the nice question: is there any form in which the accumulation of such lovely, fluid associations might be heard by our own generation? In a single centrally planned space, the beginning of Christ’s life on earth and its end were both evoked: his presentation to his Father first as infant and then as full and final sacrifice. It is at once an inspiration to realise how resonant a space this rotunda in London could once have been, and a daunting challenge to feel oneself charged, for a generation whose imagination is attuned to quite different wavelengths, with the revival of that lovely resonance. It is, as ever, the music itself – not its analysis – that we will want the auditors to hear. It is one thing, to attend to an evolving Leitmotif in a study of the score; quite another, to be



captivated by the beauty of the opera and by the poignant grandeur of the story it tells. THE ROUND CHURCH AND THE MARSHALS Our links to Jerusalem become more cryptic still, when we ask for how long did our Round remain principally an evocation of the holy city. In 1219 William Marshal 1st Earl of Pembroke was buried next to Aymeric, Master of the Temple, in the Round. His effigy (moved at least twice since) still lies there. His eldest son, William 2nd Earl of Pembroke, married the sister of Henry III. In two generations the family had risen from the role of minor nobles to be among the most powerful dynasties in the land. The younger William died in 1231, deeply mourned by the king. This William was buried next to his father; his effigy, too, still lies in the Round. His younger brother Gilbert, who died in 1241, was buried near his father and brother. In 1231 the king himself bequeathed his body to the Templars, and confirmed the grant in 1236. The Templars replaced their small chancel with the Early English chancel, three bays wide and five long, which still stands. It was to be the funerary chapel of the king and Queen.21 The Round might still have evoked Jerusalem; but the Church as a whole was now a shrine to the Marshals and their royal connections. The careers of both Williams, father and son, give this a lasting significance. The Temple was one of King John’s safe-havens in the crisis of 1214 –15. On 21 November 1214 he issued from the Temple the charter that granted the freedom of cathedral and conventual elections; it was reissued, again from the Temple, on 15 January 1215. This developed into Magna Carta’s opening clause, on the freedom of the English church. On that visit early in 1215 the king was confronted by a delegation of barons who demanded for the first time that the king acknowledge his own allegiance to a charter: the king was to be subject to a written law. This demand took shape as Magna Carta’s Security Clause. In May 1215 he was back, and issued from the Temple the charter granting free mayoral elections to the City of London. William Marshal, 1st Earl, remained loyal to King John throughout, but ensured that John sealed the Great Charter at Runnymede in June 1215. Aymeric was one of the king’s advisors,



urging him to seal. William the younger was one of the Surety Barons commissioned to ensure the king’s conformity to the Charter. On John’s death in 1216, William the elder was appointed regent and re-issued the Charter in 1216 and 1217 under his own seal; so he ensured its survival. In 1225 Henry III issued the Charter again, in the form in which it was eventually enrolled in England’s statutes. The Charter’s place in England’s constitutional life was at last secure. The Temple Church is a church of London’s lawyers. With good reason it is known as the mother-church of the Common Law. The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015 clearly calls for commemoration here; and the Round, home to an exhibition on the Charter, is at the time of writing more clearly a shrine to the Charter and its protagonists than to Jerusalem. This is not the first time that the Round has been seen so programmatically to celebrate the rule of law. I have elsewhere explored the significance seen in the church by the lawyers who had possession of it in the constitutional crises of the seventeenth century and who evoked the ancient and legendary lawyer-king Dunwallo Malmutius for their defence of the Common Law against Stuart absolutism. The Round’s effigies may indeed have been seen in the 1680s as a shrine to the Surety Barons of Magna Carta.22 THE TEMPLE CHURCH TODAY The church’s history inspires us at the Temple. Our work on it is deliberate and programmatic; we had ourselves to rediscover all the links sketched in this chapter (and many more), before we could bring them to the notice of others. We commissioned Sir John Tavener’s magnum opus, the all-night musical vigil The Veil of the Temple, to revitalise the Round as London’s Holy Sepulchre and Temple together.23 We have sustained many years’ work on Islam in English law, to bridge some of the gulfs between Christendom and Islam that the Church itself was built to represent and deepen.24 Few places are now more closely linked than we are to Magna Carta, religion and the history of the rule of law.25 We have commissioned a Magna Carta cantata, Our present Charter, from the American composer Nico Muhly.26 It is still not clear how much difference these various associations make to those who worship in or visit the church or who,



by the membership of the Inns, simply recognise it as their own. It is too soon to tell; and such difference is hard to quantify. There is clearly some danger, in such intellectual archaeology, of an immersion in antiquarian details that will lightly interest and temporarily engage but which will never captivate or transform those who hear of them. But we carry on, seeking not only the story itself but ways to help those who visit the church to be inspired by that story as their own. The celebration of Magna Carta may seem to be a curious distraction here. Even sympathetic readers may wonder if we are promoting an important local connection at the cost of the church’s fundamental character. Far from it. We accept the delicate task of maintaining the Round as a double shrine: as a recreation in London of Jerusalem, the centre of the medieval world; and as a centre of the anniversary celebrations of the rule of law. It remains to be seen how closely we will link the two in the person and Deuteronomic theology of Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1215 and vital to the Charter’s formulation.27 TEMPLE AND TOMB Shared memory, sensibility and priorities change over time. It may be that in our own age the rich associations between the Temple of Solomon, the Temple of the Lord, the Sepulchre and church need to be re-described, without such emphatic opening reference to the form of Jerusalem’s buildings. This is less meretricious than it might at first appear. There is a story to be told that allows the Round itself to be admired and loved on its own account for its symmetry and shape, its perfection and its unthreatening embrace of the visitor. Links to Jerusalem can then be made.28 The story is the account in John’s gospel of Easter morning. Throughout John’s gospel, from 2.21, Jesus is presented as the new Temple. The Temple in Solomon’s time had been decorated with trees and fruits. It was a paradise. In its Holy of Holies had been the throne of God himself. At each end was a cherub; their wings were outstretched, their outer wing-tips touching the walls, their inner wing-tips touching the other’s (cf. Exod. 25.22; 1 Sam. 4.4; 2 Sam. 6.2; Psalms 80.1; 99.1). Jesus dies at Passover, the time of creation, in the late afternoon on Day Six. At the end of Day Six, Genesis tells us, God completed his



works (Gen. 2.1, 2). ‘It is completed’, says Jesus, and dies (John 19.30). He is buried in a garden (John 19.41). On Day Seven, he rests as God had rested. On Day Eight which is Day One – the day of octagonal perfection – very early, when it is still dark, Mary Magdalene comes to the Tomb. When at last she looks in, she sees two men standing, one at each end of the stone on which Jesus had been laid (John 20.12). Who are these men? It is time to engage our imagination. They are the cherubim of the Holy of Holies, of the edenic sanctuary. The tomb of Jesus is the Holy of Holies, where he himself is at once sanctuary, priest and victim. And more than that: his body had been lying between the cherubim, on the throne of God himself. Who can, who must this Jesus have been? Adam had been placed in Eden to tend the garden (Gen. 2.15). When Mary turns and sees Jesus, she mistakes him for the gardener. We are in Eden, in a world reborn. Adam and Eve are together again as the sun rises on Day One of a new creation. The Temple, the place of life itself, had become the place of death; and on Easter Day it becomes the place from which all life is born again. The question is still before us. Who can, who must this new Adam be, risen from the throne of God and from the dead? Paradise is the place of encounter with God (2 Cor. 12.2 – 4). Of course it is; for it was in paradise that God and humankind were at one, where God himself walked in the cool of the day. If we are not left exalted and overwhelmed by this edenic revelation of the Son in the Father, the Father in the Son, we have missed the point of John’s whole gospel. The intense deployment here of our imagination is not an optional extra, an aftermath of the true work of understanding John’s Easter story. It is the only route we have to understanding. The Temple himself was laid in the tomb; the tomb became his Temple. Those rich associations made by the crusaders between the Temple Mount and the Sepulchre of Jesus which inform the Temple Church in London already informed the gospel of John within 60 years of Jesus’ death. And the Temple Church still stands, offering to our generation in its turn the material with which our imagination, devotional and local alike, can inform and animate our understanding of our past and of ourselves. We have inherited those emblems for the soul’s consent That speak the meanings men will never know But man-imagined images can show.



1. I will be drawing on chapters in R. Griffith-Jones and D. Park (eds), The Temple Church in London: History, Architecture, Art (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2010), hereafter The Temple Church; and in R. Griffith-Jones and E. Fernie (eds), Tomb and Temple: Re-Imagining the Sacred Buildings of Jerusalem (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017), hereafter Tomb and Temple. 2. R. Krautheimer, ‘Introduction to an “Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture”’, JWCI, 5 (1942), pp. 1–33. For more detailed treatment of such churches, see Chapter 3. 3. Alongside and inextricable from the devotional concerns on which I concentrate here was the grandeur that attached to such a modern building in such a prestigious setting, and so to the Order that built it. 4. S. Schein, Gateway to the Heavenly City: Crusader Jerusalem and the Catholic West (1099–1187) (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), p. 88. 5. For details, see D. Park, ‘Medieval Burials and Monuments’, in The Temple Church, pp. 76 –7. 6. C. Wilson, ‘Gothic Architecture Transplanted’, in The Temple Church, p. 40, draws attention to the porch on the aedicule in the Holy Sepulchre, both before and after partial destruction in 1009. (The aedicule is the chapel over the empty grave itself, at the centre of the rotunda.) Arguably, then, the Round as a whole most directly recalled not the whole Rotunda in Jerusalem, but its central and most important element. 7. H. Nicholson, ‘At the Heart of Medieval London’, in The Temple Church, p. 5. As well as the Temple’s own chapter, English provincial chapters held at New Temple until 1244. 8. S. Salvado, ‘Commemorating the Rotunda in the Round: The Medieval Frankish Liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre and its Performance in the West’, in Tomb and Temple. 9. R. Griffith-Jones, ‘To the Ends of the Earth: Three Riddles from Northern Europe’, in Tomb and Temple. 10. Chapter 3. 11. Pamela Tudor-Craig has expounded the Marian Wisdom presiding over ‘Genesis’ in BM Add Ms 18856. P. Tudor-Craig, ‘The Iconography of Wisdom and the Frontispiece to the Bible Historiale, British Library Add Ms 18856’, in C.M. Barron and J. Stratford (eds), The Church and Learning in Later Medieval Society: Essays in Honour of R B Dobson (Proceedings of the 1999 Harlaxton Symposium; Donington, 2002), pp. 110 – 27. 12. Tunc praecepit et dixit mihi creator omnium et qui creavit me requievit in tabernaculo meo, Vg. On Wisdom and the Virgin, see further the associations to which Eccles. 24.3–21 and Prov. 8.22–35 could give rise. 13. Now the Elder Lady Chapel, Bristol Cathedral. L.S. Colchester and J.H. Harvey, ‘Wells Cathedral’, Archaeological Journal, 131 (1974), pp. 200–14


14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.


21. 22. 23.

24. 25. 26.




(203 and nn. 27, 28). Wisdom’s seven pillars, Prov. 9.1, were identified as the three theological and four cardinal virtues. J.F. Duncan (ed.), Metrical Life of St Hugh (1860), ll. 833– 965. R.W. Eyton, Court, Household and Itinerary of Henry II (London: Taylor and Co., 1878), p. 26. For the date and inscription that gives it, see R. Griffith-Jones, ‘An Enrichment of Cherubims’, Appendix 1, in The Temple Church, p. 170. S. Schein, Gateway, pp. 141–4; only Theodoric in the twelfth century (apparently) puts omphalos on the Temple Mount. D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem III: The City of Jerusalem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 25. N. Kenaan-Kedar, ‘Symbolic Meaning in Crusader Architecture: The Twelfth-Century Dome of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’, Cahiers Arche´ologiques, 34 (1986), pp. 109–17. The transfer of artefacts and myths from the Temple to the Sepulchre is well known; for a summary, see C. Morris, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 55. The king was in the event buried in Westminster Abbey, the queen in Amesbury. R. Griffith-Jones, ‘An Enrichment of Cherubims’, in The Temple Church, pp. 135–74 and Appendix 2. Premiered by the Temple Church Choir and Holst Singers in the Temple Church, June 2003 and in the USA by the Temple Church Choir and local choirs at the Lincoln Center Festival, 2004. Recorded in part on CD (reissued by Signum, 2014) and on DVD (Signum, 2017). The fruits of the work include R. Griffith-Jones (ed.), Islam in English Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). See R. Griffith-Jones and M. Hill (eds), Magna Carta, Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). World premiere performed by the Temple Church Choir at the Temple Church, 18 December 2014, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 as part of the Temple Winter Festival. Recorded on A Knight’s Progress, CD of the Temple Church Choir (Signum, 2014). R. Griffith-Jones, ‘Magna Carta and Religion: For the Honor of God and the Reform of our Realm’, in R. Holland (ed.), Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor (Washington, DC: Thomson West, 2014), pp. 47 –64. I have explored John’s Easter story and its role in the gospel more deeply in R. Griffith-Jones, ‘Transformation by a Text: The Gospel of John’, in F. Flannery (ed.), Experientia I: Studies in Religious Experience in the Ancient World (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), pp. 105–24, and ‘Apocalyptic Mystagogy: Rebirth-from-above in the Reception of John’s Gospel’, in C.C. Rowland and C.H. Williams (eds), John’s Gospel and Intimations of Apocalyptic (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), pp. 274–99.


A New Jerusalem in Four Parts: The Holy Sepulchres of Twelfth-Century London 1 Catherine E. Hundley

The four churches of London that were inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre show that Jerusalem was never far from the minds of twelfth-century pedestrians.2 From the Old Temple in Holborn to the New Temple off Fleet Street, from the parish church of St Sepulchrewithout-Newgate to the Hospitaller Priory of St John of Jerusalem at Clerkenwell, references to the Holy Land were embedded in the architectural fabric of medieval London. Specifically, either the form or the dedication of each church recalled the Anastasis Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site traditionally associated with Jesus’s resurrection and empty tomb. London’s concentration of Holy Sepulchre references is remarkable because neither the round church form nor the Holy Sepulchre dedication was popular in England before the time of the crusades.3 This sudden appearance indicates a new level of devotion to the tomb of Jesus and shows that Jerusalem was an important part of the visual culture of twelfth-century London. These churches not only made London a new Jerusalem, but they also made the Holy Sepulchre a London place. Used by four distinct worshipping communities, the level of accessibility to outsiders varied among the churches but their high level of visibility ensured that local residents, pilgrims and non-pilgrim travellers saw the Holy Sepulchre as an integral part of the twelfth-century London landscape.



Although London did not lead the way in the English round church movement – churches at Northampton, Cambridge and Ludlow Castle predate the Old Temple – London’s round churches were all built within the height of this construction trend.4 Between the crusader capture of Jerusalem in 1099 and its fall in 1187, at least 15 Holy Sepulchre ‘copies’ were built in England; a sixteenth appeared during the 1240s when Western Christians held Jerusalem by treaty (1229 – 44).5 In addition to these round Holy Sepulchres, there were at least 30 non-round English churches, chapels or hospitals dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre in the twelfth-century.6 Once the trend was embraced London became unique for its concentration of Holy Sepulchre churches. It is important, therefore, to consider London’s St Sepulchre-without-Newgate within the same urban context as the round churches at Holborn, Fleet Street and Clerkenwell. By walking through the streets of twenty-first-century London it is still possible to understand the spatial relationships among these twelfth-century churches. Despite the obvious changes to the city over time, the main roads linking the four Holy Sepulchres are still in place; the courses of medieval waterways are known even if they are buried or otherwise altered. By walking from the site of the Old Temple to the New Temple, then to St Sepulchre-without-Newgate and on to the Priory of St John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell, one can gain an understanding of the accessibility and visibility of these churches within the twelfth-century London landscape. Although this reconstruction map of c.1270 London post-dates our study by more than a century, it offers an excellent way of visualising these relationships (Plate 3.1).7 OLD TEMPLE While the surviving Temple Church off Fleet Street is the Templars’ most famous English property, it was not their first London home. Located outside the city walls and just outside the bars of the city, the original Templar church (or Old Temple) was built on Holborn Street, a former Roman road. This major east– west highway provided a vital transportation link for the Templars while allowing them to enjoy the relative quiet of a suburban settlement. The Templars’ first London preceptory in Holborn has often been dated to 1128, under



the unsupported assumption that Templar Grand Master Hugh de Payens’s visit to England in that year resulted in an immediate building campaign.8 However, the knights could not have built their round church until more than a decade later.9 A bull of Innocent II allowed the Knights Templar to construct their own ‘oratories’ beginning in the spring of 1139, and it is reasonable to imagine that the London Templars began building their round chapel as soon as the limestone could be shipped from Caen.10 London’s first round church thus dates to c.1140. Although the church was demolished in the late sixteenth century, its foundations have been excavated near the corner of High Holborn and the modern street known as Southampton Buildings.11 Detailed reconstruction of the Old Temple is currently impossible, although partial excavations have offered limited information about the church’s appearance. Selected investigations from the eighteenth through twenty-first centuries revealed foundations of Caen stone and chalk measuring approximately 17 metres in diameter.12 A nave of this size would have been ample for the resident community of Templars and for the pilgrims who visited Holborn’s Holy Sepulchre. Pilgrim presence is confirmed by an indulgence to the Old Temple by Archbishop Theobald, written some time in the 1150s.13 This is the earliest known document to confirm the proxy pilgrimage use of an English Holy Sepulchre copy, and a pilgrim presence certainly emphasised the spiritual significance of the Templars’ architectural choice.14 Yet, when considering the Old Temple within the religious landscape of medieval London, it should be viewed primarily as a private chapel despite its monastic and pilgrim history. With the construction of the New Temple precinct presumably underway, the Templars sold their first English round church to the Bishop of Lincoln in 1161.15 The level of public access would have fundamentally changed when the site was converted to a bishop’s residence.16 The pilgrim accessibility allowed by indulgences to the Old Temple soon became a feature of the New Temple, the Knights’ new preceptory on the banks of the River Thames.17 However, the end of pilgrimage traffic did not mean that the old precinct was closed; correspondence, charters and other documents associated with the Bishops of Lincoln reveal that lay visitors were welcome throughout the Old Temple’s lifetime.18



Though personally accessible to a select few, the Old Temple’s high level of visibility would have reminded passers-by of Jerusalem well beyond the time of the crusades. The Old Temple, then, served as an external reminder of the tomb of Christ to London pedestrians even as the internal space was reserved for the bishop’s household and invited guests. Within two decades, the round church form had grown from an architectural curiosity to a London building type associated with resurrection, pilgrimage and the Holy Land. These associations continued in the New Temple, located just off Fleet Street. NEW TEMPLE By the 1160s, Londoners could visit two Holy Sepulchre copies by walking less than half a mile down Chancery Lane, a street traditionally credited to Templar builders.19 In moving from the Old Temple to the New, the knights maintained access to the Holborn highway by creating their own half-mile on-ramp. On the map (Plate 3.1), Chancery Lane seems to end at Fleet Street. But from a pedestrian perspective, Chancery Lane continues uninterrupted through the Temple gate and right past Temple Church (Plate 3.2) into the heart of the Templars’ precinct. Although documentary evidence for the New Temple’s construction does not survive, the Templars must have moved to their new home around the time that they sold the Old Temple to the Bishop of Lincoln.20 The Templars were in residence at the Old Temple for approximately 20 years, and the exact reasons for their move to Fleet Street are undocumented; it is presumed that the new property was larger and better situated.21 The size of the New Temple precinct is still easy to imagine because the medieval and modern boundaries of the Temple grounds are essentially the same on the north and east sides; the southern boundary has changed due to alterations in the Thames embankment.22 Although now occupied by lawyers rather than military monks, the Temple remains the only substantially intact twelfth-century monastic precinct in London. Pedestrians following Chancery Lane to the new Temple Church would encounter a rotunda similar in size to the Old Temple with a fashionable multi-order arch surrounding the west door.23 Upon entering the new church, the worshiper could reasonably expect to be greeted by the massive columns and sense of interiority that must



have graced the solidly Norman Old Temple. Instead, worshipers emerged into a round nave with slender compound piers and an almost overwhelming sense of light and space. The contrast between the church’s Romanesque portal and one of the first Gothic interiors in England would have been key to the visual experience of the twelfth-century worshipper, enhancing the power of the Holy Sepulchre form with an utterly new interior building style.24 As intentional pilgrims made the New Temple a destination church, many other Londoners would have caught a glimpse of Temple Church in the course of their busy days. By walking down Chancery Lane to the Temple precinct, it is convenient to use the gate closest to the church (Plate 3.1). But by choosing the gate just to the west off Fleet Street, it is possible to walk straight through the precinct all the way to the Thames. Although buildings of the Middle Temple obscure the church from this roadway today, this Holy Sepulchre copy would have been easily visible to medieval Londoners taking a shortcut from Fleet Street to the river.25 While it is still possible to retrace the footsteps of deliberate church visitors and passers-by on two different paths, Temple Church’s status as a riverside landmark has been forgotten. Though the Temple precinct remains largely intact, it no longer dominates the riverfront; in fact, Temple Church is not visible from the Thames or from the south bank due to subsequent development. According to Jonathan Butler, the precinct may have been sited only 50 metres from the river when originally built, though changes to the embankment created a distance of approximately 110 metres by the eighteenth century; the Temple precinct is now about 230 metres from the Thames.26 While the knights would have enjoyed easy river access from the lower Temple precinct, Temple Church itself would have been a landmark to boats on the Thames and to pedestrians on the south bank, as shown in this seventeenth-century view (Plate 3.3). Sited between Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral, this Holy Sepulchre copy would have been easy for pilgrims to find and a familiar sight to countless medieval Londoners. ST SEPULCHRE-WITHOUT-NEWGATE While Temple Church served as a landmark to those travelling on London’s largest river, it is important to remember the other



rivers and waterways that were part of the twelfth-century pedestrian experience. A Londoner walking from Temple Church to St Sepulchre-without-Newgate would have exited the Temple precinct at Fleet Street and turned east, passing St Bride’s on the right before crossing the River Fleet on the approach to Ludgate Hill27 (Plate 3.1). From there, the perpetual construction site of St Paul’s Cathedral dominated the eastern horizon, just inside the city walls. The twelfth-century Londoner would turn left from Fleet Street onto the Old Bailey, skirting the city wall on the approach to the parish church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate. The present church of St Sepulchre dates to the fifteenth century, with significant renovations in the seventeenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.28 A church with this dedication was given to the Priory of St Bartholomew by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury in 1137, making the church at Newgate the oldest Holy Sepulchre reference in the city.29 Unfortunately, the ground plan of the twelfth-century church is unknown. Although selected excavations have taken place north of the church, there have not yet been any archaeological investigations within the body of the building or immediately adjacent to the current church walls.30 Therefore, it is unknown whether London’s first Holy Sepulchre assumed the round shape or only the dedication of the Jerusalem original, although an English church dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre was more likely to be rectilinear than round.31 Probably rectilinear and certainly sizable, the relative importance of the parish church of St Sepulchre can be seen in the 1291 Taxatio Ecclesiastica. Of the 50 parishes producing some type of income for the Priory of St Bartholomew, St Sepulchre’s accounted for more than 20 per cent of the total (£15 18s. 2d.); the next largest return, from St Botolph Aldersgate, was just over seven pounds, and most other properties produced less than one pound of income.32 The financial importance of the parish is echoed in its size: by the early fifteenth century the parish of St Sepulchre held 2,000 inhabitants.33 Whether attending regular mass or simply describing one’s neighbourhood of residence, thousands of St Sepulchre parishioners personally identified with the empty tomb on a daily basis. A highly accessible and visible church serving a large parish meant that the place of the resurrection was appropriated as a London place-name. The power of this everyday reference has been overlooked, but it is the most



pervasive example of medieval London’s claim to the spiritual heritage of Jerusalem. ST JOHN’S CLERKENWELL Just north of this parochial Holy Sepulchre stood the Hospitaller Priory of St John of Jerusalem at Clerkenwell with its large rotunda, built some time after 1144.34 Although St John’s Gate is only half a mile from St Sepulchre’s, the commandery of the Knights Hospitaller was located well outside the walls and the bars of the City of London. In the medieval era, much of the land between St Sepulchre’s and the Priory of St John of Jerusalem would have been open, serving as a horse market; today, the famous covered market dominates Smithfield.35 The twelfth-century pedestrian might have walked north through the market or, on a rainy day, avoided the muddy field and passed by the Priory of St Bartholomew on the way to the Smithfield Bars (Plate 3.1). Despite the short walk, the sparsely populated Clerkenwell must have seemed remote; the location of the Hospitallers’ round church seems to counter the logic used by the Templars in choosing sites for the Old and New Temples. Yet, St John’s shares an important site similarity with the Old Temple. The boundaries of the inner and outer precinct of the Priory of St John of Jerusalem extended to St John Street (Clerkenwell Street) on the east side.36 Travellers on the north– south road would have seen the large rotunda rising above the precinct walls as they made their way into or out of London, just as east- or westbound travellers would have glimpsed the Old Temple along Holborn Street. The Priory of St John was located along one of three northern roads leading into the city: this Holy Sepulchre replica would have been one of the first London sights to greet the visitor approaching the city bars from the north. Like the Templars at Holborn, the Hospitallers ensured that their preceptory was located near a highway but away from the bustle of the city. Though lacking the commuter traffic of the New Temple precinct, the Priory of St John of Jerusalem was a highly visible London emblem. The extent of the rotunda, the largest in England, is marked on the modern plaza in paving stones today; only the crypt, located below the original apse, still survives.37 St John’s, Clerkenwell (Plate 3.4) has a long and complex building history, and thorough stone-robbing over the years makes it



particularly difficult to reconstruct the original twelfth-century church in detail. Yet, its excavated foundations show that it was a Norman rotunda reminiscent of the Old Temple on a larger scale. Unlike the Old and New Temples, indulgence evidence for this commandery of the Knights Hospitaller has not yet come to light. With the uneven survival rates of medieval documentation, this does not rule out St John’s as a pilgrimage site. But instead, its surviving documentation emphasises the wealth and power associated with the priory.38 Like visitors to the Bishop of Lincoln’s lodging at the Old Temple, those with business to conduct with the Hospitallers would certainly have been welcome in the precinct. Elite guests may have been invited to attend a worship service, but there is no evidence to suggest that regular lay worshippers were encouraged to visit the rotunda. Until additional evidence comes to light to confirm frequent visits by non-elite laity, it is reasonable to view St John’s as the least publicly accessible of London’s Holy Sepulchres, even as its visibility remained high. A landmark north of the city and an impressive sight for those welcomed into the precinct itself, the Priory of St John of Jerusalem shared a similar level of visibility and accessibility with the Old Temple, its contemporary to the west of the city. THE HOLY SEPULCHRE AS A LONDON PLACE Whether evoking the Anastasis in form or in name, London’s Holy Sepulchres allowed worshipers to effectively stand in the place of Jesus’s resurrection. While the typical rectangular church housed the western liturgy in a convenient building form and a cruciform church more explicitly evoked Christ’s sacrifice, a round church did even more to emphasise the key message of the Christian faith. In a city without a round church tradition the twelfth-century rotunda form became synonymous with Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, reminding worshipers that the original Anastasis Rotunda covered the empty tomb of their risen Lord. This resurrection symbolism was also echoed in the church dedicated to ‘Saint Sepulchre’, reminding parishioners that they were not simply linked with a patron saint but that their ‘patron’ was the resurrection promise of the empty tomb itself. Nowhere else in the country could a worshiper find so many references to the empty tomb of Christ. The sudden appearance of



Holy Sepulchre copies and dedications in the twelfth century shows that English patrons and worshipers, along with military monks, had a deep affinity for the far-off Anastasis. For crusade partisans like the Templars and Hospitallers, these churches served as obvious reminders of their mission to provide support for the Latin war effort and protection for Western pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem.39 For parishioners and pilgrims, these local Holy Sepulchres became part of their personal devotional lives; for local residents and visitors, they became highly recognisable symbols of London. By viewing these Holy Sepulchre references in their full pedestrian context, we can begin to understand the complex significance of these churches to twelfth-century Londoners. Whether serving as proxy pilgrimage destinations, local claims to an ancient religious heritage or reminders of the distant crusades, these Holy Sepulchres provided medieval pedestrians with four distinct echoes of Jerusalem as they bustled down the streets of twelfth-century London. NOTES 1. This chapter includes research conducted for my doctoral dissertation, The Round Church Movement in Twelfth-Century England: Crusaders, Pilgrims, and the Holy Sepulchre (PhD diss., University of Virginia, forthcoming). This research was made possible by a two-year fellowship to the Warburg Institute from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and by short-term grants from the Lindner Center for Art History at the University of Virginia and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. It is a pleasure to acknowledge their generous support. 2. A version of this study was presented at the 2014 ‘Sacred City’ conference sponsored by Art and Christianity Enquiry and the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College, London. Thanks to Alessandro Scafi for his advice on the presentation text and thanks to Kristine K. Ronan and to the editors of this volume for their helpful comments on the present revision. 3. R. Krautheimer, ‘Introduction to an “Iconography of Medieval Architecture”’, in Studies in Early Christian, Medieval, and Renaissance Art (New York: New York University Press, 1969), pp. 115 – 50; W. St John Hope, ‘Round-Naved Churches in England and their Connexion with the Orders of the Temple and of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 33 (1918), pp. 63 – 70; M. Gervers, ‘Rotundae Anglicanae’, Actes du XXIIe Congre`s International d’Histoire de l’Art: Budapest 1969. E´volution Ge´ne´rale et De´veloppements Re´gionaux en Histoire de l’Art (1972), pp. 359 – 76. Hope and Gervers point to earlier centrally planned buildings as members of the round church tradition, but only









two of these churches could possibly be described as true rotundas. Medieval textual sources describe rounded naves at Abingdon Abbey and Bury St Edmunds in the tenth and eleventh centuries, respectively, but these accounts have not been confirmed by archaeological excavations. M. Biddle, G. Lambrick and J.N.L. Myres, ‘The Early History of Abingdon, Berkshire, and its Abbey’, Medieval Archaeology, 12 (1968), pp. 42 – 5 and 60 – 4; R. Gem, ‘Toward an Iconography of Anglo-Saxon Architecture’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 46 (1983), pp. 8 – 9. St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, pre-1137; Old Temple London, c.1140; Priory Church of St John of Jerusalem at Clerkenwell, c.1144; Temple Church London, c.1161. In addition to the three round churches in London, round churches were built at Aslackby, Bristol, Cambridge, Chichester, Dover, Hereford, Garway, Ludlow Castle, Northampton, Temple Bruer, West Thurrock and Woodstock Palace in the twelfth century; the round church at Little Maplestead dates to the thirteenth century. For the thirteenth-century construction date of Little Maplestead, see M. Gervers, The Hospitaller Cartulary in the British Library (Cotton MS Nero E VI): A Study of the Manuscript and its Composition (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1981), p. 2. This is a conservative estimate based upon documented medieval sites. English Heritage Pastscape at, Historic Environment Records in Heritage Gateway at http://www., and the respective Victoria County Histories in British History Online at gid¼ 153 (all accessed 30 June 2014). Adapted from a map first published in the British Historic Towns Atlas, Vol. 3: The City of London: From Prehistoric Times to c.1520, ed. M.D. Lobel and W.H. Johns (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989). q The Historic Towns Trust 1989. W. Page (ed.), A History of the County of London, Vol. 1: London within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, Victoria County History (London: Archibald Constable, 1909), p. 485; B.A. Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the Twelfth Century: The Inquest of 1185 with Illustrative Charters and Documents (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), pp. xxxviii, xxxix, xlvi, lxxxv–lxxxvi; Lees attempted to correct the longstanding assumption that the round church at the Old Temple dated to Hugh de Payens’s visit. However, she did think it ‘probable’ that the first buildings of the preceptory dated to 1128. David Park comes to a similar conclusion; Helen Nicholson dated the acquisition of the Old Temple site to c.1135 –44, with Christopher Wilson placing the actual construction date of the church to some time before 1144. D. Park, ‘Medieval Burials and Monuments’, H.J. Nicholson, ‘At the







15. 16.



VISUALISING A SACRED CITY Heart of Medieval London: The New Temple in the Middle Ages’, and C. Wilson, ‘Gothic Architecture Transplanted’, in R. Griffith-Jones and D. Park (eds), The Temple Church in London: History, Architecture, Art (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2010), pp. 70, 1 and 21, respectively. Innocent II, ‘Omne Datum Optimum’ (29 March 1139), in M. Barber and K. Bate (eds), The Templars: Selected Sources (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), p. 63. J. Stow, A Survey of London: Reprinted from the Text of 1603, ed. C.L. Kingsford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, [1603], 1908), 87; A. Telfer, ‘Locating the First Knights Templar Church’, London Archaeologist (Summer 2002), pp. 3–6. 43–46 Southampton Buildings London WC2: An Archaeological Excavation and Watching Brief Report, Museum of London Archaeology Service, June 2000; A. Telfer, ‘Locating the First Knights Templar Church’, p. 5; W. Thornbury and E. Walford, Old and New London: A Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places, Vol. 1 (London: Cassell, Peter & Galpin, 1872), p. 147. Thornbury and Walter describe an excavation c.1720, though the actual diameter of the nave was unknown until Telfer’s investigation. Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the Twelfth Century, pp. lii, 162. She dates the document to c.1151– 61 based upon Theobald’s appointment as papal legate in 1151 and his death ten years later. On Continental Holy Sepulchres as pilgrimage destinations, see R. Ousterhout, ‘Loca Sancta and the Architectural Response to Pilgrimage’, in The Blessings of Pilgrimage, ed. R. Ousterhout (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 118. Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the Twelfth Century, pp. xxxix, liii, lxxvii, lxxxviii, 158–60. By the High Middle Ages, most English bishops had a home in London. C. Barron, ‘The Later Middle Ages: 1270 –1520’, in Lobel and Johns (eds), The City of London, p. 49. C.G. Addison, The Temple Church (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1843), p. 84 [citing E registro mun.eviden.Prior.Hosp.Sanc. Joh.fol.23,b; fol. 24, a]; N. Hamonic, ‘Penitents and Pardons: The New Temple and the Holy Land’, Temple and Tomb: Reimagining the Sacred Buildings of Jerusalem, Courtauld Institute Conference, 16 March 2013. Conference proceedings forthcoming. ‘6 Kal. Nov. Perugia (f. 104d.)’, in Calendar of Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 4: 1362–1404, W.H. Bliss and J.A. Twemlow (eds), British History Online at report.aspx?compid¼ 96448 (accessed 23 May 2014); R.E.G. Cole (ed.), Chapter Acts of the Cathedral Church of St Mary of Lincoln, AD 1536–1547 (Horncastle: Lincoln Record Society, 1917), p. 134; C.L. Kingsford, ‘Historical Notes on Mediaeval London Houses’, London Topographical Record XI (1917), p. 63; C.L. Kingsford, Additional Notes to A Survey of





22. 23.

24. 25.



28. 29.


London by John Stow (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), p. 28. In the latter source, Kingsford cites CPR Edward VI, i. 183. The Old Temple remained the London residence of the bishops of Lincoln until 1547, when it was sold to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick; Dudley then traded the inn to Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton, some time before 1550. J.B. Williamson, The History of the Temple, London, From the Institution of the Order of the Knights of the Temple to the Close of the Stuart Period, 2nd edition (London: J. Murray, 1925), p. 10; E. Williams, Early Holborn and the Legal Quarter of London: A Topographical Survey of the Beginnings of the District Known as Holborn and of the Inns of Court and of Chancery, vol. 2 (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1927), para. 1229. Williams notes that Chancery Lane was initially known as ‘the new street of the Templars’. Christopher Wilson arrived at a similar conclusion. Wilson, ‘Gothic Architecture Transplanted’, p. 21. For documentation of the sale, see Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the Twelfth Century, p. 158. Page (ed.), A History of the County of London, p. 485; M.B. Honeybourne, ‘The Temple Precinct, London, in the Days of the Knights Templars’, Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society 16 (1969), p. 33; C.N.L. Brooke and G. Keir, London 800 – 1216: The Shaping of a City (London: Secker and Warburg, 1975), p. 23; Wilson, ‘Gothic Architecture Transplanted’, p. 23. T.H. Baylis, The Temple Church and Chapel of St Ann, etc., 4th edition (London: G. Philip and Son, 1913), p. 60. Limited excavations have shown that the New Temple was only one metre larger in diameter than the Old Temple. Telfer, ‘Locating the First Knights Templar Church’, p. 5. For a discussion of the building as a Gothic innovator, see Wilson, ‘Gothic Architecture Transplanted’, pp. 24–42. M.B. Honeybourne, ‘Precinct of the Temple, London, Showing Sites of the Monastic Buildings’, in W.H. Godfrey, ‘Recent Discoveries at the Temple, London, and Notes on the Topography of the Site’, Archaeologia, 95 (1953): Fig. 6; Calendar of Close rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office: Edward III 1327–1330 (London: HMSO, 1896), p. 580; Nicholson, ‘At the Heart of Medieval London’, pp. 12 –15. J. Butler, Saxons, Templars, & Lawyers in the Inner Temple: Archaeological Excavations in Church Court & Hare Court ([London]: Pre-Construct Archaeology, 2005), p. 3. The Fleet was covered by Farringdon Street c.1764. M.B. Honeybourne, ‘The Fleet and its Neighbourhood in Early and Medieval Times’, London Topographical Record, 19 (1947), pp. 13–87. P. Norman and G.J.B. Fox, ‘Church of St Sepulchre without Newgate’, Transactions of the St Paul’s Ecclesiological Society, 9 (1928), p. 97. G.H. Salter, A Watcher at the City Gate for Thirty-Eight Reigns: A.D. 1137– 1956 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1956), p. 7; E.A. Webb, The Records


30. 31.


33. 34.




VISUALISING A SACRED CITY of St Bartholomew’s Priory [and] St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, volume 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921), pp. 62, 77 and 489. Webb goes on to suggest that Roger of Salisbury may have founded St Sepulchre’s himself, but no documentation survives. Pers. comm., C. Maloney, London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre. Of the 33 medieval English worship sites dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre, three were round; four were cruciform; five were rectangular; and 21 lack above-ground or excavated remains. Of the 16 round churches, 13 were either dedicated to a saint other than ‘Saint Sepulchre’ or their original dedication is unknown. Therefore, it is clear that the Holy Sepulchre form and dedication were separate attributes that could singly or dually signify the site of Jesus’s resurrection and empty tomb. English Heritage Pastscape at, Historic Environment Records in Heritage Gateway at http://www., and the respective Victoria County Histories in British History Online at gid¼ 153 (all accessed 30 June 2014). Webb (ed.), The Records of St Bartholomew’s Priory, pp. 378–9. Webb also remarks that St Sepulchre’s was ‘the most important church possessed by the prior and convent, and it is said to have been the finest church in London’. Webb (ed.), The Records of St Bartholomew’s Priory, pp. 207 and 379. Webb describes it as a ‘long, wide, and scattered parish’. J.H. Round, ‘The Foundation of the Priories of St Mary and of St John, Clerkenwell’, Archaeologia LVI (1899), p. 226 and P. Taylor, ‘Clerkenwell and the Religious Foundations of Jordan de Bricett: A Re-examination’, Historical Research, 63:150 (1990), pp. 17 –18. Round dated the St John’s grant to 1145 and the grant of the adjacent St Mary’s convent to 1144, while Taylor has shown that St John’s predates St Mary’s. W. Fitz-Stephen, Fitz-Stephen’s Description of the City of London [Descriptio Noblissimae Civitatis Londoniae], trans. S. Pegge (London: B. White, 1772), pp. 36 –7. B. Sloane and G. Malcolm, Excavations at the Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell, London (London: Museum of London Archaeology Service, 2004), Fig. 29, p. 41. The Clerkenwell rotunda was replaced with a rectilinear church in the later Middle Ages, and the later nave did not survive the dissolution of the Hospitaller order in 1540. In fact, the existence of a rotunda at Clerkenwell was lost to local memory until the discovery of its round foundations in 1900. E.W. Hudson, ‘The Church of St John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers), Clerkenwell’, RIBA Journal, 7:3 (Nov. 1899– Oct. 1900), pp. 465–9; Sloane and Malcolm, Excavations at the Priory, pp. 69– 78. While earlier writers linked the destruction of the round with the



Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, Sloane and Malcolm date the demolition to c.1280 –1330. 38. Summarised in Sloane and Malcolm, The Priory of St John of Jerusalem, pp. 43, 69 and 90–3. 39. For more on the religious and political significance of the Holy Sepulchre form to worshipers throughout England, see C.E. Hundley, ‘The English Round Church Movement’, in R. Griffith-Jones and E. Fernie (eds), Temple and Tomb: Re-Imagining the Sacred Buildings of Jerusalem (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017).


Failure and Invention: King Henry III, the Holy Blood and Gothic Art at Westminster Abbey Emily Guerry

In the early morning of 13 October 1247, the king of England removed his crown and walked barefoot through the streets of London. This extraordinary display of royal humility served a singular purpose: Henry III (r. 1217 – 72) had received a relic of the Holy Blood and he intended to establish a new cult in Westminster Abbey. Putatively collected from the wound in Christ’s right side, the relic had issued from the opening produced by the pierce of the Holy Lance (John 19: 31 – 7). To celebrate his acquisition, Henry carried the relic in a pious procession from the Cathedral of St Paul’s to Westminster. Despite the spectacle of ceremonies staged in honour of the relic’s arrival, the cult of the Holy Blood immediately encountered scepticism and failed to attract devotion. It was found to be an extremely problematic relic and, ultimately, a coalescence of historical, financial and theological concerns irrevocably undermined its status. This chapter cannot enumerate every possible factor that led to the collapse of the Westminster cult; the recent monograph by Nicholas Vincent provides a detailed discussion of this subject.1 However, it will explore how the supporters of the king’s relic attempted to defend the relic’s authenticity and aggrandise its significance. In light of the erudite but ineffective rhetoric of the contemporary supporters of Holy Blood, artists working at



Westminster invented new devotional images in an attempt to promote the waning cult. Matthew Paris (c.1200 – 59), a Benedictine monk from the monastery of St Alban’s and author of a number of historical chronicles, provides an enthralling eyewitness account of the relic’s arrival. Six consecutive entries in his Chronica Majora (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 16 II, ff. 216r– 217r) describe the events surrounding its reception in London.2 Despite Matthew’s apparent endorsement of the Holy Blood, he hints at widespread doubt in its authenticity. At the time, Westminster Abbey was transforming into a Gothic building; it would be consecrated near the end of Henry’s reign on 13 October 1269, exactly 22 years after the arrival of the Holy Blood. Although the Abbey’s reliquaries were destroyed during Reformation iconoclasm, some original Gothic art works have survived. The unusual iconographic elements of the Last Judgment in the north porch and Doubting Thomas in the south transept represent the Holy Blood relic cult as a central devotional theme. This chapter will reconsider the translation of the Holy Blood in light of its inventive influence on Gothic visual culture. ACQUISITION AND PROCESSION King Henry III received the Holy Blood as a gift from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Robert de Nantes (r. 1240 – 54). In his seminal study of the Holy Blood, Nicholas Vincent provides a transcription of the Patriarch’s original letter of concession, discovered in the Westminster Archives.3 The letter begins with a standard salutatio for Henry, the ‘illustrious king of the English’.4 Robert then clarifies the provenance of this relic: the item in question is ‘most certainly and without any doubt’ blood that issued from Christ’s side.5 Despite this claim, the blood relic delivered to England probably was the product of recent invention.6 After lamenting the presence of the Saracens in the Holy Land, Robert reminds Henry of their long-lasting alliance and explains the value of his gift, ‘a portion of the most precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ shed at the place of Calvary, located within the Church of Jerusalem, while hanging on the Cross for the salvation and redemption of all Christians’.7 He also claims that Henry will now have ‘the memory of Christ’s Passion always before his eyes’.8 The motivations behind the Patriarch’s donation were



diplomatic; Robert hoped to obtain financial and military support in the waning Latin Empire.9 Although Henry could not fulfil the Patriarch’s wishes, he accepted the relic with great excitement. To create interest in his Holy Blood cult, King Henry III staged an adventus, an urban procession rich with ritualistic motifs, to welcome the presence of the relic in the Plantagenet kingdom.10 On the night before this civic parade, the king fasted and held a vigil, ‘preparing himself for the solemnities of the following day with candles alight and devout prayers’.11 The procession began at dawn; out of respect for the ecclesiastical hierarchy, Henry followed behind the members of the church, who were ‘tearfully singing and exulting in the Holy Spirit’.12 All the while, Henry elected to walk without shoes, wearing ‘a humble dress consisting of a simple cloak without a hood’.13 He held the relic ‘with both hands’ and ‘when he came to any rugged or uneven part of the road, he always kept his eyes fixed on heaven or on the vessel itself’.14 Matthew notes that the relic, ‘which [Christ] shed on the Cross for the salvation of the world’, had arrived in ‘the most charming crystalline container’.15 The ruler and the reliquary were shielded by a ‘pall [that] was borne on four spears and two assistants supported the king’s arms to insure that his strength would not fail in such a great effort’.16 According to Matthew Paris, King Henry III behaved like a ‘most Christian prince’ ( princeps Christianissimus) throughout the adventus. He also compares his patron with other examples of renowned princeps or rex christianissimi, elevating his patron’s reputation by association with past and present models of sacral kingship.17 Matthew wrote that the English ruler had followed in the footsteps of ‘the most pious and most victorious’ Emperor Heraclius (r. 610– 41), who had carried the True Cross back to the Holy Sepulchre.18 Matthew also refers to the more recent adventus of a contemporary ruler, King Louis IX of France (r. 1234 – 70), who ‘had commanded all honour at Paris’ when he carried the True Cross into Paris on 29 March 1241.19 Matthew claims that he had witnessed this occasion, which is described in an earlier chapter of the Chronica Majora.20 By addressing Henry as a princeps Christianissimus and comparing him to Heraclius and Louis, Matthew implies that the adventus in London was an impressive performance of both royal and sacred power. Nevertheless, the civic appeal of the ceremony would not be enough to ensure lasting interest in a problematic relic.



In the lower margin accompanying his account of the procession, Matthew included a drawing of King Henry III carrying the Holy Blood (Plate 4.1). As the king lifts the relic, which is contained in an oval phial, he fixes his gaze on the precious item. Four pall-bears surround the king with a decorative canopy, painted at an impossibly twisted angle. Because the parade stretched from St Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, Henry had retraced the path of his own coronation. However, in this instance, his actions resembled that of a priest, not a monarch.21 The sacerdotal manner in which Henry is shown elevating the reliquary mirrors the liturgical gesture of a Eucharistic celebrant, aligning the motion of benediction with that of the king’s processional performance.22 The royal corte`ge would be joined by more prelates as they passed the house of the Bishop of Durham, Nicholas Farnham (r. 1241 – 9), a close friend and physician to the king. There, an assembly of bishops, abbots and monks joined the final stage of the procession, ‘singing songs with a devoted spirit’.23 Matthew’s drawing probably represents Henry’s encounter with Bishop Farnham. In the image, a bishop animatedly gestures towards the king’s arrival, another bishop peers over his shoulder, and a third tonsured figure expresses his delight. This marginal illustration emphasises Henry’s piety through his attire, actions and gaze; it also visually testifies to the support of ecclesiastical participants. RECEPTION When the king reached Westminster, he ‘indefatigably continued, carrying the container around the church, his palace, and his chambers’.24 At the parade’s end inside the Abbey, Henry presented the Holy Blood to the Benedictine monks and the Abbey’s patron saints, Peter and Edward the Confessor. Then, the Bishop of Norwich, Walter Suffield (r.1245 – 57), delivered a sermon to the large crowd that had gathered inside the Abbey.25 The Bishop of Norwich began with an audacious claim, stating that the Holy Blood was the supreme token of Christ’s Passion: ‘Of all things held sacred amongst men, the most sacred is the blood of Christ for it was the price of the world’s redemption, and its effusion was the salvation of the human race.’26 Employing Aristotelian logic, he intuited that because ‘every end is more elevated than its means’,



then ‘in truth, the Cross is a most holy thing but only because of the sacred shedding of Christ’s blood upon it; nor is the blood holy because of the Cross’.27 Suffield thus placed the Holy Blood into a superlative category of Passion relics. As such, the esteemed status of the relic, ruler and adventus ceremony in London would have eclipsed the recent translation event in Paris. Having proclaimed the superiority of the Holy Blood and praised Henry as a princeps Christianissimus, Suffield granted indulgences to all who were present.28 After Suffield’s sermon, a dramatic shift in the tone occurred as the solemnities of the morning gave way to an evening of majestic decadence. The king put on a garland-crown and, dressed in cloth of gold made of the finest silk, sat on his throne as he bestowed knighthoods upon nobles in his inner circle. The jarring contrast between the sacred and secular rituals caused Nicholas Vincent to ask, ‘Why were two such spectacles combined in this way?’29 It was only after Suffield’s sermon that a wave of cynical speculation emerged from the congregation. Matthew Paris gently alludes to an uprising of opposition by citing the Gospels: ‘When this affair was discussed, some “slow to believe” (Luke 24:25) still doubted.’30 Dissenting audience members expressed their concerns about the relic’s authenticity and the nature of its acquisition. The negative reactions seem to have been directed at the king while he sat on his throne, clothed in gold. Perhaps in an attempt to undermine the antagonism, Matthew records only one side of the conversation, citing the reaction of the king and his supporters. Thierry, who was Prior of the Hospitallers in Jerusalem, confronted the sceptics saying ‘Dear lords, why do you hesitate?’31 He said that neither he, nor any Templar nor Hospitaller had asked for any ‘remuneration in gold or silver from the King’ before Henry interjected ‘certainly not’.32 In addition to the political and pecuniary suspicions expressed by the congregation, theological inquiries concerning the nature of the Holy Blood posed a far greater threat to the new royal cult. The cynics asked, ‘how could the Lord have left his blood on the earth when he rose again – full and entire in body – on the third day after his Passion?’33 This question appears to have caused tension amongst English prelates. Concomitantly effluvial and Eucharistic, simultaneously corporeal and symbolic, the Holy Blood occupies an unusual place on the devotional spectrum. For many medieval



sceptics and modern historians, including Charles Rohault de Fleury, the Holy Blood is not only spurious in provenance and problematic in its essence; it has no place in the esteemed category of Passion relics.34 According to Matthew Paris, ‘this question was at once fully dealt with by the Bishop of Lincoln’, Robert Grosseteste (r. 1235 – 53), who was one of the most formidable scholars and statesmen of thirteenthcentury England.35 Like Suffield, Grosseteste endorsed the king’s cult with unequivocal support. The articulate defence he presented in Westminster Abbey was purportedly recorded in a tract entitled De Sanguine Christi. Matthew equips his chronicle with an appendix containing this treatise: he writes, ‘the answer [by Grosseteste] is set out . . . word for word as the writer of this page heard it and carefully wrote it down, at this sign’.36 Immediately following this statement in the Chronica Majora, Matthew inserts a drawing of a chalice in red ink (Plate 4.2). Any reader could find its counterpart by searching for the same pictorial symbol.37 In De Sanguine Christi, Grosseteste addresses those who opposed the cult: ‘Because the slow and the sceptical are accustomed to object that since Christ rose again on the third day with his body whole and not drained of blood, how can it be that he left his blood behind him on earth?’38 He then offered a thoughtful reply: There are two types of blood. The one type is the blood produced by nutrition and, on occasion, there is too much of this, such as when it bursts forth spontaneously from the nostrils or finds some other outlet, there being so much of it that it must be diminished. And it is this type of Christ’s blood that we have on earth, except that really it was not blood-like because God willed that there should be a later commemoration of the Passion of the Lord.39

For Grosseteste, the Holy Blood relic in London belongs to the secondary and more superfluous category. The other type is that which is ‘essential to the human body’ and ‘of this sort of Christ’s blood we perhaps have none on earth – but I say perhaps because the Lord “does whatever he pleases” [Ps 115: 3]’.40 Above all, De Sanguine Christi is an eristic tract designed to admonish sceptics and encourage devotion.41 Grosseteste argues that Christ, who had died of his own will, retained his vital blood throughout the Passion and exuded only superfluous blood.42 He then describes Christ’s bloodied body after



the Deposition, when those ‘sacred wounds’ were ‘still dripping wet’.43 Even the perforation of the nails in his hands and his feet were ‘stained’ and ‘dripping’.44 The soldier’s spear, he claims, had caused the greatest wound; ‘a large and wide chasm’ remained in Christ’s side.45 The surplus blood gathered from the wounds – including the blood from the incisions in his head, hands, feet and side – would have been collected and preserved in vases when Joseph washed the body of Christ.46 These vases, he explains, remained in Joseph’s family for generations before they were enshrined in Jerusalem.47 Grosseteste then divides the blood various relics collected by Joseph into four distinct categories, placing the ‘formidable, tremendous and most revered pre-cordial blood’ that ‘flowed from the very heart in Christ’s side’ in the highest position.48 Moreover, the blood collected from the wound in Christ’s side had the most splendid vase.49 The reverendissimus relic in question is the Holy Blood in Westminster. De Saguine Christi presents a compelling response to each of the theological, historical and political suspicions levelled against the Holy Blood relic. Grosseteste repeatedly emphasised the significance of the Holy Blood’s purported origins – the wound in Christ’s side. There is evidence that Henry III requested the reproduction and circulation of De Sanguine Christi.50 He also commanded Matthew Paris to write an account of the translation of the Holy Blood and a miracle that occurred when it arrived in London.51 His entries on the Holy Blood in the Chronica Majora provide the most detailed record of the translation event. Oddly, however, Matthew never elaborates or even addresses the specific miracle mentioned by Henry. In fact, there is only one record of a miracle related to the Holy Blood in Henry’s lifetime. The account is discussed by Nicholas Vincent and noted in a seventeenth-century transcription by Elias Ashmole.52 Ashmole’s notation– concerning the revivification of a boy who drowned in Hyde Park in the c.1260s – inadvertently reveals the short radius and extremely limited local interest in the king’s cult.53 WESTMINSTER ABBEY AS LOCUS SANCTUS In the years following the relic’s arrival, Henry spearheaded spiritual incentives to attract popular devotion to the Holy Blood in conjunction with the feast of St Edward. In 1248, public criers throughout London announced a new fortnightly fair at Westminster



in which the people could venerate the Holy Blood.54 St Edward’s Fair would be celebrated again at Westminster in 1249 and, according to Matthew Paris, many attended ‘out of love and devotion for the saint’ to ‘venerate the recently obtained Holy Blood of Christ and obtain the remission granted thereby’.55 However, no known miracles occurred during the fairs of 1248 and 1249. For at least three years, the king vainly tried to attract believers to his cult through his sponsorship of festivals. Henry’s investment in the Holy Blood can be situated in the wider context of his benefaction of cults and building projects at Westminster Abbey, especially that of Edward the Confessor (r.1042 – 66). The Anglo-Saxon saint-king served as Henry’s personal model of Christian kingship.56 Westminster Abbey was not only the locus sanctus of Edward; the confessor-king was also the primary patron of the Abbey in the eleventh century.57 For this reason, Matthew implies that Henry’s role as an architectural patron was yet another aspect of the emulative love for his patron saint: Henry decided to rebuild Westminster because he was ‘inspired by the devotion he felt toward Edward’.58 Since his canonisation in 1161, the relics of Edward housed in Westminster had yet to excite the popular imagination, unlike other twelfth-century English cults, such as the cult of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. In 1241, Henry commissioned the construction of a resplendent Gothic shrine made of gold and precious stones to house the body of his patron saint.59 Then, in 1245, he hired architects to create an entirely new abbey.60 For three decades, Henry financed the Gothic redesign of Westminster in an ambitious attempt to transform the Benedictine abbey into the supreme religious centre of the Plantagenet kingdom. In addition to the orchestration of an adventus, declamation of persuasive sermons, circulation of eloquent treatises and chronicles, and celebration of festivals, the creation of new art works would also support the foundation of this new royal cult. However, unlike rituals and texts, medieval images do not rely on an intercessor to perform or express their meaning. A close examination of the extant artistic projects executed under the aegis of Henry III reveals the depth to which the cult of relics at Westminster would be integrated into the decorative programme. Moreover, the monumental Gothic images preserved at Westminster, which include its wall paintings and Retable, testify to the presence of ambitious and inventive artists.



However, in any study of Westminster, the art historian is often bewildered by the extent of post-thirteenth-century destruction, addition and restoration. Because the Abbey remained unfinished (and underfunded) at the time of Henry’s death in 1272, the layers of subsequent construction and decoration conceal the majority of the first phase of Gothic patronage. The remainder of this chapter will examine two Gothic art works that placed significant visual evidence on the wound carved into Christ’s chest by the Holy Lance. In each instance, these images will be analysed in light of their connection to the cult of the Holy Blood. THE LOST LAST JUDGMENT SCULPTURE OF THE NORTH PORTAL In 1984, M.E. Roberts first suggested that the design of the north porch at Westminster incorporates visual references to the cult of the Holy Blood.61 Positioned at the entrance to the Abbey, the central tympanum showed the Last Judgment. Given what is known of the original portal design, which would have been the first figural image encountered by any thirteenth-century visitor, its atypical iconography suggests a site-specific agenda. However, the present-day appearance of the north porch has changed substantially since its creation in c.1250 – 60s.62 In addition to the eighteenth-century removal of the medieval elements, the current design is the result of the nineteenth-century work of Sir Gilbert Scott and J.L. Pearson.63 However, art historians have assumed that the well-preserved c.1260 – 70s portal in the south transept at Lincoln cathedral was modelled on the lost north porch of Westminster Abbey.64 Moreover, there is evidence that the north porch programme at Westminster was similar to and possibly based on the c.1230s central portal of the west facade at Amiens cathedral.65 Situated between its reputed antecedent and copy, the portrayal of the Last Judgment at Westminster emerges as an innovative composition. Like the original design at Westminster, Christ sits enthroned within a quatrefoil frame in the south portal tympanum at Lincoln cathedral (Plate 4.3). Angels hover around the judge, censing him and praising his return. Another pair of angels kneels to the side of his throne, which is situated firmly within the liminal frame. Despite the dynamic energy of the angels encircling him, Christ’s facial



expression remains calm as he gazes outwards. With the fingertips of his left hand, Christ gently pulls back his garment to reveal a horizontal wound incised across his right side. He offers a blessing with his right hand, lifting up two of his fingers above the scar. Here, we find a particularly empathetic portrayal of the glorious Son of Man described in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 16: 26 – 8). The Lincoln judge, affixed to the cathedral of the great defender of the Holy Blood relic, Bishop Grosseteste, emphasises the largest wound of the Passion. The most striking visual difference between the Judgment portal at Amiens when compared with those at Westminster and Lincoln is Christ’s agency in the display of his wounds. At Amiens, Christ is bare-chested – his garment has fallen down from his shoulders and rests in the creases of his elbows. Both his arms are raised exposing the holes his hands and side.66 In contrast, at Lincoln – and, presumably, at Westminster – Christ appears actively engaged in revealing the wound in his side. Because his mantle remains draped over his torso, Christ is compelled to pull back the fabric of his dress to show his bloodied scar. In so doing, the holes in his hands are less evident and the cut in his side becomes the focal point. In the Last Judgment at Westminster and Lincoln, the side wound – the place of origin of the Holy Blood relic – has transformed into the catalysing site of an inventive eschatological vision. If the Lincoln judge reflects a lost archetype from Westminster, then its composition not only responds to a growing High Medieval interest in blood piety, it also signals the centrality of the Holy Blood throughout Christological time. In De Sanguine Christi, the wounds in the body of Christ are said to be ‘marks of the past’ that remained ‘still gaping after the Resurrection’.67 Grosseteste claimed that when Christ returns his wounds will still appear.68 Here, in the Last Judgment portal, the words of Grosseteste could take form in stone. The scar in Christ’s side plays a central role in the Christian past, present and future. It appears simultaneously as an imprint of the Passion, an integral aspect of instilling faith in his Resurrection – indeed, it was the offer to touch this wound that caused the Apostle Thomas to believe – and it remains on his chest until the end of time. Positioned above the entrance to the Abbey, this Last Judgment encouraged visitors to contemplate the salvific importance of Christ’s bloodshed by showcasing the wounds. This particular iconography



also served as a devotional signpost for a sacred space imbued with the presence of the Holy Blood, preparing the viewer for their imminent interaction with the relic. In this way, the Gothic design of the Last Judgment at Westminster simultaneously represented the relic’s esteemed in salvation history while guiding the viewer to understand its potential role in their personal experience of redemption. THE DOUBTING THOMAS MURAL IN THE SOUTH TRANSEPT The visual culture of the Holy Blood at Westminster also extends to its Gothic wall paintings. Monumental murals survive in the south transept and the adjoining chapel dedicated to St Faith. The south transept depictions of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child and Doubting Thomas highlight the physical connection between the saint and Christ.69 Because Christ pulls the left arm of the Apostle into the wound in his right side and the Christ Child wraps his arm around the head of his helper, these murals effectively indicate that two relics in the Abbey’s possession – the arm of St Thomas and the head of St Christopher – are also contact relics of Christ. In addition to the aforementioned Christological relics, Henry III donated portions of Christopher’s head to the collection and added a new ring to the arm reliquary of Thomas, which was originally given to the Abbey by his spiritual patron, St Edward.70 Executed by the time of consecration in 1269, these Gothic paintings elevate the status of the cult of relics at Westminster through their atypical composition.71 Recently, Paul Binski and I have argued that the Westminster Christopher image, which is the earliest surviving mural of its kind in England, stands at the ignition point of a fast-flourishing and farreaching image cult.72 Doubting Thomas (Plate 4.4) has also been exposed as an ambitious example of an iconographic break with a long-standing history of representation.73 By showing the Apostle’s arm wedged deeply into the wound, the painter indisputably indicates that Thomas had touched the resurrected body of Christ. The extraordinary design choices of the south transept wall paintings would have enhanced the status of royal relic cults by boldly breaking with conventional iconography. This image of Doubting Thomas is totally unique in Western medieval art in its emphasis on Christ’s bloodshed. For Grosseteste,



the appearance of the wounds on Christ’s resurrected body had ‘strengthened the faith of the doubters’, including the disciples.74 He states explicitly that it was the sight of the wounds that caused them to believe.75 Here, in the south transept, Grosseteste’s words again spring into pictorial action. Before the Westminster painting, there had never been such a blatant demonstration of touch in a portrayal of Doubting Thomas; in fact, artists tended to shy away from representing physical contact between the figures in an attempt to avoid controversy.76 Perhaps for the first time in medieval Europe, the Gothic painter in Westminster interpreted the Gospel account of the Incredulity with literal precision: Christ commanded Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe’ (John 20:27). In the wall painting at Westminster, the precise moment when Thomas overcomes his doubt is re-imagined through a physical encounter: the Apostle is transformed as he touches the blood of Christ. With a background of blood-red paint and the placement of the bleeding wound of the Holy Nail at the centre of the composition, the Gothic artist embraces an interest in the appearance of the wounds after the Resurrection. In fact, the Apostle’s hand is fitted so deeply into Christ’s side that the viewer is unable to see his fingertips. As his fingers enter the wound, blood pours out in energetic, waving lines. Thus, the body of Christ appears to bleed after his Resurrection, just as Grosseteste said. Produced near the end of Henry’s reign around 1270, this remarkable image has emerged from a community unafraid of blood piety. Using audacious iconography, the mural offers an authoritative visual response to those who questioned the potency of the Holy Blood. The artist has used the Apostle’s doubt as a symbolic precedent for those who need to find faith in that which is difficult to accept. As such, the image of Doubting Thomas in Westminster could act as an emblem for encouraging devotion to the in situ cults, especially the Holy Blood. CONCLUSION In the Gothic sculpture of the north portal and the painting in the south transept, the portrayal of Christ’s pierced side becomes central to the viewer’s comprehension of Christian salvation. By breaking with iconographic tradition to position the side wound at the focal point of



each image, the site-specific design of the Westminster judge and Doubting Thomas reflects a calculated interest in cult of the Holy Blood. At the time, the cult still needed to attract pilgrims and establish authenticity. Designed and executed in the decades following the arrival of the relic, Gothic artists were charged with the task of using their compositions to cultivate interest in a collapsing royal cult. In each instance, the words of Robert Grosseteste in De Sanguine Christi take form in the pictorial design. The portal and painting serve a devotional function developed under a zealous patron. Behind their production, we find the legacy of Henry III; a wealthy and devout protagonist committed to the endorsement of the cults at Westminster Abbey. Despite the calculated presentations of piety and authenticity, the arrival of the Holy Blood in London caused alarming questions about the nature of Christ’s Passion, Resurrection and Ascension. As Caroline Walker Bynum explained in her study of blood piety, ‘for a successful pilgrimage, it was not enough to produce authenticating documents, arrange lavish processions and translations, garner ecclesiastical support, or secure indulgences’.77 Even the persuasive panegyric of the Bishop of Norwich and the erudite defence of the Bishop of Lincoln could not sway unbelievers. For Paul Binski, the failure of the Holy Blood cult stemmed from both its ‘inherently political character’ and the ‘problematical character of the relic itself’.78 This chapter has attempted to show how an adversarial situation spurred creative invention. In the depiction of the Last Judgment and Doubting Thomas, the unprecedented emphasis on the wound in Christ’s side reflects a local and site-specific interest in the Holy Blood. Viewed within the wider context of the visual culture of Westminster, these Gothic art works display decisive iconographic choices linked closely with pressing theological concerns. The tenuous presence of the Holy Blood provided artists with the liberty to create new designs that redefined the relic’s significance. The weakness of the cult revealed its need for authoritative images to defend and strengthen its reputation. By focusing on the wound from the incision of the Holy Lance, the portal sculpture and south transept mural employ a site-specific visual vocabulary that encourages devotion to the Holy Blood. The bleeding scar on the body of the crucified Christ has transformed into an emblematic sign of the victory of his Passion. Although the cult never flourished, it



succeeded in inspiring innovative iconographic designs and, in this instance, the failure of the Holy Blood has exposed the catalysing role of visual culture in the Gothic devotional imagination. NOTES 1. N. Vincent, The Holy Blood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). 2. The Chronica Majora is preserved at Cambridge University, Corpus Christi College (hereafter CCCC) MS 16 II, ff. 216r – v and the six chapters are De sanguine Christi allato Londonias, Prosecutio, Prosecutio facti sancti et memorandi, De semone domini episcopo Norwicensis eadem die, De tirocinio Willelmi de Walentia fratris domini regis uterini, and De assertione domini regis super praedictis. See the transcription in Matthaei Parisiensis, Monachi Sancti Albani, Chornica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard, 7 vols, The Rolls Series (London: 1872 – 84), vol. IV, p. 640 – 5 (henceforth CM). For a detailed discussion of the making of this manuscript, see also S. Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987). 3. Vincent, The Holy Blood, appendix 1, pp. 202–4. This letter was originally signed in Acre and dated 31 May 1247. Copied from the lost original document, the text survives in a transcription kept in Westminster Abbey MS Domesday, f. 394v –395r. 4. ‘Excellenti et egregio viro domino Henrico Dei gratia illustri regi Angl(ie), Robertus eadem gratia sancte Ierosolimitane ecclesie patriarcham apostolice sedis legatus, et eiusdem ecclesie capitulum salutem et felices ad vota successus . . . .’ Ibid., pp. 202–4 at 202. All translations are my own. 5. ‘Gloriantes in cruce ipsius in qua gloriari oportet, scituri certissime et sine dubitatione quacumque quod nos eiusdem preciosi sanguinis quantitatem extraximus de thesauris ecclesie nostre ibidem ab antiquissimis temporibus conservatam cum summa reverentia et honore, et veraciter est sanguis ille qui de latere domini Ihesu Cristi in loco predicto manavit.’ Ibid., p. 204. 6. The record of the cult’s previous existence is dubious at best: There is no trace of its presence in the Holy Sepulchre or in any of the myriad treasuries of Levantine collections. Unlike other popular blood relics in the High Middle Ages, such as the Fe´camp Blood relic, the Reichenau Blood relic and the Volto Santo, there is no trace of the Westminster Holy Blood relic before the thirteenth century. See the discussion in Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 39 and 71. It has been suggested that the Holy Blood could have belonged to the Templars in Acre. See J. Folda, Crusader Art in the Holy Land: From the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre, 1187–1291 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 207–8.



7. ‘Aliquam particulam de preciosissimo sanguine domini Ihesu Cristi quem in loco Calvarie sito intra Ierosolimit’ ecclesiam, pendens in crucis patibulo, pro salute et redemptione vestra et omnium Cristianorum habundanter effudit . . . ’ Ibid., pp. 203–4. 8. ‘Ut ipsam sanguinem nostre redemptionis preciosum habentes pre oculis, passionem eius semper in memoriam habeatis’, Vincent, The Holy Blood, pp. 203–4. 9. When Henry eventually took his crusading vows in Westminster Abbey in 1250, he did little to offer assistance to his eastern ally. He also never ventured to the Holy Land. See D.A. Carpenter, The Reign of Henry III (London: Hambledon Press, 1996), p. 112. See also A.J. Forey, ‘The Crusading Vows of the English King Henry III’, Durham University Journal, 65 (1973), pp. 229–47. 10. In medieval ceremonial culture, the desired outcome of an adventus would be the conversion of the collective group of celebrants into a more sacred community through the experience of this shared ritual. For the Christian ruler, the Roman adventus could be adopted as a model for religious celebrations associated with the cult of relics. Instead of the joyous entry of the visibly victorious emperor – who would have passed beneath the transformative liminal space of a triumphal arch into his city with a decedent display of the spoils of war – the archetypal Christian adventus relied upon the humility of its protagonist to convey the sanctity of the object he carried. On the meaning and significance of the adventus ritual in the Middle Ages, see Margot Fassler, ‘Adventus at Chartres: Ritual Models for Major Processions’, in N. Howe (ed.), Ceremonial Culture in Pre-Modern Europe (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre-Dame Press, 2007), pp. 13–62. 11. ‘Devoto spiritu ac contrito in vigilia sancti Ae[wardii] in pane et acqua jejunans, et nocte vigilans, cum ingenti lumine et devotis orationibus se ad crastinam sollempnitatem prudenter praeparavit.’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216r; CM, IV: p. 640. 12. ‘Nec praetermittendum, quod amababus manibus illud deferens, cum per stratam salebrosam et inaequalem pereget, semper vel in caelum vel in ipsum vas lumina tenebat defixa. Supportatur autem palla per quatuor hastas. Supportabantque duo coadjutores brachia sua, ne in tanto forte labore deficeret.’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216r, CM, IV: pp. 641–2. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. ‘Magistri enim Templi [Guillaume de Sounae] et Hospitalis [Guillaume de Chaˆteauneuf] cum testimonio quamplurium sigollorum, videlicet patriarchae Jerosolimitani, archiepiscoporum quoque et episcoporum, abbatum et aliorum praelatorum et magnatum de Terra Sancta, miserat quandam portionem sanguinis Dominici, quem pro salute mundi fudit in cruce, in quodam vase cristallino venustissimo, per quendam fratrem Templarium bene notum.’ CCCC MS 16 II, f. 216r, CM, IV: pp. 640–1.



16. Ibid. 17. ‘Dominus autem rex, utpote princeps Christianissimus ab Augusto Eraclio victoriosissimo ac piissimo imperatore, crucem sanctam exaltante . . . ’ CCCC Ms. 16 II, f. 216r, CM: IV, p. 641. 18. Heraclius retrieved the True Cross from its Persian captors and returned the relic to the Holy Sepulchre in 630. Observed annually on 14 September, the liturgy for the Exaltatio had remained essentially unchanged throughout the Middle Ages. For an introduction to the history and cultural transmission of both the Inventio and Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis in medieval England, particularly in Old English texts, see M.C. Bodden, The Old English Finding of the True Cross (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987), pp. 24– 7 and, more generally, the recent publication of B. Beart, A Heritage of Holy Wood: The Legend of the True Cross in Text and Image (Leiden: Brill, 2004). Although its compilation around 1260 postdates the Chronica Majora, the Legenda Aurea by Jacobus de Voragine reflects the contemporary understanding of Heraclius’ procession in the thirteenth century. See the modern translation of the ‘Exaltation of the Holy Cross’ in The Golden Legend, ed. and trans. W.G. Ryan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 168–73. 19. ‘Et a rege Francorum tunc superstite, crucem eandem, ut praescribitur, Parisius honorante, sumens exemplum’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216r, CM, IV: 641. 20. CCCC Ms. 16, f. 140v –142v; CM, IV: pp. 90 –2. 21. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets, p. 143. 22. Folda, Crusader Art in the Holy Land, p. 208. 23. ‘Conventus autem Westmonasterii, cum omnibus qui convenerant, episcopais, abbatibus, et monachis, qui plus quam centum aestimabantur, canentes et exultantes in spiritu sancto et lacrimis, occurrebant eidem domino regi sic adventatni, usque ad portam curiae episcopi Dunelmensis.’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216r, CM, IV: p. 642. 24. ‘Nec adhuc cessabat dominus rex, quin indefenssus ferens illud vas, ut prius, circuire[t] ecclesiam, regiam, et thalamos suos. Demum illud quasi donum impretiabile, et quod totam Angliam ditando illustraverat, donavit, et optulit Deo et ecclesiae Sancti Petri Westmonasterii, et caro suo Ae[dwardo] et sacro conventui, qui ibidem Deo et sanctis suis ministrant.’ 25. Matthew Paris recalls that the size of the audience was so great that the Romanesque walls could hardly contain them. ‘Tunc autem reversi sicut ierant, videlicet processionaliter ad ecclesiam Westmonasterii, vix in ea prae copiosa turbae multitudine continebatur.’ Ibid. 26. ‘Dominus episcopus Norwicensis, qui et Missam eadem die sollempniter celebravit, populo predicando asseruit, quod inter sacra quae inter mortales habentur, sacratissimum quid est sanguis Christi.’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216v, CM, IV: p. 642.



27. ‘Est enim pretium mundi, et ejus effusio salus generis humani; et ut condigne illud magnifi caret amplius, addidit illud philosophi, “Omne propter quod, dignius quam illud quod.” Revera crux sancta sanctissimum quid est. Sed ipsa sacra fuit propter sacratioris sanguinis aspersionem, non sanguis sacer propter crucem.’ Ibid. 28. Et addidit, quod pro maxima domini regis Angliae, qui dinoscitur domini regis Anglias, qui dinoscitur esse inter omnes Christianitatis principes Christianissimus . . . ’ Ibid. In the final lines of his summary this sermon, Matthew reports that ‘exultant worshippers’ would receive ‘six years and one hundred and sixteen days’ with free remission from the penances imposed upon them According to Nicolas Vincent, this exorbitant number probably alludes to the total number of indulgences offered since the twelfth century plus the additional indulgences from the present-day ceremony. Vincent, The Holy Blood, p. 159. 29. Ibid., p. 17. 30. ‘Cum autem examinaretur, doubt, et alii tardicordes ad credendum adhuc hesitarent.’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216v, CM IV: p. 643. 31. ‘Ait dominus Theodoricus, prior Hospitalis Jerosolimitani, episcopis et aliis circumsedentibus; ‘Domini carissimi, quid adhuc fluctuatis? Exigitne ob hoc beneficium aliquis nostrum, vel Templarius vel Hospitalarius, vel etiam frater qui portavit, vel de domino rege, vel alio aliquo, aliquam in auro vel argento retributionem, vel quantulumcunque premium?’ Et rex; ‘Nequaquam.’ Et frater; ‘Quare ergo in dampnationem animae suae tot et tanti viri tali assertioni perhiberent testimonium, apponentes signa sua, quae sunt fidei pignora manifesta?’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216v, CM, IV: p. 643. 32. Ibid. 33. ‘Quaestionem hanc moverent: “Quomodo cum plene et integraliter tertia die post passionem resurrexit Dominus, sanguinem in terra reliquerit?”’ Ibid. 34. Charles Rohault de Fleury, Me´moire sur les Instruments de la Passion (Paris: 1870). 35. ‘Quae quaestio ab episcopo Lincolniensi ad unguem tunc determinabatur, prout habetur scriptum in libro Additamentorum; prout hujus paginae [scriptor] audivit, et verbo ad verbum satis dilucide scripsit, ad tale signum.’ CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216v, CM IV: pp. 643–4. 36. Ibid. 37. London, BL Cotton MS Nero D I, f. 91r–92v. CM, VI: pp. 138– 44. 38. ‘Sed quia tardicordes et oblocutores solent sic obicere et dicere, quod cum Christus terio die resurrexisset cum coporis intergritate, et non exanguis, qualiter esse posset quod sanguinem Suum post Se reliquerit in terra.’ De Sanguine Christi in London, BL Cotton MS Nero D I, f. 92r, reproduced in CM, VI: 143. 39. ‘Responum fuit sufficienter: Duo sunt sanguines vel genera sanguinum. Unus enim sanguis est qui ex nutrimentis generatur, qui aliquando ita






44. 45.




superfluit, ut a naribus sponte prorumpat, vel aliquem alium exitum [habeat], ut minutione indigeat sic repletus. Et de tali sanguine Christi habemus in terra licet, sane non fuisset sanguinolentus, Deo sic volente, ut videlicet habeatur recentior memoria Dominicae Passionis.’ Ibid. ‘De quo dicitur, quod tysis est consumptio substantialis humiditatis, id est sanguinis vitae necessarii . . . De illo Chrisi sanguine, non habemus forte in terris. Forte dico quia omnia quoecunque voluit Dominus fecit.’ Ibid. ‘Ut scilicet sic scrietur quod Omnipotens fuit, ut contra consuetum usum et naturalem foret corpus Eius, Qui fuit Dominus naturae ad Suum nutum et beneplacitum monstrabile et palpabile et saucium cerneretur, Qui tamen as discipulos intravit foribus obseratis. Et sic omnium cessare debent detractorum.’ Ibid. For a general but thorough discussion of Grosseteste’s conception of the nature of Christ’s blood, see J. McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 131–2. ‘Crucifixo ergo Jesu et mortuo, postulavit Joseph corpus Jesu, ingrediens ad eum audacter, per quod creditur fuisse potena; et concessum est ei. Ipse igitur . . . cum omni honore et reverentia ipsum corpus sanctissimum deposuit de cruce saucium et multiformiter cruentatum; habensque lintheamen subtile dependens a collo et humeris, ne indigne tam dignum corpus nudis manibus contrectaret, ipsa sacra vulnera adhuc madida ac distillantia sedulo ac devoto detersit officio.’ London, BL Cotton MS Nero D I, f. 91r; CM, VI: p. 139. ‘Immo etiam loca clavorum extractorum tincta cruore in ipso crucis patibulo exhausit abstergendo.’ Ibid. ‘Tum propter militis lanceas qua ipse latus Jesu non tantum vulneravit sed aperuit; amplum enim fecit et hiatum patulum, forte saepius vel saltem semel fecit impingendo.’ Ibid. Lavit, quia sane arbitrabatur et religiose dignum censuit sanguinem ipsum sibi prorsus vendicandum, et ut thesaurum vel medicamen preciosissimum reservandum. Ibid. This claim could have been rooted in an interpolation of the apocryphal texts in the Acti Pilati, the influence of Arthurian Romance on the significance of Joseph to the history of Christian Britain or perhaps from an encounter with lost De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae by William of Malmesbury. For the role of Joseph in the cleansing of Christ’s body at the tomb, see The Gospel of Nichodemus (Acti Pilati) in M.R. James (ed.), The Gospel of Nicodemus, or Acts of Pilate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924) Part XV: 5. Joseph’s desire to collect and preserve the blood could be linked to a developing tradition in Arthurian romances (e.g. Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie and Chre´tien de Troyes’ Perceval, and the Perlesvaus) or the lost De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae, wherein Joseph is said to have founded Glastonbury Abbey and endowed it with relics collected from the tomb. See V.M. Lagorio, ‘The evolving legend of St





51. 52. 53. 54.



57. 58.

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY Joseph of Glastonbury’, in J.P. Carley (ed.), Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Tradition (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2001), pp. 55–82. ‘Quarto: Ille formidabilis tremendae et reverendissimiae recordationis cruor precordialis, qui ex ipso corde Christi vel saltem latere constat effluxisse.’ CM, VI: p. 140. ‘Maximo autem timore et honore ipsum sanguinem cum aqua quein censuit praecordialem, a latere dextro feliciter eliquatum et expressum, in vase recepit nobilissimo tanquam thesaurum impreciabilem, sibi et successoribus suis specialiter reservandum.’ CM, VI: p. 140. It is likely that Henry commissioned Grosseteste to convert his impassioned declamation on 13 October 1247 into a polished text. Evidence exists for the circulation of De Sanguine Christi in the thirteenth century. For instance, Grosseteste’s statements about the blood of Christ resurface in the works of Thomas Aquinas, who disagrees entirely with the concept of surplus blood. See Vincent, The Holy Blood, pp. 87– 8. CCCC Ms 16 II, f. 216v; CM, IV: p. 644. Preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 842, f. 80v. See the transcription of the miracle text in Vincent, The Holy Blood, p. 205. See Vincent, The Holy Blood, p. 166. ‘Quamplurimis praelatis magnatibusque sub optentu amicitiae et devotionis significavit, ut praesentialiter cum ipso apud Westmonasterium beati Aedwardi festum solempniter ac devote concelebrarent . . . Unde factum est, ut ibidem illuc innumerabilis populus, velut ad celeberrimas nundinas, confluerent, ibidemque translatio beati Aedwardi et sanguis Christi a popula illuc tracto et ibi congregato inopinabiliter.’ CCCC MS 16 II, f. 221v, CM V: pp. 28 –9. ‘Congregati sunt igitur ibidem qui antea dispersi fuerunt magnates quamplurimi, tum pro devotione et amore sancti, tum pro veneratione sancti sanguinis Christi nuper adepti et venia concessa ibidem optinenda, tum pro domini regis ipsos vocantis reverentia . . . ’ CCCC MS 16 II, f. 224r, CM V: pp. 47 –8. For an overview of the development of Henry’s interest in Edward in the years leading up to his patronage of Gothic Westminster, see D. Carpenter, ‘King Henry III and Saint Edward the Confessor: The Origins of the Cult’, English Historical Review, CXXII (2007), pp. 865–91. See the discussion in Binski, Westminster and the Plantagenets, p. 143. ‘Eodem vero anno [1245], dominus rex, devotione, quam habuit adversus sanctam Aedwardum, submonente, ecclesiam Sancti Petri Westmonasterii jussit ampliari. Et diruitis antiquis muris partis orientalis cum turri, praecepit novos, videlicet decentiores, suis sumptibus subtilibus artificibus construi convocatis, et residuo videlicet occidentali, operi coaptari.’ CM, IV: p. 427. See also the discussion of Matthew’s observations of the Gothic rebuilding projects at Westminster in Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, pp. 224–6.



59. Because of both its material splendor and craftsmanship, Matthew Paris cited a ‘poetic saying’ (from Ovid) and claimed that its ‘workmanship surpassed the material.’ ‘Eodem anno [1241], dominus rex Henricus III unum feretrum ex auro purissimo et gemmis preciosis fecit ab electis aurifabis apus Londoniam, ut in ipso reliquiae beati Aedwardi reponerentur, ex sumptibus propriis artificiose fabricari. In qua fabrica, licet materia fuisset preciosissima, tamen secundum illud poeticum, “Materiam superabat opus” [Ovid, Metamorphosis, II: 3].’ CCCC MS 16 II, f. 151r–v; CM IV: pp. 156– 7. 60. First, the Romanesque fabric would be demolished in the Abbey’s east end; this enlarged the ambulatory space surrounding the new shrine. Soon after, new towers appeared in the west end and the Gothic abbey began to take form. Ibid. 61. M.E. Roberts, ‘The Relic of the Holy Blood and the Iconography of the Thirteenth-Century North Transept Portal of Westminster Abbey’, in W.M. Ormrod (ed.), England in the Thirteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1984 Harlaxton Symposium (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1986), pp. 129 – 42. 62. By the early eighteenth century, the sculpture of the central portal, which contained a figure of Christ surrounded by a quatrefoil frame, was said to have been entirely ‘time-eaten’. The two greatest hindrances to our understanding of Gothic Westminster are the sixteenth-century Reformation and the overzealous restoration of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See W.R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey and the King’s Craftsmen: A Study of Medieval Building (London: Duckworth, 1906), pp. 78 –85. 63. Today, we see Christ as judge, crowned, enthroned and surrounded by angels. He raises his right arm in a gesture of benediction while his left hand clutches the orbus mundi. 64. Ibid., p. 208. 65. See the discussion in P. Williamson, Gothic Sculpture, 1140 –1300 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), p. 206. 66. See D. Verret and D. Steyaert, La couleur et la pierre: Polychormie des portails gothiques, Actes du Colloque, Amiens, 12–14 octobre 2000 (Picard, 2002), at 87 –8. For a general study of polychromy in the Amiens portals, see C. Weeks, ‘The Portail de la Mere Dieu of Amiens Cathedral: Its Polychromy and Conservation’, Studies in Conservation, 43:2 (1998), pp. 101–8. An in depth analysis of colours in Last Judgment Gothic portals is found in L. Lenormand, J. Devillard et al., ‘Observations sur le portail central et sur la fac ade occidentale de Notre-Dame de Paris’, Bulletin Monumental, 149 (1991), pp. 341–432. 67. ‘Re vera in corpore Christi, Suorum vulnerum stigmata post resurrectionem Suam recentium et adhuc hiantium, quod apparuerunt, et quod Se Christus post resurrectionem et corporis glorificationem se palpabilem praebuit et ad Suum beneplacitum visibilem, vel vulneratum monstravit,


68. 69.

70. 71.

72. 73. 74.

75. 76.



VISUALISING A SACRED CITY miraculosum et obstupendum’. De Sanguine Christi in London, BL Cotton MS Nero D I, f. 92r–v and CM, VI: p. 144. Ibid. See P. Binski and E. Guerry, ‘Seats, Relics, and the Rationale of Images in Westminster Abbey, Henry III to Edward II’, in Warwick Rodwell and Tim Tatton-Brown (eds), Westminster: The Art, Architecture and Archaeology of the Royal Abbey (The British Archeological Association, Conference Transactions XXXIX, Part 1, 2015), pp. 180–204. For evidence of the relic cults of each item at Westminster, see Flete, The History of Westminster Abbey, pp. 70 –1. E.W. Tristram, English Medieval Wall Painting: The Thirteenth Century, 2 vols (Oxford: 1950), pp. 85, 121 – 7, 560 – 1. This date differs from that first proposed (c. 1300) in idem, ‘A Recent Discovery of Wall-Paintings in Westminster Abbey’, The Burlington Magazine, 70 (1937), pp. 228 – 33. See above n. 71. Ibid. ‘Ut sic videlicet dubitantium fides roboraretur, quia tam duri et tardi fuerunt quidam discipulorum ad credendum resurrectionem, quod postquam viderant, non crediderunt, et ut benedictio non visuris et tamen credituris largius donaretur.’ De Sanguine Christi in London, BL Cotton MS Nero D I, f. 92v and CM, VI: p. 144. Ibid. Because Christ told Mary Magdalene, ‘Do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father’ (John 20: 17, NIV), many Christian authors, scholars and artists assumed that Thomas could not have touched Christ; instead, he believed when Christ offered his body to be touched. In general, see A. Murray, ‘Doubting Thomas in medieval exegesis and art’, Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia Storia e Storia dell’Arte in Roma, Conferenze 22 (Rome, 2006). C.W. Bynum, Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), pp. 47 –8. Ibid., p. 143.



Citizens of ‘London’ as Members of Christ’s Divine Body in William Blake’s Biblical Illustrations Naomi Billingsley

I wander thro’ each charter’d street, Near where the charter’d Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. ... But most thro’ midnight streets I hear How the youthful Harlots curse Blasts the new-born Infants tear And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse William Blake, ‘London’, Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), lines 1 –4, 13 –161 We behold multitude: or expanding: we behold as one, As One Man all the Universal Family; and that One Man We call Jesus the Christ; and he in us, and we in him, ... I behold London; a Human awful wonder of God! He says: Return, Albion, return! I give myself for thee: My Streets are my, Ideas of Imagination. Awake Albion, awake! and let us awake up together. My Houses are Thoughts: my Inhabitants; Affections.


VISUALISING A SACRED CITY The children of my thoughts, walking within my blood-vessels, ... So spoke London, immortal Guardian! I heard in Lambeths shades: In Felpham I heard and saw the Visions of Albion I write in South Molton Street. what I both see and hear In regions of Humanity, in Londons opening streets. William Blake, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (c.1804– 20), plate 38, lines 19–21, 29 –34, 40 –32

London, art and religion constantly overlap in the work of William Blake (1757–1827). He was born and lived all but three of his 70 years in the city, and famously proclaimed that Jerusalem should be ‘builded here’3 and that ‘Christianity is Art’.4 In ‘London’, he describes the city as a portrait of the human condition abused and oppressed, but he did not settle for such a dystopian vision of his home city; he envisioned it rebuilt from this Babylonian state to become a New Jerusalem, a sacred city of Imagination and art. This city of Imagination is, as expressed in the passage from Jerusalem cited above, the Body of Christ. For Blake, the Body of Christ is a living body of which we are members when we embody the Blakean state of Imagination: The Eternal Body of Man is The IMAGINATION . God himself that is ‫[ יש]ו[ע‬Yeshua] JESUS we are his Members The Divine Body William Blake, Laocoo¨n (c.1826–7)5


Thus, if London is envisioned as the body of Christ, its citizens are ‘Members of the Divine Body’ who embody a Christ-like state of Imagination. This chapter will argue that figures mentioned in ‘London’ as abused by the contemporary city have counterparts in Blake’s depictions of Jesus’ ministry and that these biblical figures can be read as citizens of the regenerated London as the living Body of Christ. Specifically, the focus will be on the crying infants and ‘youthful harlot’ of ‘London’, whose biblical counterparts are the figure of the Blakean child and the pseudo-biblical Magdalen, as represented respectively in Christ Baptizing (1805)6 (Plate 5.1) and The Woman Taken in Adultery (c.1805) (Plate 5.2).7 These two watercolours are from a series of over 80 illustrations to the Bible in watercolour which Blake produced between 1800 and 1806 for Thomas Butts, a civil servant and one of Blake’s most loyal patrons



(Blake had already produced a set of 50 biblical subjects in tempera for Butts between 1799 and 1800). There is very little documentary evidence about the extent of Butts’ influence over the series or about how these images were originally displayed, but the consensus is that Blake had relative freedom over the handling of the subjects and that therefore these works are as much an expression of his personal religious vision as works he produced of his own initiative. Both children and ‘Magdalens’ 8 appear numerous times in Blake’s visual and written works and the two watercolours discussed here are presented as representative of these figures as ‘types’ in Blake’s works. There are numerous other such figures in Blake’s works who can be read as citizens of Blake’s celestial city (both biblical types and figures from Blake’s personal mythology) – a topic which could be explored at greater length than is possible here. These two examples demonstrate how, taking his lead from Jesus’ own challenges to social norms, Blake’s illustrations to the Bible become a form of social commentary which points to what it is to be a citizen of the community of Christ’s Divine Body. ‘THE NEW-BORN INFANTS TEAR’ AND CHRIST BAPTIZING Blake famously regarded the figure of the child as an emblem of innocence and imagination, inhabiting a state of unfettered, instinctual vision to which adults should also aspire. The Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789, 1794) in which ‘London’ appears, are an extended celebration of the innocence of childhood and an indictment against the repression of that state. The eighteenth century saw a widespread interest in children and childhood; children’s literature emerged as ‘a distinct and secure branch of print culture’,9 and the art world saw a proliferation of images of children adopting a wide variety of roles. Jean Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 E´mile, or On Education (published in English in 1763) was influential, arguing that children were corrupted by education and possessed distinctive characteristics and insights which may offer something to adult onlookers. A shift is evident, for instance, in comparing Anna Letitia Barbauld’s Hymns in Prose (1781)10 with Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs (1715);11 both are collections of educational children’s poems, but Barbauld is much less didactic than Watts,



calling for the child’s instinctual engagement with the world as the basis for shaping his or her mind. Blake’s own celebration of child-like vision emerges from this context, but is distinctive in that he does not simply praise childhood as a state in itself, but rather conceives of the possibility of inhabiting a kind of eternal childhood. In the Songs, Blake responds to contemporary educational ideals (particularly those of his dissenting milieu) which emphasised the instruction of children in moral and religious ideals, satirising the popular genre of educational hymns for children like those of Watts and Barbauld. Blake produced engravings for four children’s books between 1780 and 1793,12 types of which are echoed in the Songs and other works by Blake (for instance, a mother reading to her children was a common illustration in eighteenth-century children’s literature and this motif appears on Blake’s plate for ‘Infant Joy’).13 The Songs reject instructional models of education, instead celebrating intuitive, imaginative vision. Innocence and experience are not alternatives, but ‘contraries’ which are in dynamic tension – experience should not destroy innocence, but nor should it be avoided. In his reference to the ‘new-born Infants tear’ (and indeed the harlot’s ‘youth’) of ‘London’ Blake decries the oppression of the child – a sentiment repeated numerous times in the Songs, such as his critique of charity schools in the two ‘Holy Thursday’ poems.14 This abhorrence at the abuse of the child is related to Blake’s conception of the state of childhood as Christ-like, as articulated in ‘Cradle Song’15 – innocence as a participation in Imagination, in the Divine Body of Christ. Blake’s celebration of the child as a Christ-like figure has a biblical precedent in Mark 9:36– 7 where Jesus places a child in the midst of the disputing disciples and tells them ‘Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me’,16 and in the narrative appearing in all three synoptic Gospels in which Jesus tells his disciples: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me . . . Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’ (Mark 10:14 –15; cf. Matthew 19:13 – 15; Luke 18:15 – 17).17 The latter narrative was the subject of Blake’s tempera paintings for Butts, Christ Blessing the Little Children (1799, Tate, London),18 but he also includes children in numerous New Testament subjects in which their presence is not demanded by



the narrative illustrated (e.g. Christ Baptizing). Joseph Viscomi has suggested that the works painted for Butts may have been displayed in Mrs Butts’ school for girls, which would have given the prominence of children in these designs special resonance, but this theory of the circumstances of the original display of the works is only speculative.19 Christ Baptizing is an allegorical depiction of John 3:22: ‘After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptised.’ It is set, anachronistically, in a church – a surprising innovation of Blake, who rejected institutional Christianity, and saw churches as ‘cold’ and as characterised by decrees of ‘Thou shalt not.’20 However, this church is filled with a convivial community of people of all ages, centred on Christ himself. Christ is standing next to a font (another anachronism), cradling an infant in his left arm (also anachronistic, since infant baptism was not practised at the time of Jesus) and reaching into the font with his right. He is positioned frontally, facing the viewer, but his gaze is directed up to heaven as a dove and blast of light descend from above, recalling his own baptism (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32) and perhaps making this scene an allegory of it. Blake could be alluding to Paul’s statement that through baptism we ‘put on’ Christ and become one in him (Galatians 3:26 – 7), although the image does not seem to allude to Paul’s notion that it is into Christ’s death we are baptised (Romans 6:3 – 6; Colossians 2:12). Children are given prominent place in the community depicted here, occupying the spaces closest to Christ: as well as the infant cradled in his arm, there are two children kneeling at his left, another two standing in front of the font, immediately to Christ’s right, and another next to this last pair; there are two further infants cradled in parents’ arms and a boy standing in the far left of the picture. Indeed, former owner of the work Graham Robertson called this Christ ‘Our Lord of the Little Children’.21 The children seem to represent the appropriate way to respond to Christ, leading the way before adults, and even being gathered into his embrace, almost physically becoming members of his Divine Body. These children have the bodily proportions of adults – a common characteristic in Blake’s designs. Eighteenth-century portraits of children frequently depicted them as miniature adults, but Blake’s figures are quite unlike the austere children such as those painted by William Hogarth



(1697 – 1764) and Johann Zoffany (1733 – 1810) which deny the childishness of the sitters to emphasise their status and hierarchy. Rather than turning the child into what William Wordsworth described as a ‘monstrous . . . dwarf man’ (The Prelude, 1805, Book V, lines 295 –8),22 Blake’s adult-children seem, as Christopher Rowland suggests, simultaneously to represent children as embodying spiritual adulthood, and adults who inhabit the child-like state of innocence.23 Thus, Blake may be pointing back to the beginning of John 3 in which Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1 – 8). The two children in front of the font are holding hands, forming an arch which seems, as Robertson noted, to form part of the font’s design.24 This visual device suggests that these children are active participants in Christ’s ministry of baptism; that one is male and one female suggests that they are representative of all humanity. As an act symbolic of inauguration into a spiritual community, their participation in this ministry emphasises that childhood is an elevated spiritual state. Also significant (and again noted, but not explicated, by Robertson)25 is the nakedness of these children. Nakedness, for Blake, is symbolic of a state of humanity’s perfect, divine state, which he called ‘Naked Beauty’ (Milton, plate 4, line 28;26 Jerusalem, plate 32, line 49;27 Laocoo¨n)28 or ‘The Naked Human form divine’ (The Everlasting Gospel, plate f, line 66).29 Blake has emphasised the children’s nakedness further by including the garments which they have removed hanging behind them (from the viewer’s perspective). This removal of clothes serves to emphasise the unfettered innocence of the state of childhood and the exposure of their flesh suggests that they are symbolically incarnating the ‘church’ into which people are here being baptised. ‘THE YOUTHFUL HARLOTS CURSE’ AND THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY The ‘youthful harlot’ was a visible presence on the streets of London at the turn of the nineteenth century. Commonly referred to as ‘Magdalens’, London’s prostitutes were associated with their pseudobiblical type in name and through the circulation of sentimental narratives presenting these women as penitent victims (London’s Magdalen Hospital, which opened in 1758 for the reformation of



prostitutes was particularly prominent in this endeavour). Thus, ‘Magdalens’ became objects of social change, infantilised and de-individualised. Blake’s own reference to the contemporary Magdalen in ‘London’ presents her as a victim but rejects any sentimentality: ‘the youthful Harlots curse’ is a cry of horror, and, as Ronald Paulson puts it, a ‘symbol of innocence oppressed, curbed, and perverted by the church that denied sexual freedom’.30 The curse is also a reference to venereal disease, which makes the harlot an agent of death – who ‘blights with plague the marriage-hearse’ (indeed, many scholars have assumed that disease is Blake’s literal meaning, despite the curse’s being ‘heard’).31 Blake’s harlot seems, as Paulson suggests, to have more in common with Hogarth’s satirical indictment of society in his Harlot’s Progress prints (1732); Paulson reads Hogarth’s Harlot as a parody of the narratives of the Virgin and Christ, invoked to attack the society of which she was a victim but which branded her a sinner.32 Blake’s poem ‘London’ similarly criticises the society which engendered the harlot’s plight, but in contrast to Hogarth’s secular parody of sacred narratives, Blake emphasises her human divinity and dignity, as paralleled in his watercolour The Woman Taken in Adultery. Blake’s image of the narrative of John 8:1 – 11 depicts the moment when Jesus has said to the accusers of the woman, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’, and as he stoops to write in the ground for the second time, the accusers exit the Temple, leaving Jesus alone with the woman (John 8:7 – 9). This is a narrative about the Law: the Temple elders try to test Jesus by bringing the woman before him, hoping to catch him breaking the Law, but instead he shows them that their accusations are hypocritical, and he does not condemn the woman. This theme recalls two of Blake’s early watercolours of English history, The Ordeal of Queen Emma (c.1793)33 and The Penance of Jane Shore (c.1779, c.1793).34 Queen Emma was the mother of Edward the Confessor who accused her of adultery and tested her guilt by forcing her to walk across red-hot ploughshares which she did unscathed, thus proving her innocence. Jane Shore was a mistress of King Edward IV who after his death was accused of being a harlot and was made to do public penance at St Paul’s Church, but behaved with such modesty that she won the approval of the people. Blake probably knew Nicholas Rowe’s play The Tragedy of Jane Shore which premiered in 1714 and continued to be performed regularly



in London into the early nineteenth century. Rowe cast Jane in terms recalling the woman taken in adultery – as a victim of political wrongdoing, and Blake’s watercolour depicts her in a manner reminiscent of representations of the Magdalen, with long, curly hair. Both Jane Shore and Queen Emma are vindicated of accusations of adultery; although Jane Shore, like the woman of John 8, is technically guilty of adultery, it is her dignity which shines through and unmasks her accusers, just as Jesus unmasks the hypocrisy of the elders in John 8. The theme of the Law in The Woman Taken in Adultery also relates to Blake’s contemporaneous watercolour God Writing Upon the Tables of the Covenant (c.1805):35 both God and Christ are in the act of writing with their fingers, and there is a long interpretive tradition that Christ was writing the new law. I propose that this theme is further elaborated in the form of the figure of Christ which has received limited attention from previous commentators. Rather than crouching on the ground, Blake’s Christ bends from the waist in a bow-like posture, his knees only slightly bent, and his right arm fully extended to reach towards the ground. Although Christopher Heppner highlights that it is a strong, athletic pose and not a very comfortable position to hold whilst writing (he invites the reader to try holding this position),36 he does not note that the arc of Christ’s figure is a direct echo of the arch above him – the doorway of the temple, through which the elders are departing. This arch is in turn doubled with another closed arch adjacent to the door, above the figure of the woman; this pair of arches echoes the shape of the tablets of the Law. Thus, Blake imagines the Temple as a physical manifestation of the Law which it existed to uphold and thereby points to eighteenth-century London churches, where the tablets of the Law were commonly displayed in the place of an altarpiece.37 Blake refers to this ecclesiastical furnishing in the preface to For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise (?1825, plate 2, lines 1– 10): Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice Such are the Gates of Paradise Against the Accusers chief desire Who walkd among the Stones of Fire Jehovahs Finger Wrote the Law Then Wept! then rose in Zeal & Awe And the Dead Corpse from Sinais heat



Buried beneath his Mercy Seat O Christians Christians! tell me Why You rear it on your Altars high38

Blake contrasts the ‘forgiveness’ of Paradise with the ‘Accuser’ of the Law, asking why Christians ‘rear’ the ‘corpse’ of the Law ‘on [their] altars high’. Christ’s stooped figure, downward gaze and the opening between his fingers also recalls Blake’s large colour print Newton (1795/?1805), which depicts the scientist sitting on a rock, crouching over, with his attention focused on a scroll on the ground, and making measurements with a pair of compasses (an image familiar to today’s Londoners in Eduardo Paolozzi’s (1924 – 2005) 1995 bronze sculpture after Blake’s design in the forecourt of the British Library). There are two extant impressions of this print; that in the collection of the Tate is thought to have been printed in about 1805,39 contemporaneous with The Woman Taken in Adultery. Whether Newton is read, as has been commonplace, as a negative figure, in keeping with Blake’s reference in a letter to Butts to ‘Single vision & Newtons sleep’ (22 November 1802)40 – i.e. concerned merely with mechanically mapping the laws of nature – or, as Colin Trodd suggests, as an anti-Newtonian prophetic figure who ‘bring[s] to light knowledge’,41 the figure of Christ is a counterpoint to the law-bound Newtonian worldview rejected by Blake. Contrasting with the arched figure of Christ, the woman stands opposite him in an upright position; indeed, as Christopher Rowland suggests, it appears that Christ is bowing before her.42 Christ’s finger does not in fact seem to touch the ground and there are no marks in the dust, contrasting with the figure of God Writing who has already inscribed a letter on one of the tablets; the Hebrew character seems to be a yod, the first letter of the Divine Name, suggesting that his writing the Law is an act of self-assertion. By contrast, Christ’s ‘law’, is not inscribed in cold stone, nor in the dust, but is simply manifest in himself, represented by the tablet-like arch of his figure. He is the living law, and the woman, standing opposite him, is presented as his counterpart. Although their poses are different, they have similar facial features, wavy red hair, plain white garments and bare feet, contrasting with the brightly clad, sandalled elders exiting the temple. The woman’s hands are tied behind her back, which is quite the opposite of Christ’s athletic gesture and prevents her from attempting to cover herself as the woman is usually concerned to do



in depictions of this scene. Instead, her pose is dignified, and she is not trying to hide her crime. This contrasts with her pretence at chastity in Blake’s retelling of this episode in his poem The Everlasting Gospel (plate f, lines 70 – 3).43 The binding of her hands suggests helplessness and seems to represent the Law, perhaps specifically recalling ‘The Garden of Love’ in Songs of Experience which criticises the contemporary Church’s suppression of sexuality – ‘binding with briars my joys & desires’ (line 12).44 The pairing of the victim of the Law and the one who replaces it indicates that being a member of the divine body of Christ is not about following a legal or social code but simply (and more demandingly) being the living embodiment of Christ the Imagination. Christ does not condemn the woman, but tells her ‘go, sin no more’ (John 8:11), and in Blake’s design, as Rowland has suggested, by pointing to the space the accusers have vacated, Christ gives the woman the Imaginative freedom to transform fully into his likeness.45 Blake again associates the Magdalen with Christ in Jerusalem (c.1804 – 20) in which the eponymous heroine describes herself as Jesus’ Magdalen – an ‘outcast’, and a ‘Harlot . . . sold from street to street’ (plate 62, lines 14, 2, 4).46 The figure of Jerusalem is presented as Christ’s female counterpart and bride throughout the poem and his response to her calling herself his harlot, his ‘Magdalen’, ends ‘I am always with thee!’ (plate 62, line 29).47 Jerusalem’s identification as Christ’s Magdalen here reinforces the reading of the Magdalen of the watercolour as a counterpart of Jesus, and thus as a citizen of the ideal society of Imagination that is his Divine Body. CONCLUSION The ‘infants tear’ and ‘youthful Harlots curse’ of ‘London’ are the cries of citizens of a society which values the Law above the person. The poem is Blake’s cry of protest on their behalf, and echoes Jesus’ objections to the oppression of such vulnerable and marginalised figures in the Gospels. In the two watercolours discussed here, Blake celebrates the figures of the child and the Magdalen of the Gospels as Christ-like figures and active participants in his ministry. The figures in ‘London’ represent the Divine Image abused; the watercolours the Divine Image revealed. Just as Blake looked beyond the dystopian city described in ‘London’ to re-imagine the metropolis as a sacred city of



Imagination in Jerusalem, so too the oppressed figures of the infant and the harlot of the city’s charter’d streets are re-envisioned in their biblical types in the watercolours. In his depiction of John 8, Blake literally pushes the accusers who value the Law above the individual out of the space in which Jesus and the Magdalen stand. So too it is the crying infant and ‘youthful harlot’, and not the authors and guardians of London’s charters, who are envisioned by Blake as members of the Divine Body of the new, living London, Blake’s city of Imagination.48 NOTES 1. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. D.V. Erdman (New York: Doubleday, 1988), pp. 26 –7. Blake’s irregular use of spelling, capitalisation and punctuation have been retained throughout, following Erdman’s edition of the text. 2. Ibid., p. 180. 3. Ibid., p. 95. 4. Ibid., p. 274. 5. Ibid., p. 273. 6. R¼291950908j2 (accessed 3 October 2014). Cf. M. Butlin (ed.), The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), cat. 485. 7. (accessed 3 October 2014). Cf. Butlin (ed.), The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, cat. 486. 8. ‘Magdalen’ is used here to refer to the pseudo-biblical figure of artistic and theological tradition in whom is conflated various women from the New Testament rather than the strictly biblical Mary Magdalene (Blake presents these women as the same figure). 9. M.O. Grenby, The Child Reader: 1700–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 1. 10. ‘A. L. B.’, Hymns in Prose for Children (London: J. Johnson, 1781). Blake may have met Barbauld at Mrs Mathews’ cultural conversaziones in about 1783; according to J.T. Smith, Blake sang his own poems at these occasions (cf. G.E. Bentley Jr, The Stranger From Paradise: A Biography of William Blake (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001) p. 74n). 11. I. Watts, Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (London: M. Lawrence, 1715). 12. W. Enfield, The Speaker (London: Joseph Johnson, 1780): 4 plates after Thomas Stothard; C.G. Salzmann, Elements of Morality, for the Use of Children (London: J. Johnson, 1791): 45 plates after Chodowiecki;


13. 14. 15. 16.

17. 18.


20. 21. 22.

23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31.

32. 33. 34.

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY M. Wollstonecraft, Original Stories from Real Life (London: J. Johnson, 1791): six designs by Blake; J. Gay, Fables (London: John Stockdale, 1793): 12 plates after William Kent and John Wooten. (accessed 19 December 2014). The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, pp. 13, 19 –20. Ibid., pp. 11 –12. The contemporary Child Theology Movement takes this episode as its central premise, to take note of the insight offered by the child. See J. Collier (ed.), Toddling to the Kingdom: Child Theology at Work in the Church (London: Child Theology Movement, 2009). Biblical quotations in this chapter are from the King James Version, the translation best known to William Blake. dren-n05893 (accessed 4 October 2014). Cf. Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, cat. 419. J. Viscomi, ‘A “Green House” for Butts? New Information on Thomas Butts, His Residences, and Family’, Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, 30:1 (1996), pp. 4–21, on p. 15. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, p. 26. G. Robertson and K. Preston (eds), The Blake Collection of W. Graham Robertson (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), p. 149. J. Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams, S. Gill (eds), William Wordsworth: The Prelude. 1799, 1805, 1850. Authoritative Texts. Contexts and Reception. Recent Critical Essays (New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979): p. 166. C. Rowland, Blake and the Bible (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), p. 222. Robertson, p. 149. Ibid. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, p. 98. Ibid., p. 179. Ibid., p. 275. Ibid., p. 522. R. Paulson, Hogarth’s Harlot: Sacred Parody in Enlightenment England (Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 331. Cf. S. Matthews, ‘Impurity of Diction: The “Harlots Curse” and Dirty Words’, in S. Haggarty and J. Mee (eds), Blake and Conflict (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009), pp. 65–83. Paulson, Hogarth’s Harlot, pp. 1–288. Ibid., cat. 59. (accessed 3 October 2014). Cf. Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, cat. 67 –9.



35. william-blake/object/god-writing-upon-the-tables-of-the-covenant-d2281 (accessed 3 October 2014). Cf. Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, cat. 448. 36. C. Heppner, ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery: An Essay on Blake’s “Style of Designing”’, Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, 17:2 (1983), pp. 44– 60, on p. 50. 37. Extant examples in London include St Giles-in-the-Fields and the Temple Church. 38. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, p. 259. 39. (accessed 3 October 2014). Cf. Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, cat. 306– 8. 40. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, p. 721. 41. C. Trodd, Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World, 1830–1930 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), pp. 129, 130; 114–39. 42. Rowland, Blake and the Bible, pp. 181–2. 43. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, p. 522. 44. Ibid., p. 26. 45. Rowland, Blake and the Bible, p. 182. 46. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, p. 213. 47. Ibid. 48. I would like to thank the AHRC for their support of my research.


‘You May See it or Not’: John Rogers Herbert, RA and the New Palace of Westminster Nancy Langham-Hooper

In 1847 Cardinal Wiseman, then a Roman Catholic bishop, wrote an extensive treatise on the history and practice of sacred art in The Dublin Review. In it, he called for a new, ‘Catholic school of art . . . to be raised in England’. Yet he only mentions one artist whom he believes is currently engaged in the art he describes: We stated, almost at the outset, that we thought there were indications of a rising feeling for true religious art among the people . . . Mr Herbert’s [painting] affords us one . . . This we own has given us almost our first ray of hope on the practical possibility of establishing a Catholic school of art.1

This was not simply Wiseman’s opinion. If someone had been inclined to ask prominent London artists and critics of the 1850s who were the greatest sacred painters of the day, they would have all mentioned John Rogers Herbert (1810 – 90). Herbert was a member of the Royal Academy and one of the up-and-coming artists of his generation; leading the way with his medieval style and earnest ideals of art. Converted to Roman Catholicism in the late 1830s through the influence of his good friend A.W.N. Pugin, Herbert was a vocal advocate for his new faith and moved in influential Catholic circles. These friends saw an innovative, modern Catholic art movement beginning with Herbert.



Catholic doctrine was not only evident in Herbert’s liturgical practice; it transformed his art as well. Herbert’s mediaeval style (shown in his Portrait of A.W.N. Pugin, Plate 6.1) and his new approach to sacred art were combined in his ground breaking 1847 painting, Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth (Plate 6.2). This image of a moment in Christ’s childhood, featuring a topographically correct landscape of Nazareth, moved Wiseman and others to point triumphantly to Herbert’s work when discussing modern English Catholic art. In fact, Herbert was the only Catholic artist of any prominence practising sacred art at the time, both inside the Royal Academy and outside it. Herbert’s sacred subjects were familiar and strange; they did not draw directly upon mediaeval or renaissance models, and yet they could not be described as simply populist biblical illustrations or Nazarene imitations. These distinctions are often overlooked when comparing Herbert’s work to that of his Protestant colleagues; they are usually shrugged off as individual eccentricity. However, these unique elements can be also explained theologically. Widely applauded for his influential paintings of the 1840s, Herbert gained a commission he believed would be his life’s work: the decoration of the Peers’ Robing Room in the New Palace of Westminster. This room was to be illustrated with scenes from the Old Testament, the only sacred subjects chosen for Parliament. His work on the room would last over 30 years and result in two monumental and critically acclaimed murals. These were at once a product of his English heritage, Royal Academy training and Catholic thought and theology. For Herbert at least, they were to be venerated. They incarnated the sacred, like icons or mediaeval altarpieces, for the devout Catholic. MOSES BRINGING DOWN THE TABLES OF THE LAW The Commissioners had decided in 1847 that the Peers’ Robing Room in the House of Lords would be an ideal place to do a series of frescoes from the Old Testament, three of which would be very large, with nine murals in total. The theme was to be ‘Justice on Earth, and its development in Law and Judgement’, appropriate for a room where matters of law were decided.2 These included Moses bringing



down the Tables of the Law, The Judgement of Solomon and The Judgement of Daniel. Herbert finished his preparatory cartoon for Moses in 1854, and also finished cartoons for the other large frescos before the room was finally completed in 1858.3 He used this interim time to travel to the East in 1857, and his studies of the topography of Sinai, local peoples and costumes directly contribute to his Moses. Moses was finally finished in 1864 (Plate 6.3). It had taken Herbert six years, and he considered it one of his most important works. A monumental mural (done finally in the waterglass technique) measuring 3 £ 6.5 metres, it depicts the moment Moses returns from Mount Sinai for the second time with the Ten Commandments, as told in Exodus 34. Herbert’s picture is a mixture of historical re-creation and subtle symbolism. His object was to give the viewer an experience of being at the scene as it happened. Naturalistic detail enables the viewer to engage with the painting. It was not merely the shape of the mountains that Herbert wished to capture in his rendering of the scene, but a feeling of the heat of the desert, worked from life in bright colours.4 This atmospheric effect was greatly admired: The general tone is luminous, and I don’t know of a brighter picture . . . it all recalls the Orient . . . You forget you are in London, you believe yourself to be in the desert.5

This minute technique and feeling of being transported demonstrate Herbert’s delight in the minutiae. He gives the viewer a thorough account of the landscape of the place, and what he believed was the dress of the time, taken primarily from contemporary Arab dress.6 The detail in Moses, however, does not end with its historical or topographic elements. Besides a complete cast of characters, Herbert incorporates the Israelite camp into the fresco, as well as a large tent that holds the body of Joseph (Genesis 50:25).7 The fresco is also full of subtle symbols. Symbolic figures frame the composition. On the far left is a woman carrying a baby in a basket, recalling Moses’ salvation from the Hebrew infanticide (Exodus 2:1– 10). Herbert placed this figure in the midst of this moment to remind the viewer of a larger, divine plan that had preceded the giving of the law. On the opposite side is another symbol of the history of divine



interaction with Israel. A woman gives a drink to her thirsty child, which is reminiscent of God’s provision; reminding the viewer of the story of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert, but also of the provision of water to the wandering nation of Israel.8 Strikingly, Herbert places a semicircle of figures in the foreground, to complete the triangular composition and communicate a deeper message to those in the House of Lords. Though Herbert made it clear that these figures are meant to have significant meaning, the message was uncertain. Palgrave was puzzled, noting that: A circle of figures, arranged above the door, we are told, is symbolical of human life . . . We cannot find any peculiar ingenuity or propriety in this idea . . . we fail altogether to see how the thought is realized by this juxtaposition.9

These figures are subtle, but not incomprehensible. They represent the various stages of humanity’s interaction with God and the evolution of that interaction as wisdom and knowledge increases. On the left is a woman with three children at different stages of life. These three children represent spiritual immaturity: the unconscious selfishness, inborn sinful nature and innate fear of God. The next figure is a shepherd who has taken a Nazirite vow. The man represents an acknowledgement of God and a desire to serve through sacrifice. The third figure is a Levite, struck with awe and wonder at the sight of Moses: representing worship, or a worshipful attitude. Finally, the fourth figure is another shepherd.10 He is half naked, and approaches Moses on bended knee. He is the personification of spiritual maturity, approaching with confidence yet aware that he has nothing to offer (as shown in the empty water container). Herbert has this group of figures read like a chart of spiritual evolution: starting with the immaturity of sin and fear, moving through rash vows of service to awesome wonder, then finally to humble acknowledgement. The viewing public, understandably, did not readily comprehend this deep theological symbolism. However, any over-subtlety of symbolic elements did not prevent Moses from being popularly accepted as a great work of art, even if that popularity was short-lived. In Parliament, William H. Gregory declared it ‘one of the most noble specimens of modern art’. John Bright added that he ‘had not known until then that there was a painter in this country who could execute a work of art such as that’.11



When the mural was finally completed in 1864, debates about delay, cost and further commissions for all the artists engaged in the decoration were already beginning to eclipse Moses, making it impossible for a critic to view it entirely outside the issues being discussed. In the end, Herbert received £5,000 for Moses, and Parliament cancelled the remainder of his contract. However, there was a strong expectation that the decoration would not cease. Herbert proposed doing the rest of the murals in oil. He began with The Judgement of Daniel.12 THE JUDGEMENT OF DANIEL Herbert saw many years go by before he was finally able to present the Houses of Parliament with The Judgement of Daniel (Plate 6.4) in 1880. Like Moses, the completed Daniel is a lively juxtaposition of allegory and archaeological fact. The event is taken from the Apocryphal edition of the book of Daniel.13 It tells the story of two lecherous Elders who have tried unsuccessfully to seduce a righteous woman named Susanna. To protect themselves, they accuse her of adultery and Susanna is condemned to death. However, on the way to the execution the youth Daniel stops the procession to reassess the verdict. He brings the crowd back to the place of judgement and questions the two accusers separately. One says the crime happened under a mastic tree, the other claims it was a holm tree. The false witnesses are revealed and Susanna is vindicated. It is a story with a moral lesson especially relevant to the Lords: the importance of justice and the strong condemnation of false witnesses. Herbert firmly sets the action in Ancient Babylon, and described the scene in detail to a correspondent for the New York Times. As the article later notes, ‘Every item of dress and architecture is a careful study’.14 Herbert frames the young Daniel with two solid pillars, visually representing the firmness and solidity of his wisdom. Inscribed on the pillars are lines of Hebrew. The pillar on the left displays Leviticus 24:22, a scripture warning against discrimination in the execution of justice. The pillar on the right displays Proverbs 29:4, a condemnation of bribery.15 The reference to bribery is almost certainly meant for the Lords themselves; a very subtle warning indeed, as probably very few of them read Hebrew.16 Once again, as in Moses, Herbert places his central figure at the apex of the compositional triangle, the emotional and dramatic



centre of the scene. All other figures react to Daniel and play the drama out around him. Susanna, standing ready for her execution, clasps her hands in prayerful relief. Her husband Joachim looks as if he is moving toward the second Elder, who raises his hands in protest as he begins to be dragged away by the crowd. Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego witness the scene, while others take hold of the condemned elder. Herbert clearly intended the painting primarily to recreate the scene as described in the scriptures. However, as with his Moses, he also added an extra dimension of subtle allegory. He explained the various symbols to the NYT correspondent. These include a peacock’s feather symbolising vanity, a monkey stealing fruit (emblematic of the false Elder), a blind lynx (symbolising blinded lust) and both a living and dead gazelle (representing the Daughters of Israel). The painting, promised in 1872, was not completed until 1880, due to severe illness, death and tragedies in Herbert’s personal life. He wished to continue his work on the room, but no amount of persuasion would entice the government to make a new contract. The Judgement of Daniel was hung in 1881, and the two monumental paintings continue to be the only decoration in what is now called ‘The Moses Room’. HERBERT AS A CATHOLIC ARTIST Other than Herbert being a confessing Roman Catholic, it would be difficult for the average viewer to differentiate his work from a similar subject done by a Protestant.17 Herbert’s sacred painting was not in a classical vein; there were no golden halos, no traditionally composed ‘Madonna and Child’ subjects. Yet Herbert’s Catholicism is shown in the small details of his sacred works, and each of these has theological motivation and justification. Each of the three paintings detailed in the previous sections, Our Saviour, Moses and Daniel, has five common elements. These are: a natural and realistic setting, bold colour, powerful narrative emotion, obscure symbolic elements, and a subject/object of veneration. Each of these elements will be explained within the context of Catholic thought on sacred images, and together they comprise the beautiful and strange manner in which Catholic thinkers at the time, including Herbert, believed modern sacred art should be done.



However, it must be noted that other artists also used these elements individually. Bold colour, for example, was a hallmark of the English School. Narrative emotion was also common in the early nineteenth century. It is these elements together, along with their theological justifications, which create a truly Catholic picture. Herbert spoke extensively about the divine mission of art. He took his own piety seriously, and made a direct connection from it to the quality of his work. While employed in the Peers’ Robing Room, he recounted that he prayed each morning to his patron saint: ‘Oh, St Edward, guide my hand this day!’ According to Herbert, these prayers could be effectual: All went well till I found I could not paint the stained sheepskin . . . (for I could not get one to paint from), try as I would. Tout d’un coup I remembered I had not prayed that morning, and kneeling, I forthwith gave tongue to my usual prayer . . . Suddenly the shrill notes of an Italian pifferari struck my ears . . . Breathing a prayer of thanks, I ran for paper and colours, and sketched the man on the spot.18

He felt that his purpose as an artist was in service to God, and was to be divinely guided, even in the small details. MEDITATION Several elements in each of Herbert’s paintings are designed to lead the viewer into meditation. The most obvious is bold, dramatic colours. These catch the viewer’s eye and invite scrutiny. Upon further observation, naturalistic detail becomes evident. Herbert first incorporated a realistic setting in Our Saviour, which was made from a sketch of the landscape around Nazareth. He then went to the East to sketch Mount Sinai for Moses, and his detailed study of the artefacts of ancient Babylon (most likely seen on his travels and in the British Museum) create the setting for Daniel. He also incorporates many historical elements into these paintings, being fastidious about costume and other archaeological details. These attributes anchor the painting in temporal and historical space. St Ignatius, in his popular Spiritual Exercises, encouraged the pious to use their imaginations to bring them closer to the divine: In a visible contemplation or meditation . . . the composition will be to see with the sight of the imagination the corporeal place where the thing is found which I want to contemplate.19



This type of meditation became common Catholic practice. It leaves room for the viewer to contemplate the significance of this ordinary event, and what might have taken place in the scene. This is not intended to be an academic exercise, but a personal, emotional engagement with the image. Finally, the viewer may notice the many symbolic elements that Herbert peppers throughout his sacred painting. These symbols can be objects or persons: the semi-circle of symbolic figures in Moses, or the blinded lynx in Daniel. These elements are present, but not obvious. According to the New York Times reporter writing about Daniel: I do not remember in any pictorial work illustrative of Bible history where poetic and Christian allegory is introduced with so much subtlety as in this modern realization of the judgement of Daniel. The very essence of its successful interpolation into the general story lies in the fact that you may see it or not, just as you have or have not the poetic faculty. [emphasis mine]20

Not everyone would have that faculty, as the writer admits. It can therefore be surmised that Herbert was not overly concerned that everyone would understand these subtle elements of symbolism. His sacred paintings were not intended as a didactic puzzle to be solved, but rather a very Catholic way into the picture: providing an atmosphere of reflection. In this way especially, Herbert’s Catholic art differs from his Protestant colleagues. William Holman Hunt also used realistic detail, natural landscape and bold colour to draw viewers into his Shadow of Death (1870 – 3). However, his many symbolic elements must be read and understood. These abundant didactic symbols were so obvious that The Academy called them ‘at best a kind of Sunday puzzle for children of a larger growth’.21 Though Herbert was certainly aware of didactic elements in his paintings, he is unconcerned whether the viewer understands these useful lessons. The point is to transport the viewer in time and space, and bring them into meditation and contemplation. Herbert’s subtle blending of allegory with the narrative is intended to reveal deeper meaning along with straightforward moral lessons. It is by juxtaposing the other and the ordinary that Herbert intends the viewer to encounter the sacred.



INCARNATE According to Catholic thinkers, including Cardinal Wiseman, J.H. Newman, A.W.N. Pugin and Johann Friedrich Overbeck, ideal sacred art must be incarnate. That is, it must bring some of the divine presence of God into the material object, and therefore into the life of the viewer. The Incarnation is the theological premise that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.22 For Catholics, this first incarnation enables many other incarnations: the presence of God in the Eucharist or sacred images, for example. This is seen as a physical reality, not merely a spiritual idea. Thus, when Pugin discusses gothic architecture, asserting that it ‘embodied a communicable spiritual truth’,23 he proposes not only the idea of art communicating with the viewer, but embodying the presence of God. Wiseman stressed that incarnation must be a key element of sacred art: The devout mind loves to contemplate the Incarnate Glory of heaven as the type of dignified and hallowed beauty.24

This ‘incarnate glory’ is often termed the ‘mystical’ element of sacred art. Unlike mere beauty or even revelation, the incarnate nature of the painting is a personal and present interaction between the viewer and the divine. This interaction, Wiseman argues, is the most important element of art: It follows that the mystical element [of Christian art] must necessarily, as the very condition of its vitality, prevail over the inferior elements of drawing and colour, as well as the imitation of natural objects, which are all but means to an end.25

‘Mystical’ means that for Catholics like Wiseman, God is literally present in the sacred art object. The mystical presence in an art object can have personal, emotional and spiritual effects on the viewer. Wiseman explains these effects: The beholder . . . should at once feel himself penetrated with a sense of the beautifully holy . . . that he should at once weep or exult, be humbled or gain confidence as he gazes, – not to study or criticise, but to feel.26

Feeling opens the viewer to the mystical and is evidence of this personal transaction with the divine. Emotion therefore is evidence of the incarnational nature of the art. Thus incarnation, through emotion and the mystical, holds a central place in sacred art; and is seen as its defining element.27



As his sacred art developed, Herbert’s ideas of how to use a palatable modern image for incarnate, mystical purposes evolved. He incorporated a real, historical and emotional element to his paintings in order to support the sacred subject matter. By placing a painting in a geographical, cultural and emotional context, he anchors a more mystical aspect within the solidly ordinary. This is perhaps one reason why he was so enamoured with the landscape of the East, using it increasingly in his work as a setting for sacred subjects. The historical and geographic not only supported and contextualised the sacred subjects; it embodied them. Entering the picture then becomes the beginning of the Catholic viewer’s sacred engagement with the work of art, which leads to emotion and veneration. The ‘veneration’ of an image or saint is, according to Catholics, to give it honour or due reverence.28 For Wiseman and other Catholics, to honour the saints was to meditate upon, and therefore imbibe, some of the holiness of those particular individuals. Thus veneration is not merely a conscious exercise; it is a transaction with the art: the viewer becomes like the saint they venerate. Though many Catholics would understand the veneration of icons and other sacred works of art, Herbert takes this concept into a secular space. In order to do this, Herbert instructs his nineteenth-century audience in veneration by providing a figure acting as a ‘stand-in’ for the viewer, addressing the object of veneration. In Daniel, the viewer identifies with the relieved Susanna, venerating Daniel’s wisdom. In Moses, the object of veneration is Moses (or even more subtly, the Law) and the viewer can identify with the symbolic figures in the foreground as worshipful types. In this way, contemporary audiences are shown how to venerate, and are encouraged to do so themselves. If the technical attributes of a painting lead the viewer into meditation, enabling an incarnational transaction between art object and viewer, then the final goal of each work is veneration. In a letter to W.E. Gladstone, Herbert describes this in terms of the mysterious: I wish the men who talk of chance and accident could see and feel what is included in the Sweet Mystery of Line and Colours and they would raise their Eyes and venerate in a moment.29

Thus veneration, a consequential impact of conviction or emotion, is a result of the mystical presence. This, according Wiseman and other Catholic writers, is the entire object of a work of sacred art:



It follows that the mystical element [of Christian art] must necessarily, as the very condition of its vitality, prevail over the inferior elements of drawing and colour, as well as the imitation of natural objects, which are all but means to an end.30

CONCLUSION Believing in the mystical and incarnational nature of his work, Herbert possessed an earnest desire to edify, instruct and encourage all who entered the Peers’ Robing Room. He had a vision for the whole room and wished it to stand as a complete narrative, with each mural representing a specific aspect of human or divine law and judgement. This is evidenced in his desire to change the original commission. ‘I have wished not to leave [Moses as a] sign of a law of fear Alone, but at least to give . . . the Law of Love, the Sermon on the Mount opposite to it.31 Unfortunately, Herbert never did have a chance to commence his painting of the Sermon on the Mount or complete anything beyond Moses and Daniel. Yet he continued to paint sacred art in his Catholic manner. In his final years, he exhibits many subjects with the same technical attributes as Moses and Daniel: authentic landscape, narrative emotion, symbolic elements, bold colour and subject/ objects of veneration. Herbert believed that God was present, incarnate, in his sacred subjects. Perhaps this explains some of his eccentric and determined devotion to his work, and the seriousness with which he spoke of and practised it. Though he had few contemporaries who shared his Catholicism and vision, he remains throughout his life doggedly devoted to art’s divine purpose.

NOTES I would like to thank Professor Christiana Payne and Sister Judith Lancaster for their observations and advice, which were invaluable for this chapter. 1. Dublin Review, June 1847, pp. 493, 505. 2. Seventh Report of the Commissioners on the Fine Arts, with Appendix (London: W. Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street, for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1847), pp. 11 –12.



3. Thirteenth Report of the Commissioners on the Fine Arts, with Appendix (London: W. Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street, for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1863), p. 10. These cartoons are currently untraced. 4. The current state of the mural does not allow a modern viewer to see the colours as they were intended, however two copies of Moses, dated 1867 (Kunsthalle, Hamburg) and 1858 – 77 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) give an idea of the intensity of colour. 5. La Revue des Deux Mondes, 1 September 1864, p. 254. 6. The theory that contemporary Arabic dress had not changed in millennia was one that Hebert gleaned from his close friend Horace Vernet (1789– 1863). 7. Athenaeum, 25 June 1864, p. 875. 8. Genesis 21, Exodus 16 and 17. 9. R.T. Palgrave, Essays on Art (London: Macmillan and Co., 1866), pp. 157– 8. 10. Athenaeum, 25 June 1864, p. 875. The vow is described in Numbers 6:1– 21, and includes the growing of long hair, then cutting it off as an offering to God. 11. Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates (London: Cornelius Buck, 1864), vol. 175, pp. 425, 428. 12. J.R. Herbert to First Commissioner, 19 Oct 1864, National Archives, Kew, Surrey, Correspondence Relating to Frescos in the Peers’ Robing Room by J.R. Herbert, R.A 1863–1894 (hereafter NA JRH), 438/64. 13. R.H. Charles (ed.), Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), p. 638. 14. New York Times, 12 April 1880. 15. Translated by Dr Jonathan Kirkpatrick (via e-mail 17 March 2009). 16. Though the first Jewish member of the House of Commons took his seat in 1858, the first Jewish peer (who would have been able to read Hebrew) did not enter the House of Lords until 1885. 17. Though Herbert was working in a period of intense anti-Catholic sentiment, this does not seem to have affected his career, and I can find no trace of his Catholicism hindering ability to receive commissions. This may be due to his well-connected friends, or his personal eccentricity. Critics occasionally complain of Catholic sentiment in his work, but overall his critical reception was very positive in the prime of his career. (The notable exception is Ruskin, who only mentions Herbert twice in his entire oeuvre. Ruskin’s anti-Catholic sentiment is well known, and this may be the reason he ignores Herbert’s work.) His early pictures of the history of Christianity, however, can be interpreted as reminders of England’s Catholic heritage and therefore the legitimacy of Catholicism in England (St Gregory Teaching his Chant of 1845 or First Introduction of Christianity into Britain of 1842.) However, he stops painting these types of pictures by the early 1850s, and never returns to political subjects again.



18. Pall Mall Gazette, August 1886, p. 1. 19. S.J. Mullan (ed.), The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1914), pp. 35– 6. In 1847, Wiseman wrote an introduction to a new edition of the Exercises. 20. New York Times, 12 April 1880. 21. The Academy, 15 December 1873, p. 467. 22. An illuminating discussion of incarnational theological ideas can be found in Michael A. Chaplain Hays and Liam Gearon, Contemporary Catholic Theology: A Reader (Leominster: Gracewing, 1998), p. 212. Victorian ideas of incarnation in material life and culture are also discussed in Charles Gore (ed.), Lux Mundi. A Series of Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation (London: John Murray, 1889). 23. R. Hill, God’s Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain (London: Penguin, 2008), p. 120. 24. Dublin Review, June 1847, p. 492. 25. Dublin Review, July 1836, p. 455. 26. Dublin Review, June 1847, p. 492. 27. The heavy use of emotion to embody the sacred elements of art was a contrast to the previous generation of Catholic artists. The Nazarenes made only hesitant attempts to appeal to the emotions in order to communicate with the soul of the viewer. Cordula Grewe argues that this reluctance to engage fully the emotions of the viewer reveals the Nazarene’s ‘Protestant roots’ (C. Grewe, Painting the Sacred in the Age of Romanticism (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), p. 30). 28. A. Fortescue, ‘Veneration of Images’, Catholic Encyclopaedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910), at 07664a.htm (accessed 14 May 2011). 29. J.R. Herbert to W.E. Gladstone, 12 October 1874. British Library, 44444 fol. 303. 30. Wiseman writing in the Dublin Review, July 1836, p. 455. 31. J.R. Herbert to John Bright, 22 October 1864, British Library, 43388 fol. 212. This indicates that Herbert saw the Old Testament law from a very Christian perspective, requiring the New Testament to mediate the interpretation. This was not the vision or the intention of the commissioners however, and perhaps became another reason the government declined to allow Herbert to finish the room.


‘A Crowd Flowed over London Bridge’: Visualising London through Dante Alison Milbank

In Michelino’s celebrated painting of Dante and his poem (Plate 7.1), the Divine Comedy, the poet stands, his poem open in his hand, with Florence in all her fourteenth-century magnificence on his left. To his right lies the Gate of Hell, with a procession of those too lukewarm to choose either the good or bad, now denied even access to Hell, and mindlessly following a blank banner like Oxford Street shoppers after a sale sign. We know Dante as the poetic visionary who was taken on a journey through the depths of Hell to save his soul and see the damned, guided by the Roman civic poet Virgil, emerging to climb the mountain of Purgatory, meet his lost Beatrice and sail through the heavenly spheres to have a vision of the Divine Trinity. But Michelino reminds us that he was also the poet of an earthly city, Florence: indeed, it is mostly Florentines he encounters in his salvific pilgrimage. He stands, indeed, between the two cities of Hell and Florence, as if they were equivalents. They both have large gates facing each other, with similar arches and decoration. And yet there is another city in the picture; behind and just above Dante’s hand is another gate, equally modelled on that of Florence: the gate of Purgatory. The redeemed confess and enter to undergo purification through penance, liturgy and reconnection with their fellow citizens until they are ready to enter the Earthly Paradise at the top, and be



launched to the Empyrean, to share the life of God himself in that Garden City of Revelation’s vision, envisaged by Dante as a creamy, scented rose. For Dante mystical union with God is inherently social and civic: even St Peter himself turns red with anger when he thinks of the civic and ecclesial corruption on earth. This chapter has three aims: first, to demonstrate how from the nineteenth century onwards, Dante’s poem furnished a theological and social lens by which to understand the modern city, and especially London; second, to look at art today working with his critique; and, third, to argue that Dante offers theological resources for understanding how we may make the city a sacred place again, in the era beyond postmodernity. VICTORIAN LONDON AS INFERNO It was in the Victorian period, following the translation of Dante’s poem into the Miltonic style and metre of Paradise Lost by Henry Cary in 1805 that Dante became something of an honorary Englishman, the ‘Central man of all the world’ to John Ruskin, and the hero of the Pre-Raphaelites.1 Quite quickly his vision of the afterlife became a way of describing temporal and material realities and especially the city. This was the period of enormously rapid growth of London and the northern industrial conurbations, and of new forms of urban life, and the rate of change left people lacking an understanding of the whole process. Georgian London might be squalid and full of tricksters, but Hogarth made it quite comprehensible by means of biblical allegory in his engravings. In 1751, for example, Hogarth published a pair of contrasting visions of the city: Gin Lane and Beer Street. The latter portrayed traditional, healthy and industrious Londoners, taking their ease after work in an ideal city; the former was an infernal anti-city of crime, self-destruction and infanticide, as a result of the gin trade. By 1830 William Cobbett would call London a ‘Great Wen’ or sebaceous cyst, a ‘monster’ in its swelling and unnatural life.2 Its growth and complexity rendered it a labyrinth – literally so. Policemen described how slum-dwellers in Covent Garden might throw up barriers and redraw the road layout to evade pursuit. Dante and Virgil similarly have to navigate the ruined labyrinth of the eighth circle of Fraud, the evil pockets or Malebolge, and pantomimic devils misdirect them into dead ends.



The paradox of Dante’s Hell is that it is disordered, a representation of the perversion of human potential, yet despite itself it forms a fearful art of God’s justice. Since for Dante, like Augustine in his City of God, the true city is the heavenly Jerusalem, all cities are sacred in so far as they participate in its ordered harmony. Even Babylon, the idolatrous ‘earthly city’ parodies and subsumes this divine ordering to itself. To this eye even the most wretched shanty city exists because of human trust and some basic exchanges. Hence there is a wit about the way the damned become images of their own sin, which Dante learns to read and so detect what good is lost through its perversion. So the unnatural nature of civil war is indicated by Bertran de Born, who incited war by his poetry, holding his separated head aloft like a lamp in Inferno 28. The horror of bodily dismemberment indicates the deviation from truth, beauty and goodness. In a similar way Victorian social reformers and political theorists, such as Marx, Engels and William Booth, reach for Dante to perform this double seeing – to express horror at injustice and the destruction of God’s image, combined with clarity of vision which is itself already ‘the way out’ to quote Booth’s radical social manifesto, In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890). Booth’s intertexts are Stanley’s expose´ of African slavery and colonial oppression combined with Dante. In London, he sees Dante’s ‘dark wood’ in ‘the luxuriant, parasitical growth of the [urban slum] forest’ and the ‘intermediate purgatory before the grave’ of the Workhouse.3 He declaims: Talk about Dante’s Hell, and all the horrors and cruelties of the torturechambers of the lost! The man who walks with open eyes and bleeding heart through the shambles of our civilization needs no such fantastic images of the poet to teach him horror.4

Like Dante in Michelino’s painting, Booth holds London and Inferno together, and uses Dante to judge the social exploitation of his own day, gaining, moreover, a kind of Divine authority from referring to a poem that is fictional but so potent that readers have always behaved as if Dante actually went to Hell and truly saw what he describes. There also developed a visual language that was Dantesque in character in the same period. Among the many who illustrated Dante’s poem, Gustave Dore´ was the most influential, producing wood engravings to accompany Cary’s translation in 1866.5 His work is very modern in making the figures of Dante and Virgil much



smaller in proportion to the topography, like the modern citizen in the monstrous conurbation. His Inferno illustrations are the most successful in their materiality and sublimity; his Paradiso is vague and unconvincing, and he does not even attempt to convey Dante’s Trinitarian vision. One of the most striking of the Infernal series is Dore´’s representation of Dante and Virgil waiting to descend into the ninth and final circle (Plate 7.2). Their way is blocked by the gigantic forms of the Titans, most of whom are dumb or babble nonsense, who represent the inert negativity of the city where no true exchange is possible, ‘where the instrument of the mind is added to an evil will and great power’ (Inferno 31: 55 – 6).6 Dante and Virgil actually mistake the giants for city walls and they are indeed the anti-city, built by blood, in which fallen humanity is imprisoned. A closer look, however, reveals that the giants themselves are shackled, and one is presented in the exact pose of Michelangelo’s dying slave, with his arm raised to cradle his head. To see like this is to find order and meaning even in the City of Dis, since the seemingly terrifying powerful figure is himself imprisoned and thus reveals the non-creative, passive yet monstrous negativity of evil as understood in the Augustinian tradition. Moreover, the crosshatching on the engraving is so emphasised as to assert the fictive, made quality of the artwork, and thus suggest the fictive nature of the Titans’ threat. Hence, Hell itself, to the eyes of truth and justice, can be a sacred sign, and point to the greater reality of God and the Good. In 1872, Dore´ illustrated another book, Blanchard Jerrold’s London, and, interestingly, he used the same techniques as his Commedia illustrations, as was appropriate for a narrative of a journey, sub-titled ‘a pilgrimage’. In London as in the Commedia the ‘infernal’ scenes of low-life are full of sublime materiality, while the nobility playing croquet or at a ball are insubstantial like the earlier Paradise. In his illustration of London Zoo, Dore´ assumes the perspective of the monkeys in the cage, who look through the bars at the gentry as if they were the voyeurs and the humans the exhibit. One of his most celebrated images in the volume is the scene of the exercise yard in Newgate Prison (Plate 7.3).7 It is based very closely on Dante’s description of the hypocrites in Inferno 23:59 –60, who move round in a circle ‘with very slow steps, weeping and in their looks tired and overcome’. Among Dante’s hypocrites are the highly



respectable ‘jovial friars’ who actually defrauded the charities they ran, and similarly, here at Newgate, the convicts depicted are middleclass fraudsters. Hence, Dore´’s Dantesque presentation of their punishment serves as a mode of interpretation and judgement. If one compares Dore´’s Inferno scene with the Newgate image, however, one can discern a difference. A supernatural illumination reveals the hypocrisy of Caiaphas, here getting the punishment he meted out, but there is no ray from above in the finality of Hell. In Newgate a natural light just penetrates the crepuscular gloom. It too is an agent of justice, since it reveals the features of the tall former colonel in the British Army amid the once-respectable fraudsters, and thus defines similarly Dantesque hypocrites; but it is also a light of hope.8 Jerrold’s text describes the possibilities for rehabilitation in the modern prison system, opening the scene to the possibility of purgatorial reconnection. For on Dante’s mountain the souls also circle round, working out their salvation, so that an infernal analogy opens to the redemptive. RESTORING MEANING TO URBAN LIFE THROUGH THE PURGATORIAL AND PARADISAL It was a typical move among the Christian socialists of the Victorian period, such as F.D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley, to elide Dante’s Hell and Purgatory in a similar way.9 Eternal damnation was beginning to be seen as inconsistent with a loving God and with the poor educational and religious chances of the abject, like Charles Dickens’s Jo the crossing-sweeper in Bleak House, who hears the ‘Our Father’ for the first time only on his death-bed.10 Dante’s active purgatorial activity was a way of reconciling Divine justice and mercy and his poem’s way of opening out on to this earthly life allowed the possibility of viewing London as the site of a truly sacred drama. So when T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in 1922, he relied upon an earlier tradition of writing and visualising London in Dantesque terms. His famous lines ‘A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many / I had not thought death had undone so many’ quote from Inferno 3: 55 – 7, at the gate of Hell.11 Eliot adds something new, however, that will be important for more recent Dantesque art, for those death has undone are not the damned as such. Rather they are those shown in the Michelino painting behind the banner: those



who chose neither the good nor the bad: the cowardly undecided. For Eliot, as for Baudelaire before him, whose poetic sequence, Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil) was originally entitled, ‘Limbos’, the curse of modern life was its lack of moral significance.12 They anticipated the deadness of our own secularising and relativising age, in which nothing matters very much, and that was the horror Dante identified. So from the Victorian age we have a strong tradition of visualising London with a Dantesque lens, as infernal and or purgatorial, and from the modernist era, an emphasis on the nullity of the limbo city. What of the paradisal? One has to go back to the visionary William Blake for that. In Jerusalem he writes: The fields from Islington to Marybone, To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood, Were builded over with pillars of gold; And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood. Her Little Ones ran on the fields, The Lamb of God among them seen, And fair Jerusalem, His Bride, Among the little meadows green. Pancras and Kentish Town repose Among her golden pillars high, Among her golden arches which Shine upon the starry sky.13

Blake viewed London apocalyptically as both Babylon and Jerusalem and was always seeking in his art a way to find a mediation between the two. At the end of his life, despite earlier criticisms of Dante’s otherworldliness, Blake began a huge uncompleted project of Dante illustration, of which a number from the Earthly and even the heavenly Paradise survive.14 MODERN VISUALISATIONS: INTUITING PARADISE Today, when artists seek to delineate London, Dante’s way of seeing is still a potent presence. Plate 7.4, for example, is a highly paradisiacal vision of London by Brian Whelan. The red buses form an ecstatic dance like that of the wise theologians who gyrate in Paradiso 12. They hold the city together and mediate between the different buildings and modes of life.



Buses are a constant feature in Whelan’s London paintings (perhaps because his father worked for London Transport) and often have the suitably Chestertonian feature of beer brands written on their side: London Pride, Guinness etc. Whelan’s art also brings the skyscrapers down to size so that they no longer tower over the spires or minarets of the city. Here transport is an image of the common good, of the just exchanges of the sacred city, where different sorts of people travel together. There is even something of Dante’s heavenly rose about this image, in which the planes are like bee angels to the saints in the heavenly city in Paradiso 31:4 –7. The angels descend to feed off the nectar of the rose only to rise again with wings of gold to bask in the divine presence. Whelan is a visionary artist, whose work is highly affirmative of the reality and solidity of the supernatural, and thus is highly Blakean. Another London artist with this visionary perspective is Donald Pass who saw a golden face at his Chelsea studio window which led him to devote his work hitherto to depicting a paradisal London. His work shows angels circling like the Dantesque wheeling ecstasy of Paradiso 29 in which the various orders of seraphim and cherubim gyrate around a single point. MODERN VISUALISATIONS: INFERNO AS SOCIAL CRITIQUE More frequent, however, in contemporary art is the dark vision of Dante’s infernal lens, as in Peter Howson’s version of Dante’s Cerberus of the gluttons as Landlord’s Castle with rottweilers, ready to terrify those late with the rent.15 In the 2010 exhibition in the Waterloo tunnels, Hell’s Half Acre, curated by Steve Lastrides, a number of artists were invited to create an appropriately underground Inferno, although even here Tokujin Yoshioka made a beautiful crystal work, Stellar, to represent Paradise. The Dantesque lens allowed an artist like Antony Micallef to make a strong social critique much more plangent and sinister. His sequence of nickel-plated bronze statues, The Idol Kids of Today, had a strong meaning when these images were lined up at the entrance to the Royal Academy, where they represented the way the modern family idolises and indulges the child, with the silvery Game Boy sitting like a contemplative Buddha above his classical plinth. In the murky light of the Old Vic tunnels, however, these images became the punishments they truly are, with the game-playing child



locked, like Dante’s damned sinners, in an eternal present without hope of liberation. Furthermore, the meretricious nickel alluded in that context to the gold on the cloaks of Dante’s hypocrites in Inferno 23:64. In the Dantean context the boy ceased to be an idol and became a type, now readable to the sacred gaze, as one of the lost. In the same exhibition Mark Jenkins created shrouded figures which hung from the tunnel ceiling, wrapped in clingfilm, at once horrendously and silently enclosed but alluding to the possibility of the new life of the chrysalis. Even the Portuguese street artist Vhils, who chiselled and blasted out an image from a broken wall of Bernie Madoff (Plate 7.5), a conman financier, made something beautiful out of the destruction. Madoff is like Geryon, the monster who transports Dante and Virgil down from the violent to the fraudulent. Geryon’s face is that of a just and wise man, but he has a stinging tail of a serpent and Madoff’s face too had a serenity completely at odds with the violence needed to blast his image out of the wall. In all these cases, what Dante allowed these artists to do was use the aesthetic to import an ethical judgement, and open the personal statement to a potentially transcendent judgement. A similar ambiguity about the opening of the infernal was present in Doug Foster’s video installation (Plate 7.6), which in liquid and light opened a wonderful ectoplasmic ‘gate of the heretics’ from Inferno 10. The heretics live in fiery tombs just inside the gate of the City of Dis, out of which flames erupt from time to time. The irony of their fate is that they get the future in which they believed. As Epicureans they denied the afterlife, the tomb being the end, and this is now fully realised for them. The fiery metamorphoses of Foster’s installation are beautiful but they are doubled by the mirror below, just as the heretics are locked for eternity in their own limited world view.

MODERN VISUALISATIONS: PURGATORIAL POSSIBILITIES Later, however, Doug Foster’s installation was inserted into the nave of St Michael’s Church in Camden. Its pointed Gothic screen imitating the east end of the Gothic vaulting beyond, it became a more hopeful image, reminding the Dante reader of the need to pass through the purging – yet non-burning – fire on Mount Purgatory to refine lust. Dante’s purgatorial fire is a most important image for his



theology, and of distinct importance for the city. Where the flaˆneur of the modern city, the male wanderer, viewing his elegant appearance in the plate-glass of the shop windows, turns the city into a giant looking-glass to his own vanity, the lustful of Dante’s purgatorial city are learning to order their desires away from self towards charity, selfgiving and recognition of the other. In Purgatorio 25 heterosexual and homosexual sinners move in opposite circles to give the kiss of peace to each other in an endless liturgy until they feel themselves pure and emerge into the freedom of the Earthly Paradise. For Dante, the purgatorial city is the site of Christian nurture and reconciliation, where we learn the habits of virtue, and to direct our desires. The purgatorial is also present in the artworks created by Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones for an exhibition at the Museum of London.16 London is shown as if an environmental disaster had occurred, turning the Mall into a desert and the Gherkin to a shanty town. But in flooded Piccadilly Circus water lilies bloom among the wind turbines, and in front of the Houses of Parliament, people gather rice in the paddy-fields. Hope and apocalypticism unite for a Dantesque vision of a new garden city. DANTE AND THE SACRED CITY In these examples, I have argued that the infernal lens of aesthetic judgement is alive and well in art about London, as well as the Paradisal city of ecstatic love and communion and the purgatory of reconciliation and solidarity. I have argued too that to look on London with the eyes of Dante is to see a sacred city. For what is it to call a city sacred? Sometimes it is to visit a centre of pilgrimage, like Benares or Canterbury, or Jerusalem, made holy in the past. But as the poet and Londoner John Donne wrote about a church: these walls are holy, because the saints of God meet here within these walls to glorify him. But yet these places are not only consecrated and sanctified by your coming; but to be sanctified also for your coming; that so, as the Congregation sanctifies the place, the place may sanctify the congregation too. They must accompany one another; holy persons and holy places.17

To make a city sacred is to create a communal artwork, a unified imagined community, to accord to our daily exchanges a meaning that is beyond the utilitarian. The word sacred is ultimately derived



from the word for a circle: an enclosure, and thus is closely linked to place. There is, moreover, something sacred about the interactions that make a city: it is an act of religious faith to trust the driver of the red bus or the tube train to take us home; to trust the public lavatory cleaner not to poison us, or the shop-keeper not to defraud us. Hence it is we who make a city by our creative construction. Scholars of the city, such as, in London Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair, and the psychogeographers are our religious here, friars who take walks through the dark alleys and windy underpasses seeking the hidden signs of deranged graffiti taggers, or the mark of earlier inhabitants, making the streets holy by their acts of attention, just as Dante found meaning even in the cacophony of Inferno.18 It is the eye of faith that makes a city sacred, and London is made holy by the Huguenot weavers, the West Indians, the Kenyan Asians, the Hare Krishna chanters, all who walk the streets with faith. But to accord sacrality to a place is also to allow it to stand over against ourselves: to allow its otherness full presence. As Donne puts it, ‘the place may sanctify the congregation’. That is why Christians, Jews, Hindus and those of other faiths have their holy buildings, to prevent ownership of the universe. To build a temple to the divine is to acknowledge that God is the true source of authority and ownership. In Christian understanding, the church does not just mark off a sacred precinct from the secular around it but it acts as a sign of the Incarnation, through which all places are holy, and belong primarily to their Creator. Human beings are but custodians of the earth. The holy is thus beyond us and it saves us by its gratuitous giftedness. This is well demonstrated in The Harrowing of Hell by Peter Howson, part of his Dante sequence, in which Christ crucified dips right down to the underworld city, where Longinus pierces his side with the lance, almost as an avatar for the artist himself. Howson uses painting as a salvific activity: to enact the faith that saves him. Here the painter is perhaps also represented as the down-and-out man lying down. This would give him the role of Adam looking up with Eve and awaiting the moment when the blood and water will flow from Christ’s side, which will save humanity from death. This is really Hell in that every element in the painting seems in opposition to the vulnerable figure of the crucified Jesus, tiny amid the giant, Michelangelesque bodies. Nothing is sacred beyond the



descending God-Man. And yet, this is the moment described in Dante’s Inferno 12:40 –1 when Hell begins to crumble as if an earthquake shook it and the just dead are liberated. It is the sacred act that undergirds every city. For as the poet W.H. Auden wrote, ‘without a cement of blood (it must be human, it must be innocent) no secular wall will safely stand’.19 So to recognise the city as sacred is to be aware that our community depends on sacrifice. The city is both the site of human exploitation and sacrificial substitution, and thus infernal, or sustained by the blood of the martyrs, witnessing to and participating in the harrowing of Hell by Christ. Hence the unreality of Bill Viola’s charming martyrs in his video installation with Kira Perov in St Paul’s Cathedral. The martyrs are physically perfect and serene amid their flames and water: there is no blood; the electric chair does not frizzle. They become rather truly contemporary individuals who transcend the material world in quasi-gnostic fashion to achieve liberation. They do not touch the heart of the city, or its blood-letting. If we are to have an idea of the sacred city today, our model, I believe, should be Dantesque, by which I mean we should be able to see it – with the eyes of judgement, mediation and vision – as simultaneously heaven, hell and purgatory. To see with the eyes of justice is to view as demonic the exploitation of the poor, the misdirections and privatising of space by modern fraudster developers; to see with paradisal eyes is to register and celebrate the charity, generosity and joy of London life. Most of all I believe we should engage the city as the site of mediation and transformation – purgatorial – the place where we laboriously transform our structures and relationships one with another towards greater reconciliation, understanding and reconnection. Artists like those whose works were shown on the London underground in Lent of 2014 can help us, for art is a religious act, by which a person trusts to the beauty, truth and reality of the material stuff of our world to make meaning, just as Dante believed that his poem about the city of Florence could show us the whole universe. For the artist to invoke the Dantesque is to be rescued from the limbo of relativism and perspectivism of postmodernity, in which nothing can claim universal authority. It is to commit to the fictive in the sense that I am suggesting that the sacred is partly an act of imagination To employ the term ‘fictive’ does not mean that this construction of the sacred is not true but it is to claim



that art and creative work are truth-telling mediums. And for us who inhabit or visit the city, it is our Dantesque eyes which can discern the sacred, both in the works of art in churches and museums and also in the people of the city themselves, so that, like the poet Francis Thompson who lived on London’s streets as a vagrant, on us too May shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross.20

NOTES 1. Ruskin made this claim in his Stones of Venice; see E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn (eds), The Complete Works of John Ruskin, Library Edition, 39 vols (London: George Allen, 1903–12), vol. 11, p. 187. The PreRaphaelites made many drawings and paintings of Dante and included him in their official list of ‘Immortals’. See W. Holman Hunt, PreRaphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2 vols (London: Macmillan, 1905), vol. 1, p. 159. 2. W. Cobbett, Rural Rides, ed. Ian Dyck (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001), p. 75. 3. W. Booth, In Darkest England and the Way Out (London: Charles Knight, 1970) [1890], p. 13. 4. Booth, In Darkest England, p. 13. 5. D. Alighieri, The Vision of Hell, Translated by the Revd Francis Henry Cary, and Illustrated with the Designs of M. Gustave Dore´, With Critical and Explanatory Notes, Life of Dante, and Chronology (London: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 1866). 6. D. Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, trans. Charles S. Singleton, 6 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), p. 331. All other references are to this edition and are given in the text. 7. B. Jerrold and G. Dore´, London: A Pilgrimage (London: Grant and Co., 1872), p. 137. 8. Jerrold and Dore´, London, p. 136. 9. See the discussion in A. Milbank, Dante and the Victorians (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), pp. 172–82 and M. Wheeler, Death and the Future Life in Victorian Literature and Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 40 –7. 10. C. Dickens, Bleak House, ed. S. Gill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 677. 11. T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land in Collected Poems 1909 –1962 (London: Faber, 1974), p. 65. 12. See Eliot’s discussion of Baudelaire in his Selected Prose, ed. J. Hayward (Harmondsworth: Penguin with Faber and Faber, 1958), pp. 185–95.



13. W. Blake, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion in Blake: The Complete Poems, ed. W.H. Stevenson, 3rd edition (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2007), p. 713. 14. See William Blake’s Divine Comedy Illustrations (New York: Dover, 2008) and the full range of material at the Blake Archive, 15. Robert Heller, Peter Howson, The Harrowing of Hell (London: Flowers, 2008), p. 32. 16. R. Graves and D. Madoc-Jones, Wish You Were Here? Postcards from the Future (London: G.M.J. Ltd, 2010). 17. Quoted in J. Moses (ed.), One Equal Light: An Anthology of the Writings of John Donne (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003), p. 225. 18. See I. Sinclair, Lights Out for the Territory (London: Granta, 1997) on tagging, and M. Coverley, Psychogeography (London: Pocket Essentials, 2010) and for P. Ackroyd, London: The Biography (London: Vintage, 2001) and London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets (London: Vintage, 2012). 19. W.H. Auden, ‘Vespers’, Horae Canonicae in Collected Poems, ed. E. Mendelson (New York: Vintage, 1991), p. 639. 20. F. Thompson, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’, Poems (London: Burns and Oates, 1908), p. 132.


‘This Melancholy London’: Redemptive Possibilities in Some Recent Documentary Films Christopher Hamilton

Film is a secular form of art, the only such form that did not arise from religion. It arose, rather, from magic, from the magic lantern.1 But it does not follow from this that film does not or cannot deal in religious ideas and motifs. Evidently it sometimes does. The work of Ingmar Bergman is a clear example. However, films can be inflected by religious concepts even when these are not directly expressed and when religion is not in any direct sense the subject of a film. I wish to do something to justify and illustrate that claim by looking here at some recent documentary films of London and seeking to show that they are, in various ways, implicated in, and draw upon, religious concepts even as they seem, at first sight, to be purely secular undertakings. These films, I suggest, all invest London with such concepts, inviting us to see it in such terms. Redemption, paradise, hell, purgatory, sacrality and love are amongst the religious concepts I have in mind here. The sense of redemption is, for example, obliquely referenced in the title of Paul Kelly’s Finisterre (2003).2 ‘Finisterre’, one notes, is derived from the Latin finis terrae and means ‘end of the earth’. It was, until 2002, the name of one of the regions of the shipping forecast for the seas around the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the reference is explicit in this film since names of other such regions are also heard, enunciated by the voice of the film. London is, in this



film, the end of the earth, which makes it both the starting point and the goal of any journey, in this sense seeking and offering redemption. Hence dreams are so important to this film, for a dream – unlike a nightmare – always offers redemption: London is, the voice tells us, ‘[t]he eternal magnet attracting our dreams’. The dream you set out with is not always the dream you end up with because you probably become more realistic as you get older, we are told. It can be sad to persevere in a dream when it is not going to be realised, says someone – the voices in this film are never directly identified; we are left guessing. Then off to Wembley Stadium, which houses ‘the ghosts of so many young men, a generation’s dreams and schemes demolished whilst the foundations for another are argued over’. Shortly after the film was made, Wembley Stadium was demolished. A new one is now in its place, the ghosts left to haunt a building they did not see when they were incarnate. Later we are in ‘Primrose Hill to watch the sun go down, dreaming’. And: ‘Dreams never end.’ This film says that London offers redemption because it is a place of dreams. Yet what is so striking about this film as well as Kelly’s later What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (2005) is how insistently they resist any vision, that is, any filmic image, of London as a place of elegance or beauty – of the stuff of dreams. For, whilst London is not an elegant or beautiful city, there is no doubt that there are parts of the city that are both. Or, rather, the striking thing is not that resistance. It is that it is combined with a vision of London that wants to see it as in some ways paradisiacal. The films do this in different ways. In Finisterre, the burden of the task of providing a redemptive view of London, that is, a vision of London that redeems its ugliness and presents it as a place of longing, of fulfilled possibilities and human completion, is carried by the voices of those who speak about London and not by the images. These images are often of decay and dilapidation, of graffiti and rubbish, or of urban landscapes that show us chimneys, smoke stacks, gas towers and charmless office blocks. One of the voices, for example, early in the film, against such images and that of a dirty ventilator fan, asserts that London is ‘probably the best city in the world’. In the case of What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day?, the images themselves provide the vision of paradise, whereas the voices are



much more sceptical. This is not because what the images show us is in itself pleasing to look at, as I have already intimated. As in the earlier film, these are images of decay and desolation. But this film, which follows the journey by bicycle of a newspaper boy around the Lower Lea Valley, is able to offer something that the earlier film does not, namely a sense, through the images of Mervyn in this place, that he belongs here. This is not the impression we have of those in London shown in Finisterre, who seem, rather, to be passing through. That lends to the former film a strange tranquility absent in Finisterre. London is in both of these films an object of redemptive longing, but one of them says this; the other shows it. Finisterre conveys in this context a profound contrast between the country and the urban. This is signalled right at the start of the film, which opens with images of parkland and birdsong at dawn. The narrator’s voice intones: ‘Back. Further back.’ Then the birdsong remains as the image converts to that of train tracks, signal gantries and a platform, all still at dawn. Then, over images of the city, tower blocks, church spires and the like: ‘The city is there for the taking. There’s no looking back.’ We sense that the parkland has been banished. We are invited, at first, back, back, it seems, to something like an edenic garden, which is furthest back, but this invitation is resisted. Paradise is in the city. The countryside makes a bid at coming back later, but it fails. It fails because, when the film goes to Primrose Hill, a female voice tells us that, in the end, she prefers the city to the country. The city is definitively established as home. The film talks of ghosts, but is haunted itself. The spirit of Geoffrey Fletcher’s book The London Nobody Knows, which formed the basis for Norman Cohen’s 1967 film of the same name, is ever present. Early on, there is a quotation from Fletcher’s book: ‘My object is to encourage an appreciation of the unlooked-for pleasures . . . to create an enthusiasm for the neglected or undervalued, the freakish, even.’3 There is no doubt that the film is faithful to that desire. It is, at least in part, in the enjoyment of those pleasures that London can be home. Among those pleasures, though it is an equivocal one, are faces: in one passage, the camera lingers on a series of young faces, asking us to be attentive where we might not otherwise be, or might even be repelled by sly and menacing looks or ugly skin. The pleasure is equivocal because these faces are defiant and opaque, partly hostile. But they refer us back to the faces of Lindsay Anderson’s 1957 film



Every Day Except Christmas, faces in Covent Garden Market. Anderson’s look is, I think, more successful. The reason for this is that Anderson’s camera loves the faces it shows in a way that Kelly’s does not: the latter’s is a camera laden with curiosity, but with little tenderness. Anderson’s camera is the eye of God: it loves what it sees because what it sees exists, not because it has earned the right to be loved or because of its achievements or merits. It is at once distant and infinitely close, seeing each thing as precious but as of no greater importance than anything else. There is here a perfect equality, yet at a level of infinite worth. Hence the film conveys a sense of the dignity, even the sacrality of work, of the immense importance of the job, however humble, being done with integrity. These tough men of the market, clearly hardened to a difficult and demanding way of life, handle the fruit, vegetables and flowers with a care and attentiveness, in a spirit, that would not go amiss, we sense, in a surgeon’s attentive regard for the injured body or in the mother’s care for her infant.4 Anderson’s camera loves not just the faces it shows us. It loves London too. In a wholly understated way, London and, in particular, Covent Garden, are represented, not simply as the place to which all roads lead for those who transport goods to market, but also as a kind of mythical or ethical centre of the world. The concrete roads become imbued with a significance as leading to a place that shows the true value of human beings. This is their true value in and of themselves and also in relation to a place which makes them as much as they make it. These workers are shown as being at home in the market, London as a place where one can be at home: it is no place of exile or banishment, no purgatory. Yet this, precisely, is the sense of London conveyed by Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital (2002), which traces a journey around London’s orbital motorway, the M25. Sinclair speaks about ‘the theology’ of the M25 – ‘road as nightmare, road as purgatory, road as hell’. The vision here is indeed that of exile and despair, of human foolishness and failure, of the way in which we create pain for ourselves in our attempts to provide remedies for our problems. Here the problem is traffic congestion – congestion, incidentally, which was central in the decision to move the market from Covent Garden in 1974, the area now being turned over to the soulless gods of modern tourist-orientated consumerism – and the proposed solution was the motorway. Anyone with much sense of human folly, of the



way in which human beings go on pushing ideas despite their obvious failure, might have foreseen that the motorway would create more problems than it solved since it can do nothing but encourage yet more traffic. Still, there it is, and Petit and Sinclair pay homage to it as the monstrous failure it is. Tangentially related to Sinclair’s 2004 book of the same name, London Orbital is painful viewing, and presumably deliberately so. This is so not simply in that its vision of London is of a place at the centre of a circle of hell, but also because the style of the film – split screen, miniature postbox images, blurred focus, a stream of often incomprehensible sound, music that grates on the ear, and the like – makes concentrating on it difficult or, at any rate, resists the spectator’s desire to find pleasure in the viewing. London Orbital has an acute sense of man’s misery in hell: this journey along the M25 is a journey to nowhere, for the road simply goes on circling infinitely and it intimates a destruction of identity and memory, as if the motorway’s aim were to punish the traveller. As Petit puts it, the risk in driving round the M25 is that one will become one of the undead. Rowan Williams has remarked that ‘real hell is never to be able to rest from the labours of self-defence’,5 but, in a sense, that self-defence is just what the motorway forces upon one: the endless asphalt, the brutal hardness of what one sees from the car window, the noise, the suffocating presence of others behind one’s bumper, in front of one, peering at one as they go past in juggernauts, the pollution of various kinds, all made even clearer by the unrelieved pessimism of the narration concerning virtually everything in modern life – all that demands of one an attentiveness to self-preservation, a reflex of self-defence, even as one’s senses are starved of all that might nourish them. The road seeks to destroy what one is and demands of one that one resist. In this sense, it is hell. We see all this in the images of the film, which present us with an unrelieved sense of assault and of driving as the modern equivalent of exile in the desert under the remorseless sun. But if the road is hell, then at its centre lies the devil. We are emphatically invited in this film to think of London in such terms: ‘My London had been trashed’, says Sinclair at the outset, and the only alternative, we are told, was the trip round the motorway. London is here what Conrad called ‘one of the dark places of the earth’6 – no doubt with superficial attractions, but the devil always



was in some glistening ways appealing. The choice is: London or the motorway around it. Devil or Hell. But London is, of course, in this film also an absent presence in so far as the M25 encircles it and never arrives there. But that, according to Patrick Keiller’s London (1994), is where the real identity of London is to be found: ‘The true identity of London is in its absence’, we hear at the end of the film. The film’s voice, a narrator we never see, tells of his arrival in London after a long absence and of his meeting up with an old friend and lover, Robinson, who takes the narrator on a tour of London. Robinson is investigating ‘the problem of London’. In a retrospective essay, Keiller says that ‘the problem of London seemed to be, in essence, that it wasn’t Paris’.7 One sees the point since, visiting places in London once frequented by notable French writers such as Verlaine, Apollinaire and Rimbaud, the film is haunted by the problems of London at the time: poor public services and transport, terrible food, its architectural and design failures and the like. ‘Sometimes I see the whole city as a monument to Rimbaud’, says Robinson, though the reference remains obscure: perhaps, again, London as a place of the season of hell? At any rate, Robinson wishes to imbue London with a new vision, as if, he says enigmatically, the nineteenth century had never happened – that, presumably, of London, not Paris. But, after all, the French connection8 is somewhat misleading. Robinson’s problem is deeper than that London is not Paris. He and the narrator visit Cannon Street and London Stone, the block of limestone that, so myth tells us, was part of an altar built by Brutus the Trojan, legendary founder of London. Robinson declares both Cannon Street and the number 15 bus route, which passes along it, to be sacred. Is this just whimsical? Perhaps, but the film is so selfaware that one is forced to conclude that Robinson wants us to take it seriously. The problem with London seems, after all, to be that it is disenchanted, and Robinson’s melancholy, which pervades the film, is both cause and effect of this. Iain Sinclair expressed this by noting that Robinson and his companion are ‘pilgrims’ moving ‘backwards and forwards across the sacred diagonals of . . . [the] city’9 – or, at any rate, in search of such diagonals. Seeking enchantment, or the sacred, they visit Brent Cross shopping centre, where, Robinson says, he feels at home, and in which he finds a man reading Walter Benjamin.



We are aware that Robinson is circling around Benjamin’s discussion of Baudelaire and the flaˆneur.10 The figure of the flaˆneur, overloaded by now with interpretative baggage, is, whatever else he is, a dreamer. Robinson, who is walking around the city, is clearly intended to be a flaˆneur in this sense and what he wishes to experience in his dreaming is the enchanted aura of London, which would be redemptive. This concept of the aura is, as is well known, of central importance to Benjamin. In a careful exploration of this notion, Miriam Bratu Hansen has shown that this concept refers to the medium in which something is observed, an in-between substance or agency – such as language, writing, thinking, memory – that mediates and constitutes meaning, [and that] . . . resonates . . . with esoteric and spiritualist connotations pivoting on an embodied medium’s capacity of communicating with the dead.11

Or, put more simply, the aura of an object is what is revealed about its meaning through apprehending it in a specific way: in writing, in memory images, in film. Such meaning is resonant with the object’s history, its having been significant for those who are now dead yet seem to hover about it. Aura and ghosts go hand in hand. Hansen goes on to point out that, for Benjamin, aura also invests the object with the capacity to look back. She quotes Benjamin: Experience of the aura . . . arises from the transposition of a response characteristic of human society to the relationship of the inanimate or nature with human beings. The person we look at, or who feels he is being looked at, looks at us in turn. To experience the aura of a phenomenon we look at means to invest it with the ability to look back at us.12

However, for Benjamin, modernity – ‘metropolitan modernity’, says Hansen – with its technological processes of reproduction13 changes the meaning of looking and shatters aura: that which is seen can no longer look back. It is clear, I think, that Robinson wants London to look back at him. Yet it will not. Or, rather, it looks back at him in London Stone because there his seeing is invested with, is receptive to, the ghosts that the Stone evokes, precisely because here Robinson’s dreaming meets an object adequate to it. Yet, in his dreaming, contradictions abound because many of its objects are not adequate to it. That he



can feel at home in Brent Cross shopping centre, for example, strains belief. Be that as it may, Robinson is clearly in search of ghosts and there is something apt in this in that cinema is an art that is adept at evoking ghosts. This is not because those who appear in films have, as it may be, died before we see them, and, in any case, not all films evoke ghosts, even when they are filled with the dead. It all depends on what the camera is showing us, and how it is used. Roland Barthes brings out well the sense at issue when he says that he was amazed by a photograph of Napoleon’s youngest brother, taken in 1852, because he realised that he was looking at the eyes, these very eyes, that had looked at Napoleon.14 A double death, one might say: Napoleon and his brother. Their ghosts are there in the photograph. But it is that particular photograph that evokes this sense, and a different photograph of the brother might not have the same effect. Benjamin may have thought that technological reproduction of the image destroys aura, but films can evoke it,15 and Keiller’s London seeks to do that: even if Robinson’s search for London’s ghosts is thwarted, the viewer of the film can certainly have the sense that London is looking back, filled with ghosts who see us. It is precisely the measured, random wandering through the city, steeped in the melancholy, that is central in giving the viewer this sense. However, London’s looking back is perhaps best seen in Julian Temple’s film London: The Modern Babylon (2012), which is an impressionistic history of the city in the twentieth century. This deeply affirmative film revels in London. Old authentic footage, bits of old feature film reels, interviews, jump cuts from old to new, a massive panel of television cameras showing all this at the same time, black and white, sepia, colour, traditional and modern rock music . . . this film has the lot. This interweaving gives an acute sense of the fact that those who live in London now are living among the ghosts and will become ghosts themselves. The film speaks of this directly: ‘This melancholy London. I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.’ London is here enchanted through the presence of the dead. And there are ghosts in the making in this film: we see the aftermath of the London bombings of 7 July 2005, the day after it was announced that London would host the 2012 Olympics.



In What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day?, Mervyn hears of the bombings on the radio, having, as we have seen, spent the morning cycling around the area that will be so transformed by them. Violence of various kinds, physical and otherwise, is very much present in the work of Temple and Kelly. On one occasion that violence is of the kind that draws on Christian sources. A voice in Finisterre longs for ‘the Jesus Christ of young kids’ to go to Camden and turn all the stalls over, saying, ‘no, this is not what we want, we don’t want tattoos, we don’t want cheap T-shirts, we demand more’. Those T-shirts replete with the Union Jack are made in China, the camera is careful to show us. It is all packaged, the voice tells us. Real emotion has been replaced by a ready-made simulacrum, we are invited to think: off-the-shelf sentimentality can be had by anyone and this, it is said, is what many think London is, confusing the fake with the real. If you really want to know what London is, the implication makes clear, then it takes harder work. The real nature of work, we have seen, is part of what fascinates Anderson in his film. But Kelly’s This is Tomorrow (2007), a film about the renovation and reopening of the Royal Festival Hall between 2005 and 2007, likewise investigates the meaning of work. Its suggestion is without doubt that work, an attention to detail and getting things right for their own sake, makes us what we are. This intensely visually pleasing film, concerned not simply with the various stages of renovation but also with the history of the Hall and its role in the Festival of Britain of 1951, asks us to invest imaginatively in the building. Towards the end of the film, a voice comments that it is a fantastic building, but only a building. The camera then cuts to Trevor Dannatt, one of the architects on the original project, who remarks: ‘Well, it’s only a building, yes, but then some buildings are more “only” than others. People are only carbon and whatever. Then you fall in love.’ The point is well taken. You can look at the Festival Hall as nothing but a building, but this misses the point, just as it misses the point to look at human beings in reductive terms. To my mind, this film is more successful than the others by Kelly discussed here because it abandons the curiosity, of which I spoke earlier, as its primary mode of approach and looks with something approaching love at its object, suggesting that the human mind might find a home in such places as the Festival Hall. This building in this film verges on being a kind of sacred temple.16



But for sheer madcap joy, little can beat Cohen’s The London Nobody Knows, presented by James Mason, and it will throw into relief the films I have already discussed if I close these reflections with some brief comments on it. The markets, the eel-eating, the goldfish in the cistern of the Holborn gents’ toilet – a toilet in which one finds the only true democracy since all men are equal in the eyes of a lavatory attendant, says Mason, with a sly wink and staged cough – the eggbreaking plant, the street entertainers and much else give a sense of immense energy, lightness and fun. There is also irony, as in the cut from people eating in a cafe´, stuffing food into their mouths, to the rubbish stuffed into the back of a refuse lorry being ground up, to the shop of the undertaker. ‘When the eating is over and done with, there is always the undertaker at your service’, quips Mason. ‘At least we have a dignified send-off. We get silk and satin, not the spoon and fork’, he continues, comparing our lot to that of the eels we have just seen the cafe´ customers eating, as we see an undertaker opening a coffin. The irony is that the very lightness of touch establishes a link between the animals we eat and us, reminding us in a wholly unanxious way that we suffer the same end as they do – death. ‘Ain’t It Grand To Be Bloomin’ Well Dead’ sings the voice, full of hilarity. For sure, the film is not free of images of human suffering – in the Salvation Army hostel, for example, or in the drunks on the street. But what is striking is that it resists any ready-made or easy answers. There is a directness about the faces we see here that is totally free both of Anderson’s loving regard and of the curiosity of Kelly’s camera. We see unadorned suffering, just registered as a fact about the human condition, with no questions asked or answers proffered. I am not saying that these are not painful images. Nor am I suggesting that we cannot ask questions about them. But there is a kind of neutrality in the way the camera shows us these things that is very unusual, not journalistic and not embellished, just, so to speak, transparent. The truth is, this is a secular film, for the spirit that pervades it is the wholly un-Christian sentiment expressed in Edgar’s comment in King Lear: ‘Men must endure / Their going hence, even as their coming hither. Ripeness is all’. There is no longing for redemption here. This film shows us how earnest the others that I have discussed are in, amongst other things, their appropriation of a vision inflected, despite themselves as it may be, with Christian sentiment.



There is about The London Nobody Knows an innocence17 that, once lost, can hardly be recovered. This innocence is largely foreign to the modern world, two of whose dominant features are a kind of moral earnestness together with a cynicism whose reverse side is sentimentality; sentimentality, as Oscar Wilde remarked, is the bank holiday of cynicism. Under such conditions, it is virtually impossible to produce anything that possesses the kind of innocence of Cohen’s film, for those conditions have, as one of their consequences, a terrible fear that one has been had, taken in, duped. The instinctive remedy is a kind of knowingness. That knowingness certainly need not be expressed through, or be inflected by, religious or Christian categories, but, aside from Cohen’s film, all those discussed, as I have sought to show, draw on that tradition. In particular, they draw on the concept of redemption, longing for it in their images of London as a place of dreams, as paradise, or refusing it, as in the case of London Orbital, in its sense of London as hellish. This is not surprising, since the longing for redemption is a desire for a kind of second innocence, and its refusal is a suspicion that it is just another con. Only The London Nobody Knows is wholly indifferent to it, and, in that sense, it is the only one of the films I have discussed that truly transcends Christian categories. NOTES 1. Cf. S. Cavell, The World Viewed (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1979), p. 39. 2. This is also the title of the album by the band Saint E´tienne who provide the music from that work for this film. They also supplied the music for the two other of Kelly’s films I discuss here. I do not explore this music in this chapter, although a full treatment would clearly need to. 3. G. Fletcher, The London Nobody Knows (Stroud: History Press, 2011), p. 11. 4. In I. Nairn, Nairn’s London (Harmondsworth, Penguin 2014 [1966]), to which explicit reference is made at the outset of Finisterre, Nairn writes of those who work in Covent Garden Market: ‘These are the hardest-headed most cantankerous cockneys in London, and they give no quarter’ (p. 86). That makes Anderson’s vision all the more impressive. 5. R. Williams, Silence and Honeycakes (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2003), p. 48. 6. J. Conrad, Heart Of Darkness (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007 [1899]), p. 5. 7. P. Keiller, ‘London in the Early 1990s’, in J. Kerr and A. Gibson (eds), London From Punk to Blair, 2nd rev. edition (London: Reaktion Books, 2003), pp. 311–20, on p. 312.



8. Or connections: Ce´line’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, with its Le´on Robinson, is another. The connection goes via Chris Petit’s novel Robinson (1993). 9. I. Sinclair, ‘London: Necropolis of Fretful Ghosts’, Sight and Sound, 4:6 (June 1994), pp. 12 –15, on p. 12. 10. See W. Benjamin, ‘On Some Motifs in Baudelaire’, in Illuminations, trans. H. Zohn (London: Pimlico, 1999), pp. 152–96. 11. M.B. Hansen, ‘Benjamin’s Aura’, Critical Enquiry, 34 (Winter 2008), pp. 336–75, on p. 342. 12. Ibid., p. 343. 13. W. Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Illuminations, pp. 217–52. 14. R. Barthes, La Chambre claire: note sur la photographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1980). 15. Cf. here Siegfried Kracauer’s comment: ‘In a photograph, a person’s history is buried as if under a layer of snow.’ S. Kracauer, The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, trans., ed., intro. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995 [1963]), p. 51. 16. Nairn disagrees. ‘The Festival Hall, inside, is acoustically perfect and musically dead, an epitome of all the occasions when a pattern of human behaviour has been given precedence over humanity itself . . . [It is] spiritually numb.’ Nairn, Nairn’s London, p. 117; p. 129. 17. One ought to compare this film with a series of documentaries about London made in the 1920s by Harry B. Parkinson and Frank Miller and released in 2013 by the BFI under the title Wonderful London. The innocence here is quite unlike that of The London Nobody Knows: it is more like that of a child than of an adult, for it does not know of human suffering. That is not a criticism.



‘There is No Wealth but Life’: London’s Gothic Revival and Urban Resurrection Ayla Lepine

‘THE RICH AND THE POOR HAVE MET’ In his third and most controversial essay for Cornhill Magazine in 1860, the prolific Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin wrote about the Bible, the wealthy and the impoverished. As an Evangelical Anglican with a vivid sense of the connection between materialism and morality, his social message was clear: without turning to biblical notions of love and justice and modelling our frantic urban lives on the costly and fulfilling demands of the Incarnation, we would be lost as a civilisation. Ruskin wrote: The two most remarkable passages in their deep general significance are the following: – ‘The rich and the poor have met. God is their maker.’ ‘The rich and the poor have met. God is their light.’ They ‘have met’: more literally, have stood in each other’s way (obviaverunt). That is to say, as long as the world lasts, the action and counteraction of wealth and poverty, the meeting, face to face, of rich and poor, is just as appointed and necessary a law of that world as the flow of stream to sea, or the interchange of power among the electric clouds: – ‘God is their maker.’1

In this passage, Ruskin insists that the rich and poor have met and that they cannot and should not be cut off from one another. They ‘have met’ precisely because of God’s creation of humanity on his



own unshakeable terms, and this was a deliberate challenge to Ruskin’s Victorian readers. His words were meant to criticise the lack of fairness and justice he saw around him, growing out of his increasing social commentary which would eventually result in his close ties to workers’ education and the foundation of the Guild of St George.2 Some thought he was an unrealistic idealist, however. An unsigned critique from the Saturday Review in 1860 declared furiously: The way in which he writes of the relations of the rich and poor is worse than ridiculous. It is positively wicked, for it can produce amongst the poor nothing else than bitter and causeless hatred, base ingratitude, and a vile, servile temper of mind, the contemplation of which can excite nothing but indignant disgust.3

Others thought he was a pragmatic visionary. Key nineteenthcentury cultural figures including Octavia Hill and the designer, writer and political activist William Morris revered Ruskin’s suggestive critique of the world he saw around them.4 For example, in 1892 Morris published a preface to his Kelmscott Press edition of John Ruskin’s essay ‘The Nature of Gothic’. His claims about Ruskin were anchored in Morris’ revolutionary vision of how life could be genuinely improved by art: . . . it is far more that John Ruskin the teacher of morals and politics . . . has done serious and solid work towards the new-birth of Society, without which genuine art, the expression of man’s pleasure in his handiwork, must inevitably cease altogether, and with it the hopes of the happiness of mankind.5

Morris’ core tenets of socialism and artistic freedom sprang from his reading of Ruskin across a long career, from the 1850s until Morris’ death in 1896.6 The three essays that Ruskin produced for the Cornhill Magazine were meant to be part of a larger series, but the publisher decided that he had stirred up enough controversy. Ruskin therefore decided to publish the writing together in a single volume titled Unto This Last in 1862. The title was biblical. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a costly and revealing interaction between a householder and a group of labourers invited to work in a vineyard over the course of a long, hot day. The parable elides social justice in



day-to-day life with the broader horizon of eschatology. Jesus tells his disciples that the householder offers the same wage to each: a penny. All agree on this set rate, yet when those who arrive to work at the eleventh hour are paid as much as those who arrived early in the morning, those whose work has spanned a longer period complain. ‘Friend, I do thee no wrong’, says the employer. ‘Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.’7 He who gives the wage sets the terms, and the same wage is available to all who agree to come and labour, regardless of when they arrive. The timing is irrelevant – the presence of the workers within the vineyard is what is rewarded. Voicing the householder in this parable, Jesus continues to tell the story, connecting it vividly to his own impending death and resurrection. ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few are chosen.’8 Building on his interaction with this parable, the crux of Ruskin’s essays in Unto This Last is uncompromising. He writes that ultimately: ‘THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE.’9 Ruskin’s concept of ‘life’ includes all aspects of ‘love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings’.10 Ruskin’s reading of these two different biblical texts creates productive friction, in which Ruskin is able to connect the kingdom of God and eschatology with a critique of the very nature of wealth and human equality. Ruskin probes God’s apparent definition of fairness, indicated in Jesus’ parable, in order to show just how gravely Ruskin’s own contemporaries seem to come up short. In this chapter, I seek to consider how this ‘wealth’ was expressed in architectural terms, exploring vitality and eschatology in London’s Anglican Victorian churches. Ruskin’s impact upon Victorian architecture is vast and well known, articulated by scholars including Eve Blau, Geoff Brandwood and Michael Hall.11 Rather than arguing for connections between Ruskin’s views on Gothic and the later Gothic Revival in Victorian London, this chapter homes in on a cluster of London Gothic Revival churches in order to place them in dialogue with Ruskin’s perspectives set out in Unto This Last. Written for a popular London Victorian magazine, Ruskin’s 1862 manifesto is arguably aimed at London in particular. The London buildings explored in this essay – St Michael’s, Camden Town; St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens; and St Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate – were all



designed by leading Gothic Revival architects in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and each building responded distinctively to the lessons of a previous generation’s medievalist vigour. Each was designed for High Anglican liturgy. Though a proponent of the Gothic Revival through his key early texts including The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and The Stones of Venice (1851 – 3), Ruskin’s own theological standpoint was largely opposed to many of the perspectives that took shape and flourished in the wake of the Oxford Movement.12 His writing on the potential of the Gothic style to build a new Britain, both socially and architecturally, inspired patrons and architects across a wide array of Anglican identities. By triangulating these churches in north, west and central London and concentrating on the final quarter of the Victorian period, new purchase can be gained upon how congregations, artists and architects were interacting with London’s unique metropolitan character in constructing spaces which could be ‘none other than the house of God’ and the ‘gate of heaven’.13 Scrutinising the rich artistic heritage of these three Victorian spaces in relation to urban change also aligns my viewpoint on Ruskin and the Gothic Revival with Sally Promey’s recent assertion that, Investigating religion by way of the senses and materiality offers a set of possibilities for re-examining relations among practices, habits, beliefs, volition, affect, sensations, and stuff. This is not to emphasise practice rather than belief, affect instead of volition, or body over brain but rather to underline the intimate, messy relations among them.14

Additionally, as the architectural historian Richard Kieckhefer observes, ‘When construction of the building is completed, construction of the church can begin.’15 These three London churches use architecture and liturgy to proclaim with Ruskin that ‘there is no wealth but life’. What architectural historians occasionally forget is that churches are shaped by their patrons, users and visitors. They are sites of experience and, as religious zones of contact between heaven and earth. For their congregations, they are sites of wonder, sacrament and transformation. Ruskin believed that cultural vitality would only be possible when strata of society could recognise that all humanity is equal before God. These churches used Gothic Revival architecture in different ways to express this challenging yet foundational concept. The alliance between Ruskin’s Unto This Last and three churches in



Camden, Earl’s Court and Baker Street produces a new array of interpretations. Moreover, it sets these places firmly within the complex Christian framework of what Nancy Rose Marshall describes as the ‘City of Gold and Mud’.16 ‘INCAPABLE OF FURTHER DECORATION’: ST CUTHBERT’S, PHILBEACH GARDENS St Cuthbert’s in Philbeach Gardens, a Victorian crescent in Earl’s Court, was designed by Hugh Roumieu Gough and opened in 1887, along with a parish hall and vicarage (Plate 9.1). Gough was a keen exponent of a Gothic Revival vision inspired by medieval Italy and France, and the building he created for this new Anglo-Catholic mission parish has a thirteenth-century style Gothic toughness and massing in its architectural character that is relatively typical of the so-called High Victorian style.17 St Cuthbert’s is especially important – and perhaps unique in London – for its guild system of handicraft. Local volunteers, primarily women, worked on stone and woodcarving, painting, and needlework. As the parish magazine reported in November 1893, ‘It may be well to announce that the classes for embroidery, wood carving, and stone decoration, are now about to commence – the charge for instruction in these different works is but small.’18 The interior walls, ‘a mixture of diaper of all patterns’, took the St Peter’s stone carving guild, headed by a Mrs Dalton, almost two decades to complete.19 The diaper work was modelled on cathedrals and abbeys in Britain as well as Ravenna, an ‘Old Jewish Synagogue’ and an illustrated manuscript (though it is unclear which one) in the British Museum. Taken together, the diaper patterns transform St Cuthbert’s into a proxy pilgrimage for these places, in which this late Victorian church is a cumulative expression of the histories of these holy sites. The St Peter’s guild were also responsible for the mosaics in the sanctuary, including Latin inscriptions that reference the True Presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist and the liturgy of Benediction; the sanctuary’s wall decoration includes paintings by the parish’s Guild of St Luke. The rood was designed by Gough, and both the pulpit and lectern were designed by the Arts and Crafts artarchitect Bainbridge Reynolds. Ernest Geldart designed the reredos and a series of highly detailed and jewel-encrusted textiles.



Geldart was an artist, architect, composer, writer and priest. He worked for the commercial ecclesiastical design firm of Cox and Sons, providing them with items for their popular catalogue.20 He designed churches and embellished his own at Little Braxted in Essex. He produced numerous works focused on design reform in churches from banners and vestments to wood carving and floral decoration. His most well-known publication, produced in 1899, is A Manual of Church Decoration and Symbolism.21 Geldart drew on Anna Jameson’s influential Sacred and Legendary Art, Twining’s Christian Symbolism, Palmer’s Early Christian Symbolism and, of course, The Ecclesiologist.22 In addition to its plain instruction and copious illustrations, the book is full of wry humour: Details of Gothic carving on pulpits and screens are deployed not only to illustrate the glory of the Middle Ages in Europe, but also to offer ‘EXAMPLES OF THINGS INCAPABLE OF FURTHER DECORATION’.23 Regarding proportion and colour, Geldart was in agreement with Ruskin’s views on architectural logic and beauty: One should not by discord or strong colouring throw another thing into the shade. There should be, in a word, unity of plan and harmony of detail. As Ruskin, in his Seven Lamps of Architecture, observes: ‘Our building, if it is well composed, is one thing, and is to be coloured as Nature would colour one thing – a shell, a flower, or an animal; not as she colours groups of things.’24

A church is a single organism, and a united body. Geldart’s design for the reredos at St Cuthbert’s, produced in the 1890s but not completed until 1914, takes up the theme of worshipping God with ‘incense and lights’ (Plate 9.2). As candles and thuribles were both hallmarks of Anglo-Catholicism which had been under suspicion since the 1850s and had been staunchly regulated through church political structures as well as governmental intervention with the 1874 Public Worship Regulation Act, the subject was deliberately controversial as much as it provided continuity with the parish practice of bringing material offerings to God. Geldart’s textile designs for the church are contemporary with his reredos plans and their symbolism is complementary (Plate 9.2). In 1896, the parish reported that, The embroidery guild of St Margaret of Scotland is just beginning a most exquisite and elaborate Altar Frontal for Great Festivals. The design is



the perfection of mysterious angelic beauty, quite a master-piece in colour and arrangement. So splendid a work ought to be jewelled – and who will contribute their costly precious stones?25

Progress was slow but steady. In July 1896, The workers in this department of embroidery – S. Margaret of Scotland Guild – are now quite a young army . . . Miss Harvey, the lady director, will be found ready to show the work and also most ready to receive any and all subscriptions . . .26

In 1898 the work continued: . . . the Monthly Paper is threatened with all kinds of pains and penalties if it does not invite even yet further gifts of jewels to make it truly ‘magnifical’: the angels’ sceptres want them – S Michael’s armour asks for them – crowns almost CRY for them.27

The frontal’s angels are identical to the angels along the bottom range of the reredos – stone and textile respond to one another in an interior architectural and liturgical continuity. The angels hold instruments, swords and thuribles. Two hold fragments of plainsong: ‘Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus’ and ‘Te decet hymnus’. At St Cuthbert’s, the guilds and the complexity of long-term projects including the reredos and vestments combined to create an atmosphere within which the arts were able to indicate the promise of heaven by simultaneously pointing backwards and forwards through time. Much of Ruskin’s writing, including The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, focuses on the interplay between sacred architecture, the human body as a temple, and the kingdom of God as a divine temple not made with human hands. On 16 February 1870 Ruskin gave his second lecture as Slade Professor at Oxford. Ruskin described ‘The Relation of Art to Religion’ in a letter to Joan Agnew as no less than a ‘sermon-lecture’ and when he wrote to her a few days before its delivery, he expressed a hope that it would be the best in the series.28 Ruskin’s words encapsulated much of what he set out in his key architectural and cultural criticism of the 1850s and 1860s when he explained, That we may have splendour of art again, and with that, we may truly praise and honour our Maker, and with that set forth the beauty and holiness of all that He has made: but only after we have striven with our whole hearts first to sanctify the temple of the body and spirit of every



child that has no roof to cover its head from the cold, and no walls to guard its soul from corruption, in this our English land.29

Ruskin saw an indelible link between the beauty of holiness and what he deemed to be a Christian responsibility to strive for economic and social equilibrium – indeed, one might be able to supply the other, and in their architectural influences and urban circumstances churches such as St Cuthbert’s in Earl’s Court and St Michael’s in Camden Town could be an effective model. ‘A GOOD TOWN CHURCH’: ST MICHAEL’S, CAMDEN TOWN Though he drew on architecture from across Europe and across the Middle Ages, G.F. Bodley is well known for his championing of English medievalism for his Gothic Revival projects from the 1860s onwards.30 His early work in particular was certainly indebted to Ruskin’s views on the Gothic style and cultural history.31 He was one of the first to collaborate with William Morris and his circle for stained glass, textiles and painted interiors, and his architecture connects him strongly to Pre-Raphaelitism and the Aesthetic Movement in British Art. From the late 1860s until the 1890s he was in architectural partnership with Thomas Garner. In 1874, Bodley, Garner and George Gilbert Scott Jr established Watts and Company, a furnishings and interior design firm combining sacred and secular designs for wallpapers, vestments and metalwork, to name but a few, in the same firm along a model similar to Morris and Co.32 His London projects include the London School Board offices, Holy Trinity Prince Consort Road in South Kensington, and St Michael’s, Camden Town (Plate 9.3). The yellow stock brick and stone dressings of St Michael’s in Camden Town began to rise in 1880. By 1894 the church was completed, and a vestry was added in 1908, supervised by Cecil Hare, who inherited Bodley’s architectural practice after his death in 1907.33 The wagon roof features painted decoration in restrained colours, and the ceiling is uninterrupted by a chancel arch. All leads the body and the eye towards the altar and reredos. Outside, there are flying buttresses defining the exterior’s Gothic lines amongst the rows of classical terraced houses and dense urban flurry of activity around the Camden Town junction. The church’s architecture is a distinct contrast with its surroundings, deploying calm beauty as a



missionary instrument. As the church historian B.F.L. Clarke observed, Bodley’s impact as a theologically sensitive architect was unparalleled in High Anglican circles; moreover, ‘Bodley brought Gothic to a state of refinement which it had probably never reached before.’34 St Michael’s was Bodley and Garner’s first London church, and it would replace a mission house established by the parish’s first vicar E.B. Penfold. The mission house was over a gas company’s showroom and a church was badly needed when Bodley offered his design expertise in 1878.35 A reviewer stated that the architects were striving to create ‘a good town church’.36 Here Bodley wanted to place a campanile beside the church, flush with the road. Bodley expert Michael Hall suggests that this signalled a return to Bodley’s earlier work from the 1850s, when he was particularly influenced by Ruskin’s writings on medieval Italian architecture in The Stones of Venice.37 Stating that the church’s design sources are ‘radically eclectic’, Hall also suggests that Bodley looked to medieval Franciscan churches – mendicant architecture from the thirteenth century suited the needs of this relatively impoverished London parish. Bodley combined ascetic monastic heritage with Gothic delicacy, creating a building that was both grand and austere, uniting Franciscan simplicity with emergent ways of building churches for London’s Victorian density, inserting the building into the city’s fabric like an open question regarding wealth and life in the Ruskinian mode. ‘THE BEAUTY OF ALL BODIES’: ST CYPRIAN’S, CLARENCE GATE The proportions and use of light at Bodley and Garner’s St Michael’s in Camden were an inspiration for John Ninian Comper when he first began to delineate his own architectural ambitions.38 The Scottish architect John Ninian Comper was born in 1864 and trained with Bodley and Garner in the 1880s. He swiftly became known for his intricate Gothic designs and attention to interior fittings and furnishings. He produced sumptuous textiles similar to Geldart’s, working closely with the Sisters of Bethany, an Anglican convent. Comper’s best known work includes St Mary’s Wellingborough, St Philip’s, Cosham, and stained glass at Westminster Abbey, where



he is memorialised. His commitment to Gothic turned towards a deep interest in classical art and architectural history in the first years of the twentieth century. This turn towards embracing a full range of histories and styles and selectively blending these in church architecture was a strategy he called ‘unity by inclusion’. Comper believed that architecture was ‘the handmaid of the liturgy’.39 Moreover, in his essay ‘On the Atmosphere of a Church’, Comper offered his own view on materialism, wealth and value. ‘The atmosphere of a church should be such as to hush the thoughtless voice. Surely here today with all our new materialistic organisations we have lost something of the sense of what a church is.’ Quoting Jesus’ rebuke to those buying and selling in the Temple, Comper goes on to state ‘as then, so now, it is commercialism that is at the bottom of these activities . . . though it may be disguised in such fine words that the users of them may not be conscious of it’.40 The root of Comper’s views on the sacred is his understanding of what defines a holy place: . . . what is a church? – It is a building which enshrines the altar of Him who dwelleth not in temples made with hands and who yet has made there His Covenanted Presence on earth.41

Comper, more firmly and clearly than many of his contemporaries, believed that an artist and architect’s vocation was rooted in devotion to God. Materiality always pointed directly towards the sacred. In Unto This Last, Ruskin exclaimed that an awakening to beauty was a recognition of life’s fullness. ‘As the art of life is learned,’ Ruskin wrote, . . . it will be found at last that all lovely things are also necessary: – the wild flower by the wayside, as well as the tended corn . . . because man doth not live by bread only, but also by the desert manna; by every wondrous word and unknowable work of God.42

Not only is beauty necessary, but it is to be found both in ordered human-made things and in the untended wilderness. Moreover it is morally and ethically right to recognise beauty, to bring it into being, and to care for it.43 This contrast of wrought and natural beauty is productively connected with Ninian Comper’s own revelation regarding beauty and its impacts upon his architectural theory and practice.



In 1894, Ninian Comper published an essay based on a lecture he had given the previous year. It was to be the foundation of his thinking regarding theology and architecture over a prolific career that lasted until his death in 1960. Practical Considerations on the Gothic or English Altar set out Comper’s views on the revival of a particular kind of altar surrounded by riddel posts capped by angels holding candles and supporting curtains of wool or silk. He started a trend; indeed, historian Peter Anson suggested that ‘thousands’ of altars were created along this model following Comper’s revival of the form.44 The precedent was late Gothic and English (though not exclusively so, despite Comper’s nationalistic early views), and it was these final generations of medievalism prior to the Reformation that Comper was seeking to reveal for a new generation on the brink of the twentieth century. The earliest example is at Cantley in Yorkshire. The most fully developed example was worked out a decade later in the sanctuary at one of Comper’s earliest new-build churches, St Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, near Baker Street in London. St Cyprian’s was dedicated in 1903, and Comper returned to it to modify and embellish the interior – as he did with many of his churches – long into his career (Plate 9.4). The church is a microcosm of the development of Comper’s unique understanding of sacred space. For Comper, the Christian altar’s design within the sanctuary was paramount in church architecture, and it needed to express the Incarnation in material terms: It is significant, that as the holiest place of the heathen temple . . . . lay shrouded in the blank mystery of darkness, so the Christian temple . . . should surround the mystery of the divine presence by a flood of light from painted windows, glistening like the sky at sunrise.45

In 1932, Comper published a follow up to this 1890s essay, which he aptly titled ‘Further Thoughts on the English Altar’. Concerned especially to explain the development of his thinking across three decades of Gothic and classically derived ecclesiastical design, and to discuss the differences between St Cyprian’s in London and his best-known church, St Mary’s in Wellingborough. Comper had discovered beauty not only in Gothic English architecture but also in classical architecture in Sicily and throughout the Mediterranean. His experience, he wrote, was analogous to Socrates’ speech that,



a man should from his youth seek for forms which are beautiful. At first he should love but one of them; then recognize the beauty which resides in one as the sister of that which dwells in the other. And if it is right to seek for beauty generally, a man must have little sense who does not look upon the beauty of all bodies as one and the same thing.46

Comper also compared his experience to St Peter’s vision on the housetop at Joppa, as well as to a revelation of discovering divine beauty in the natural world mixed together across cultures and geographies.47 He wrote that the concept of what was beautiful and what could be selected from history to deploy in new architecture was like forging a bond of two seemingly dissimilar things only to discover that in their divinity they were one and the same. It is a powerful and effective metaphor for diverse worshippers bonded together in Christ. Comper’s vision of what could be beautiful and how beauty could be theologically instructive has a Ruskinian quality. In Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice, for example, he emphatically argued that Venetian architecture, and St Mark’s in particular with its palimpsest layers of artistic and religious history, is a ‘book-temple’, legible for the faithful as material witness to God’s unique bonds with humanity. From Ruskin’s views on Venetian Gothic and on Christian ethics, to Comper, Bodley, and Geldart’s historicist designs in London, these texts and sacred spaces produce insights into what could be termed godly economics. How might we live in a material world without exploitation of its workers and resources? One of Ruskin’s most radical claims regarding wealth and humanity was made viscerally in his argument that ‘the true veins of wealth are purple – and not in Rock, but in Flesh’.48 The play on royal porphyry and Jesus’ purple robe of the Passion are apparent in this inversion of power and riches based in biblical social justice and the promise of resurrection. As John Summerson observed, ‘In the seventh decade of the nineteenth century, London was more excavated, more cut about, more rebuilt and more extended than at any time in its previous history.’49 London was, more than ever, a city in flux. Ultimately, for Comper, Geldart and Bodley, as for Ruskin, the search for beauty is intrinsically bound up with the creation of humanity in God’s own image and the beauty of love itself. At each of these three churches in London, constructed across three of the most intensive decades of urban expansion in the metropolis, these architects’ and artists’ various representations of the interlacing of God and humanity in Christ crucified and Christ



resurrected in majesty, the beauty of Truth and the wealth of life – the only wealth – are delineated in a radically new way. These buildings, when seen in dialogue with Ruskin’s manifesto for a biblical reappraisal of the very nature of ‘wealth’, are responsive to an amalgam of new hope layered within historical strata of architectural and theological precedent. As Victorian critics and architects wrestled with God, society, fairness and beauty, their writings and buildings charted new ways of experiencing the self in the city as holy territory. NOTES 1. J. Ruskin, ‘Qui Judicaris Terram’, Unto This Last (London: Dent and Sons, 1921 [1864]), pp. 63–4. 2. See T. Hilton, John Ruskin (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); S. Atwood, Ruskin’s Educational Ideals (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011); Dinah Birch (ed.), Ruskin and the Dawn of the Modern (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 3. Anonymous review, ‘Unto This Last’, Saturday Review, 10 November 1860, quoted in J.L. Bradley (ed.), John Ruskin: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, 1984), p. 278. The Saturday Review was notoriously hostile towards Ruskin. 4. See G. Darley, Octavia Hill: A Life (London: Constable, 1990); F. MacCarthy, William Morris (London: Faber, 1994) 5. W. Morris, ‘Preface’, The Nature of Gothic (London: Kelmscott Press, 1892). (accessed 2 February 2015). 6. See F. MacCarthy, William Morris: A Life for Our Time (London: Faber and Faber, 1994). 7. Matthew 20:13, 14. KJV. 8. Matthew 20:15, 16, KJV. 9. J. Ruskin, Unto This Last (London: Dent and Sons, 1921), p. 116. 10. Ibid. 11. See E. Blau, Ruskinian Gothic: The Architecture of Deane and Woodward (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982); R. Daniels and G. Brandwood (eds), Ruskin and Architecture (Reading: Spire Books, 2003). 12. See M. Wheeler, Ruskin’s God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). 13. Genesis 28:17 KJV. 14. S.M. Promey, ‘Religion, Sensation, and Materiality’, in S. Promey (ed.), Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014), p. 651. 15. R. Kieckhefer, Theology in Stone, 2004, p. 133.



16. N.R. Marshall, City of Gold and Mud: Painting Victorian London (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012). 17. For an overview of different stylistic trends and fashions in the Gothic Revival in Britain, see Dixon and Muthesius; Michael J. Lewis. 18. Parish Magazine, St Cuthbert’s, November 1893, p. 4. 19. Guide to St Cuthbert’s Church (London, 1937), p. 10. 20. James Bettley, ‘Church Furnishing in Nineteenth-Century England’. http:// and/ (accessed 1 December 2014). 21. Its full title is A Manual of Church Decoration and Symbolism, containing directions and advice to those who desire worthily to deck the church at the various seasons of the year: also, the explanation and the history of the symbols and emblems of religion (London: Mowbray, 1899). 22. Geldart, A Manual, 1899, p. 1. 23. Ibid., Pl. 1. 24. Ibid., p. 18. 25. Parish Magazine, March 1896, p. 6. 26. ‘New Vestments’, Parish Magazine, St Cuthbert’s, July 1896, p. 7. 27. St Cuthbert’s Parish Magazine, July 1898, p. 13. 28. J. Ruskin, letter to Joan Agnew [22 January 1870? Dated by Michael Wheeler], quoted in Wheeler, Ruskin’s God, p. 197. 29. J. Ruskin, ‘The Relation of Art to Religion’, quoted in Wheeler, Ruskin’s God, p. 197. 30. M. Hall, ‘The Rise of Refinement: G.F. Bodley’s All Saints, Cambridge and the Return to English Models in Gothic Architecture of the 1860s’, Architectural History, 36 (1993), pp. 103–26. 31. See Michael Hall’s essay on Ruskin and Bodley in R. Daniels and G. Brandwood (eds), Ruskin and Architecture (Reading: Spire Books, 2003). 32. A. Lepine, ‘Watts and Company, 1874’, Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, 2012. (accessed 15 November 2014). 33. Historic England, id¼1244156. 34. B.F.L. Clarke, Church Builders of the Nineteenth Century (London: David and Charles Reprints), p. 212. 35. M. Hall, George Frederick Bodley and the Later Victorian Revival in Britain and America (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014), p. 196. 36. Quoted in Hall, Bodley, p. 197. 37. Hall, Bodley, p. 196. 38. Historic England, id¼1244156 (accessed 20 May 2015). 39. N. Comper, ‘On the Atmosphere of a Church’, in Symondson and Bucknall, Sir Ninian Comper (Reading: Spire, 2006), p. 230.



40. N. Comper, ‘On the Atmosphere of a Church’, in Symondson and Bucknall, Sir Ninian Comper, p. 233. 41. Comper, ‘Atmosphere’, p. 233. 42. Ruskin, Unto This Last, p. 124. 43. Ruskin’s linkage of ‘lovely things’ and the principle of ‘no wealth but life’ is present throughout Unto This Last. For a more recent account of beauty and ethics, see E. Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just. 44. P. Anson, Fashions in Church Furnishing (London: SPCK), p. 279. 45. N. Comper, ‘Practical Considerations on the Gothic or English Altar’, 1894, p. 199. 46. Quoted in J.N. Comper, ‘Further Thoughts on the English Altar, or Practical Considerations on the planning of a Modern Church, 1932 (being a continuation of a paper read before the Society in 1893)’, Transactions of the St Paul’s Ecclesiastical Society, Vol. 10 (London, 1938), p. 33. 47. Acts 10:9–16. ‘And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.’ 48. J. Ruskin, Unto This Last, quoted in M. Wheeler, Ruskin’s God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 166. 49. J. Summerson, ‘The London Building World of the 1860s’, The Unromantic Castle (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990), p. 177.


The Campo Santo of the Dissenters: Bunhill Fields and Sacred Space in Victorian London Michael Ledger-Lomas

To the tired factory girl and weary mechanic it is a place in which to rest during the dinner hour . . . . To crowds of people it is a short cut from the busy City Road to the quieter Bunhill Row . . . To a lover of liberty of conscience, of freedom of thought, of an open Bible and of spiritual religion it is, however, hallowed ground, for beneath its turf there are resting thousands of brave men and women who counted not their lives dear unto them, but who ‘contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.’1

Alfred Light’s 1913 guidebook to Bunhill Fields (Plate 10.1) begins by insisting on a sacred character that too few people acknowledged. Having opened in 1665, this burial ground at Finsbury accommodated 120,000 bodies before it and other urban grounds were closed by the Burial Act of 1852. Although the site of many Anglican funerals, the Fields were never consecrated and had been popular with Protestant dissenters who objected to the liturgy of the Church of England. Designated by an 1867 Act of Parliament as a public ‘open space’, the Fields were remodelled by the Corporation of the City of London, which traced paths and installed trees and seats. The Fields were damaged during, then much remodelled after, World War II. Yet they remain as ambiguous today as in 1913. Though they boast monuments to John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake, they



are frequented today less by pilgrims or even tourists than by office workers, the descendants of Light’s mechanics. Moreover, the pedestrians who throng the narrow path from City Road to Bunhill Row are prevented by fences from ambling amid the surviving tombs. The Fields might be considered a sacred space which no longer moves us as sacred spaces should do. This chapter asks how and why a defunct cemetery was imagined to be ‘hallowed ground’ and why this vision of the sacred failed. We are all familiar with the ‘Victorian celebration of death’: the new cemeteries, funerary architecture and elaborate rituals that coined a sentimental and material vocabulary of the sacred for a wealthy bourgeoisie. Yet as fervent Protestants, the Victorians also inherited a conviction that the material traces of the ancient dead could embody holiness. This chapter uses Bunhill Fields to analyse their struggle to preserve those traces in ways that were compatible with modern ideas of beauty and amenity. The preservation of Bunhill Fields soon became a fable from John Bunyan, which pitched heroic preservationists against Giant Greed. Fears of its ‘desecration’ had indeed been provoked by low financial calculation. In a city whose land values constantly increased, the disposal of the recently deceased or ancient dead was subject to capitalist imperatives.2 The Fields were part of a prebend of St Paul’s Cathedral that the City of London had leased as a place to dump plague corpses in 1665, before being made over to a Mr Tindal. ‘Mr Tindal’s burying ground’ was much patronised by dissenters until the opening of Abney Park cemetery (1840) provoked its decline and sanitary legislation then forced its closure. While the Corporation of the City of London wished to convert the cemetery into a dignified open space, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who now controlled the Church’s freeholds and had noticed the dense residential and commercial development around the Fields, had other ideas. They thought they could drive a hard bargain with the Corporation before its lease ended at Christmas 1867. Believing that the ground was worth at least £100,000, they wanted at least five-sixths of the profits from the sale of burial plots since the last renewal of the lease in return for their reversionary interest. They argued that while they did not want to antagonise dissenters, both the City and the families who had bought plots had only a ‘moral’ rather than a legal claim to the Fields. If the Commissioners allowed the City to preserve the ground, their ‘act of grace’ would require handsome compensation.3



These tactics were ill advised. By the mid 1860s, the evangelical revival had made Protestant nonconformists a wealthy, numerous and politicised group both in London and in Britain as a whole. They were fresh from marking the Bicentenary of the ejection of 2,000 nonconforming ministers from the Church and their persecution by the British state, an event they remembered as the birth of their spiritual independence. In December 1865, the Congregational philanthropist Samuel Morley organised a petition to the Commissioners, reminding them that ‘any disturbance of a spot so hallowed could not but be regarded as an injury to the nation, and in the present state of public opinion could not be attempted. The ground has therefore no pecuniary value’ and their efforts at extortion were pointless. The talk of compensation had raised the spectre that the Commissioners wished not just to reclaim the Fields but to build on them. Some leading London dissenters urged the Corporation into the struggle, emphasising that the Fields contained not just their family members but ‘a crowd of worthies and confessors whose learning, piety, and public services, not only adorned the age in which they lived, but have proved a permanent blessing to the land, and whose names the world will not willingly let die’. Therefore, ‘any disturbance of a spot so hallowed could not but be resented as an injury to the nation, an insult to posterity, and a personal offence to many thousands of our fellow-countrymen’.4 ‘Hallowed’ by history, the Fields were beyond haggling. Headed by Charles Reed MP, a Congregational philanthropist who was an exemplar of evangelical vigour, a committee of the Corporation slapped down the Commissioners. They shivered at the prospect of ‘spoliation’, professing disbelief that ‘a great public question would be thus treated by gentlemen of the highest position in Church and State, who profess a sacred regard to the rights of Christian sepulture’. Their letters to the Commissioners argued that because many church funerals had been carried out in the Fields, it was consecrated ground which enjoyed legal protection. Yet that consecration was not just legal but sentimental, for here ‘lie the remains of John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe, the writers of the two most popular works in the English language’.5 Everybody’s interests would be served by a free grant of the Fields to the nation, leaving the Corporation to preserve it as a ‘decent and ornamental “open space”’. In 1867, their firmness secured an Act of Parliament which protected them from



‘Desecration’ and ‘damage or injury’ by preserving them as an ‘open space’. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners lost their money and their ground: the only concession was that they could take over the upkeep of the Fields if they so wished.6 This narrative of victory is still engraved on the gateposts at the Fields. Yet the dissenters who won did not usually put piety over cash. Decades later, they stood condemned for neglecting or building over their historic burial grounds when they no longer turned a profit. At the end of the nineteenth century, Isabella Holmes, who mapped London’s burial places to facilitate their conversion into public gardens, complained that the 80 or so dissenting grounds of 1800 had ‘suffered terribly in the slaughter’. Some had been built over, such as Deadman’s Place in Southwark, ‘a sort of Bunhill Fields for South London’, which disappeared beneath ‘the carts, the trucks, and the barrels in Messrs Barclay and Perkin’s Brewery’. The Disused Burial Grounds Act of 1884 put a stop to such land grabs, but did not prevent chapel trustees from treating their grounds with malign neglect. In Deptford, Holmes found one ground ‘behind a chapel which belongs to a General Baptist connection, whose creed I do not pretend to understand, but whose railings were so broken that a far larger visitor than I could have followed me through the gaps to behold broken tombstones . . . [and] collections of unsavoury rubbish’.7 The most egregious loss occurred over the road from Bunhill Fields. Although George Fox was buried in the Quaker ground at Roscoe Street, it was partially built on in 1840 then, by 1880, carved up altogether to accommodate a Board School – since converted into expensive flats – a coffee palace, houses and shops. The Bunhill Fields Memorial Buildings (Plate 10.2) (1881) here destroyed what their name recorded. If the preservation of Bunhill Fields as a sacred ‘open space’ made it a rarity among dissenting burial grounds, it was also striking that the Corporation did not make it very ‘open’. Its interventions were limited to putting in gates, walls, the main thoroughfare from City Road to Bunhill Row, paths, trees and shrubs, rather than clearing headstones. By contrast, Holmes and other enthusiasts for preserving churchyards as open spaces in the later nineteenth century were mainly intent on securing room for relaxation and play. Though often driven by religious zeal, they believed that there was no wealth but life and were impatient with gravestones, those crumbling and



illegible encumbrances to recreation. Holmes dismissed not only the health risks of strolling over the dead but also the religious qualms that it aroused. Describing the Spa Fields playground behind Exmouth Market, which had once been a private ground for a dissenting chapel, she asked whether the ‘dead beneath the soil object to the little feet above them? I am sure that they cannot . . . Such a space as Spa Fields may never have been consecrated for the use of the dead, but perchance the omission is in part redeemed by its dedication to the living.’ Nor was it sensible to think that clearing away gravestones destroyed a thing of beauty that should last forever. Country churchyards could be left intact, but the ‘neglected ground[s]’ of London had already lost their aura, hemmed in as they were by houses and smothered in ‘dirty rubbish’. How much better to make a clean sweep for ‘the women who can snatch a few moments from their crowded and noisy homes, the big children with the “prams”, and the little children they have in charge’!8 The later nineteenth-century preservation of graveyards thus entailed eradicating markers of their sacredness. Holmes’s Metropolitan Public Gardens Association (1882) catalogued gravestones before plucking them out like diseased molars. They were stacked against the walls of the new public gardens, a library of fading text that could be but rarely was consulted. Sometimes – although Holmes did not approve of such weird artistry – they might be combined into monuments to their own disappearance. In the churchyard of Old St Pancras, gravestones were massed in a strange clump around a tree (Plate 10.3). Headstones or tombs were normally preserved in situ only if family members, who had by law to be consulted, objected to their removal. The other reason was if tombs were considered to be of historic interest, explaining for instance the tombs that still dot sites such as St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury. Most of the old gravestones at Bunhill Fields did not belong to famous names and had no family to speak for them. Their preservation reveals that some Victorians did enjoy old gravestones for their own sake. Their feelings reflected the Ruskinian conviction, forcefully advanced by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (1877), that preservation must involve the modest stabilisation of ancient fabrics rather than their destructive alteration. One such preservationist was the ‘Gravestone Rambler’, W.T. Vincent. His In Search of Gravestones Old and Curious (1896) credited



the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association with keeping the ‘sacred soil’ of London’s disused grounds from ‘profane uses’, but also regretted its liberal resort to asphalt and playground apparatus. If decay had advanced too far, then disused grounds should certainly be moved from ‘the closed ledger of the dead to the current account of the living’. But what rejoiced Vincent’s heart was to see stones ‘set up in serried ranks’. A churchyard should ‘remain a churchyard’ and of all the ‘several methods which are usually resorted to for “preservation”, the best from the sentimental point of view is that which keeps the nearest to the first intent’. This sentiment reflected the new ethics of preservation, but also an appeal to a universal conception of the sacred: the belief of peoples from New Zealand to Ottoman Turkey that the dead should not be disturbed. The gravestone was a ‘solemn witness “Sacred to the Memory” of the dead . . . a pious trust which demands our respect and protection, at least as long as it is capable of proclaiming its mission.’9 Even today, with the Fields no longer as congested as in Light’s time, it is hard to see that the Corporation succeeded in making them either ‘ornamental’ or useful to people with a religious passion for their ancestors. Visitors had long admitted that the Fields could be depressing. The evangelical Quiver magazine recommended that the time to visit ‘Death’s land’ was when the ‘morning sun lights up the long ranks of tomb-stones with a hopeful expression, and the soft music of the Sunday chimes sends a whisper of heaven over every grave’. By contrast, spirits sank when fog and smoke form the gloomiest of palls, and the tide of the great world’s life dashes past with hoarse, unlovable sounds. No marvel if certain melancholy persons wish, at such times, that Bunhill Fields had been at the top of the Mendips, instead of depressing the hearts of timid London folks with its long array of sepulchres.10

Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that Victorians found the Fields wanting in comparison with the fashionable landscapes of Abney Park, Kensal Green or Highgate. The brassy eclecticism of their Egyptian avenues, weeping cypresses and sorrowing angels fascinates us today, but met with disapproval from leading authorities, who judged joie de vivre out of keeping in a graveyard. For Holmes, they were a waste of vital space. Her utilitarian objections were reinforced by religious revulsion at profane showiness. J.H. Markland



condemned the symbolism of the allegorical monuments that had infested parish churches, cathedrals and Westminster Abbey from the later seventeenth century, as ‘enough to puzzle the ignorant, and to grieve the judicious’.11 Mrs Stone sniffed that she would never be buried in ‘one of these modern repositories, where city wives bring their children for a “country excursion” on a summer holiday, and ply them with cakes and oranges all the way’.12 The sobriety of Bunhill Fields was its attraction. Its headstones were free not only of modern vulgarity, but also of the grotesque reliefs that Vincent catalogued in country churchyards. If gravestones were an art form, then that form had undergone ‘evolution’: from ‘primitive work’ in ‘rural localities’ to urban reticence. The ‘well-sown acres of Bunhill Fields’ were short on freaks, for ‘dwellers in towns had been for generations improving their manners, and thus it was that no provincial vulgarity as a decorated tombstone could be tolerated in the choice metropolis’.13 Perhaps visual beauty was beside the point in the Fields. Visitors who wished to grasp their sacred power concentrated on reading the inscriptions on the monuments. They contained many examples of the sententious, often Latinate epitaph, which classical and Christian tradition alleged was the traveller’s duty to read and digest. Of course, by the mid-nineteenth century many were as illegible as they were venerable. Their students had consequently been anxious to create an archive of what they had once said, a dematerialised version of the original which could fill its spreading lacunae. This enterprise had begun early. A 1717 pamphlet on the Fields, which Reed brandished in making the case for their importance, flattened them into a two-dimensional anthology of inscriptions, with only rudimentary descriptions (‘another StoneTomb, raised’ on Brick’, ‘a very handsome tomb’) to evoke the reality of the place.14 The most faithful archivist was the Baptist minister and journalist John Rippon (1751 – 1836), who gave his life to the Fields: he could often be found there, sprawled on the ground, scrubbing clean an inscription. His 1803 Prospectus for a six-volume work promised a transcription of every inscription, complete with a 36 £ 29 inch map recording the location of every grave. This imperishable Bunhill would also have been a synecdoche for the dissenting past. Ever since Edmund Calamy’s Account of Many Others of those Worthy Ministers who were Ejected after the Restauration of King Charles the Second (1702), dissenters had



envisaged their history as a kind of martyrology, in which calling to mind sufferers for principles strengthened conviction of their truth. Rippon would have followed suit, with biographies of those in the inscriptions, accompanied by portraits and facsimiles of their handwriting. This enormous project was not – perhaps never could be – finished. The manuscript of Rippon’s record of the inscriptions shows him constantly revisiting his record, monitoring the decay that his book was supposed to defy: ‘now 1819 quite defaced & even with the surface’; ‘this stone is now in four pieces’.15 When in due course he was put beneath a tomb of his own in Bunhill Fields (Plate. 10.4), we can imagine him disappointed that, unlike Moses, he could not write up his own death and burial (Deuteronomy 34:5 – 6). If Victorian visitors lacked a reliable chart and crib, then this was not necessarily a problem, for sacred messages were often not so much read at Bunhill Fields as read into them. The Quiver writer seized the point. ‘What is there to see in such a place? That depends, friend, on your power of seeing. We know men who can read a history in a fragment of old stone: but we have also met persons in whose eyes the very Pyramids would represent so many cubic feet of building materials.’16 What people increasingly read into the Fields were the texts of John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe, the physical presence of these writers explaining why the Fields could be held as sacrosanct by all English people. The nineteenth century was an age of literary as well as spiritual pilgrimage, with readers increasingly anxious to gain direct access to the inspired heroes of the canon. Such were the emotions released by visiting their graves that their authenticity became a vital question. In his Essay on Sepulchres (1802), the Romantic radical William Godwin had pleaded for the creation of a national register of the dead to ensure that the disappearance of tombstones would not lead to the great dead going astray. Remains lost their power as a marker of presence if they might be the wrong ones: Feeling and scepticism in the same question ‘cannot live together.’ When I meet the name of a great man inscribed in a cemetery, I would have my whole soul awakened to honour his memory . . . while I call his ghost from the tomb to commune with me, and to satisfy the ardour of my love, I must not be intruded on by any idle question, that this is perhaps but his idle grave.17



This attitude reproved the casualness with which earlier generations had interred the great. Bunyan’s resting place (Plate 10.5) was only modestly recorded in the form of a plaque on the family tomb of his protectors; lingering doubts that he had actually been interred there raised the spectre of Godwin’s delusive pilgrimage. Once the Fields had been spruced up, Defoe’s worn, modest headstone also looked incongruous. Bunyan was the first to be rescued from such neglect. In 1862, an appeal headed by the Earl of Shaftesbury saw the tomb replaced with a new monument that befitted his status. It was topped with an effigy variously described as ‘The Dreamer’ or as Bunyan. Its sides featured reliefs from The Pilgrim’s Progress, but also the earlier plaque, tightening the identification between writer, text and his remains. This act of piety ironically destroyed an ancient monument, to no one’s consternation: bits of the old tomb were carried off to the Congregational Church at Highgate, adding to the stock of Bunyan’s contact relics. One contemporary engraving shows the tomb as shrine and pedagogic text, a father ushering two children up to the railings to reflect upon the panels. In 1870, Charles Reed unveiled the ‘Cleopatric pillar’ which replaced Defoe’s worn headstone and which overtopped all other memorials in the Fields by way of making up for his ‘national neglect’. Dedicated simply to ‘the Author of Robinson Crusoe’, it had been funded by the sixpences of ‘the boys and girls of England’.18 Some of Bunhill Fields’ worthies were then worthier than others. It was the ‘great names’ and the universal pull of their writings that made them sacred to English people, rather than the grey mass of dissenting dead. As The Quiver remarked, the ‘English boy’ would turn pale if Bunyan’s remains were disinterred to make space for a public house.19 One did not have to walk far from Bunhill Fields to find other examples of consecration by charisma. The visitor who crossed City Road could visit John Wesley’s tomb in the burying ground behind Wesley’s house and chapel. The column over Wesley’s grave was refurbished for the Methodist centenary in 1840, then again in 1870. Together with the house and such ‘relics’ as Wesley’s teapot, it became a centre of global pilgrimage. The woman from Toronto shown into Wesley’s bedroom as a special favour (it being the Sabbath) on 20 September 1880 was typical in her reactions: ‘I feel – as if – I could – fall down on my knees in this room.’20 A very different visitor, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the Dean of Westminster



Abbey, was informed that the burial ground was consecrated. By which bishop? ‘By deposing in it the body of that man of God, John Wesley.’21 Methodists thought this a smart answer, but it showed Protestant dissenters ever more willing to embrace supposedly popish confusions between the sacred and the material. The encounter between the dean and the dead was meant to put holiness beyond politics. As a broad churchman who erected memorials to Isaac Watts (also buried in the Fields) and Wesley in the Abbey, and unveiled the Bunyan statue at Bedford, Stanley revelled in such incidents. Having presented his church as an omniumgatherum of Englishness, Stanley claimed great graves around the country as ‘Chapels of Ease, linked by invisible cloisters’ to the Abbey.22 Such flourishes were designed to mollify dissenting crusaders against the privileges of the established churches. Until the Burial Act of 1880, churchyards were one site of fierce conflict, with dissenters demanding that Anglican clergy allow them equal access to consecrated ground. In this context, the assertion that the great dead were great irrespective of their differences was a deeply political move; no wonder, for the sacred in the nineteenth century was a charged mode of articulating rather than of floating above politics. It had suited dissenters bent on preserving the Fields to play along with that notion. If Westminster Abbey had been dubbed the national Campo Santo by Prince Albert, then Bunhill Fields was not just the ‘Campo Santo of the dissenters’ but also a site whose riches (a sprinkling of Cromwells, say), made it sacred to all. Although often quoted, the ‘Campo Santo’ label had never been straightforward praise. The poet Robert Southey coined it in his life of Bunyan (1830), noting that ‘the Dissenters regard [the Fields] as their Campo Santo, – and especially for his sake’.23 Yet Southey had long been at war with Dissent. As a repentant radical who prized established churches as bastions of order, he considered dissenters provincial, embittered and more intolerant than those who had persecuted them, a view that peeped out in the ‘Life’. His Life of John Wesley (1820) had similarly presented its subject as a remarkable Englishman but appalled Methodists by suggesting that his holiness was just the sublimation of ambition.24 If non-dissenters ignored or belittled the principles for which dissenters had suffered, some descendants clung to them all the more



fiercely. Light’s book represented the increasing literary domination of the Fields by evangelical nonconformists. One manifestation of this was the tendency to play down or overlook those dead who had not been paladins of orthodoxy. Though a Unitarian Lord Mayor had reopened the ground, the graves of Theophilus Lindsey or Thomas Belsham – Unitarians who had doubted the deity of Christ – was not much celebrated or discussed. Nor for that matter was William Blake. To the 1902 guidebook to the Fields, he was a ‘person of eccentric character’, while Light passed him over altogether. As characters in a defensive sectarian mythology, the dead host of the Fields enjoyed only flickering and partial respect. The guidebook imagined a dissenter doffing his hat as he entered the Fields. The passer-by, as he hastens on his way . . . respects your feeling, but he cannot understand it . . . To him it is but an ‘old grave yard’ – to you, the ‘Camp Santo’ of your Nonconforming forefathers, many of whom, suffering for righteousness’ sake, have borne aloft the standard of liberty of conscience, fought valiantly for the truth, and won, by hard-earned contests, the vantage ground on which, in this twentieth century, you stand.

It was only this libertarian saga which made the ‘whole ground’ a ‘separate, consecrated, sanctified’ space. Yet many dissenters too were losing interest in its details by 1902. Why, asked the Guidebook, was ‘no “Old Mortality” amongst you, who out of love for these sainted ones and for their Lord and Master, would live awhile among the tombs’?25 The most momentous alterations to Bunhill Fields happened in the twentieth century, rather than the nineteenth. The culprits were not enthusiasts for open space but the Luftwaffe, whose bombs wrecked the ground. Reconstruction in the sixties cleared the northern parts and nudged the Fields closer to a park than a memorial. They do still attract pilgrims: American creationists and South Korean evangelicals who pay homage to Puritan divines, their adopted theological fathers. But Holmes would have been pleased to see that the Fields largely belong to office workers who eat sandwiches at Bunyan’s side. At the same time, the reconstruction created a broad paved area that is dominated by the tombs of Bunyan, Defoe and a memorial to Blake and his wife. Not a shrine perhaps, but a tidy national Valhalla of the kind in which post-war opinion formers still trusted. Indeed, the monuments are more eye-catching



than in their prime, given the clearance of the surrounding tombs. Wesley now enjoys a similarly lonely eminence (Plate 10.6). His column sits isolated on a brick-laid floor, most of the chapel’s dead having been disinterred and moved to Streatham Cemetery as part of an attempt to remodel his chapel. Their worn headstones now pave the floor of a museum of Methodism in the chapel crypt. For much of the nineteenth century, dissenting voices had claimed the unconsecrated soil of Bunhill Fields as sacred, a tangible monument to ringing words and unseen realities. Yet the Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians who first stocked it, then fought for its preservation, have showed less staying power than the monuments they revered and rebuilt. The Victorians supplied us with our urge to preserve sacred spaces, yet Bunhill Fields reminds us that sacredness is harder to conserve than space, needing as it does engaged, disputatious communities for whom its persistence is vitally expressive of their own identity. NOTES 1. A. Light, Bunhill Fields: Written in Honour and to the Memory of the Many Saints of God whose Bodies Rest in this Old London Cemetery (London: C.J. Farncombe, 1913), p. 1. 2. See T. Laqueur, ‘Cemeteries, Religion, and the Culture of Capitalism’, in C. Matthew and J. Garnett (eds), Revival and Religion since 1700 (London: Hambledon Press, 1993), pp. 183– 200. 3. See Bunhill Fields Burial Ground: Proceedings in Reference to its Preservation. With Inscriptions on the Tombs (London: Benjamin Pardon, 1867). 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. ‘A Bill for the Preservation of Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in the County of Middlesex as an Open Space; and for Other Purposes Relating Thereto’, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1867 (107), p. 2. 7. I. Holmes, The London Burial Grounds: Notes on their History from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: T. Fisher and Unwin, 1896), pp. 128, 145, 148. 8. Ibid., pp. 249, 278. 9. W.T. Vincent, In Search of Gravestones Old and Curious (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1896), pp. 60, 67 –8, 74. 10. ‘Bunhill Fields’, The Quiver, 8 February 1866, p. 306. 11. J.H. Markland, Remarks on English Churches, and on the Expedience of Rendering Sepulchral Monuments Subservient to Pious and Christian Uses (Oxford: J.H. Parker, 1842), p. 64.



12. E. Stone, God’s Acre: Or, Historical Notices Relating to Churchyards (London: J.H. Parker, 1858), p. 123. 13. Vincent, Search, p. 28. 14. Inscriptions upon the Tombs, Gravestones &c in the Dissenters Burial Place near Bunhill Fields (London, 1717), pp. 13, 23. 15. British Library Add MS 28516, pp. 9, 105. 16. ‘Bunhill Fields’, pp. 305–6. 17. W. Godwin, Essay on Sepulchres: Or, A Proposal for Erecting Some Memorial of the Illustrious Dead in All Ages on the Spot Where their Remains Have Been Interred (London: W. Miller, 1809), p. 84. 18. S. Horner (ed.), A Brief Account of the Interesting Ceremony of Unveiling the Monument Erected by the Boys and Girls of England to the Memory of Daniel Defoe (Southampton: ‘Hampshire Independent Office’, 1871), pp. 21 –2. 19. ‘Bunhill Fields’, pp. 306–7. 20. H.G. McKenny, A City Road Diary: The Record of Three Years in Victorian London (London: Wesley’s Chapel, 1999), p. 5. 21. R.M. Spoor, Illustrated Handbook to City Road Chapel: Burying Ground, and Bunhill Fields Burying Ground (London: Wesleyan Council Office, 1881), pp. 50 –3. 22. A.P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey, 2nd edition (London: John Murray, 1868), p. 332. 23. R. Southey (ed.), The Pilgrim’s Progress, with a Life of John Bunyan (London: John Murray, 1830), lxxxi. 24. P. Nockles, ‘Reactions to Robert Southey’s Life of Wesley (1820) Reconsidered’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 63:1 (2012), pp. 61 –80. 25. History of the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground: With Some of the Principal Inscriptions (London: Charles Skipper and East, 1902), pp. 34, 5, 7.


A Religious Office Tower? Virgin Mary’s Outspread Cloak in the City of London Gu¨nter Gassner

A CITY OF TWO DOMES The City of London (hereafter the City) is a city of two domes: the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the curved top part of 30 St Mary Axe. These two buildings or, better, their appearances from Waterloo Bridge represent the City and define the ‘new London skyline’, so an urban historian and representative of Historic England suggests.1 The Church of England Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren, which is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London, and the office tower, designed by Foster and Partners, which is better known as the ‘Gherkin’: are these really the two landmark buildings that shape ‘the image of the city’?2 In principle, I argue against a representative understanding of buildings and views and insist that no individual building and no individual view can represent the ‘whole’ city adequately. I support Christine Boyer’s argument that in the contemporary city the meaning of representational images is eroded and totality is lost.3 In multiethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious London from which people migrate and to which more people immigrate, a fixed and static representation of the city is always inadequate. Yet, it is worth emphasising that one of the singled-out buildings is a sacred and the other a secular one. Are these two buildings of a comparable nature?



One of the shared features of these two buildings is that they are both reminders of catastrophes or, rather, the city’s ‘overcoming’ of them. The Gherkin was built after the explosion of a bomb that was placed by the Provisional IRA in St Mary Axe in 1992. St Paul’s was built after the fire in a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane, which developed into the Great Fire of 1666, had destroyed the majority of the City including Old St Paul’s. It also survived the sustained bombing by Nazi Germany in the early 1940s. While conservationists use historical narratives of that kind to argue that these landmarks should remain visually dominant in the cityscape, I must emphasise the buildings’ primary functions again. St Paul’s is a church building and 30 St Mary Axe is an office tower. How, then, is the relationship between them conceptualised by design-related professionals? Is it one of indifference, antagonism or endorsement? For centuries the City was both a religious and commercial centre of London, as urban plans that were drawn up after the Great Fire indicate. Wren’s masterplan – which was never realised – involved an urban organisation that was based on the Roman grid and the ceremonial order provided by axes connecting public spaces and focal points. The two most visible foci in the scheme were St Paul’s and the Bank of England. ‘In Wren’s proposed Baroque reconstruction of the City’, the architectural historian Robert Tavernor suggests, ‘commerce and religion were accorded equal status’.4 Does that also mean that God and money encountered each other in the City without being in conflict? Such a reading of the cityscape is interesting, especially in the aftermath of a global economic crisis. Consider it in relation to the papal exhortation Evangelii Gaudium from 2013, in which Pope Francis rejects a financial system that rules rather than serves. When categories of the marketplace become ‘absolutized’, the Pope argues, God is increasingly ‘seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous’.5 What we need, he states, is a financial reform that is open to ethical considerations with cities being important sites for such a reform. The evangelisation ‘must reach the places where narratives and paradigms are being formed’.6 And now consider London’s imminent transformation. According to a prognosis in 2014, 230 skyscrapers will be built in London in the next few years.7 About 50 of them will be office towers that accommodate high-end office space for the growing financial and business service industries.



If it is indeed the city where narratives and paradigms are being formed, what does the construction of more and more highly visible representations of financial capitalism tell us about London? It is not worth reiterating the familiar narrative about the displacement of church steeples by office towers as the tallest structures in a supposedly secular city. Instead, I want to discuss the place of religious imaginaries within developer-driven urbanisation processes that produce these office towers. Is there a place for religion in London’s global, capitalist and neoliberal cityscape? Focussing on aesthetic references that were put forward by the architects of the tallest and most iconic office tower in the City, I show that religious imaginaries have not been replaced by a laissez-faire approach to the city. Religious and capitalist imaginaries of the city are also not exclusive or opposed. They are interwoven and co-dependent. My task is taking the visual references that the architects used for explaining their design at face value. My aim is to cut through an established understanding of religion and capitalism in the city, challenging the idea that a religious cityscape is one in which secular structures are marginalised. In this chapter I point to an inbuilt religiosity of capitalist structures, drawing on the works of Walter Benjamin and Friedrich Nietzsche. In so doing, I emphasise a double dynamic: the capitalisation of sacral and the sacralisation of corporate buildings, leading to the sublation of a dichotomy between the sacral and the secular in the cityscape. A CITY OF A COMMERCIAL SPIRE Historically, the City tended to be viewed as a city of spires. In addition to St Paul’s, Wren designed 51 parish churches for the City, 23 of which are still intact today. Many of them were built in the Gothic style. ‘The vertical skyward push of complex tower forms and spires is more typical of England’s historic urban skylines than domes’, Tavernor argues, as ‘the dome was essentially a Florentine and Roman development of an ancient architectural form, which became popular during the “Catholic” Italian Renaissance’.8 The underlying suggestion is that Gothic buildings are part of a Catholic heritage that has been ‘protestantised’ in England. St Paul’s, which looks remarkably similar to the Catholic St Peter’s in Rome, is the exception. Wren’s original design for St Paul’s was a blend of



Gothic and classical forms. The contract permitted him to make only certain ornamental changes during the construction and yet he made substantial ones, ‘thoroughly classicising the appearance of the building that was constructed’.9 Historically, I suggest, the City is less a city of spires than a city of a Protestant dome that is surrounded by spires. According to the architects, the so-called ‘Pinnacle’ passes as a contemporary interpretation of a Gothic spire. With 64 floors and more than 1.6 million square feet of office space it was planned to be the tallest and most iconic office tower in the City. The design team argues that the building will visually enhance St Paul’s by solidifying the City’s Eastern high-rise cluster. The Pinnacle ‘will taper upwards, and with the curving spiral a form will be created that [. . .] reinforces the idea of a visual centre of the cluster, which can hold visually, as an inward force – centripetally – the array of different shaped tall buildings around it’.10 Furthermore, ‘[b]eing located at the centre of the Eastern cluster [. . .] it is appropriate that the Bishopsgate Tower [the Pinnacle] should be the tallest building in relation to existing tall buildings in the Eastern Cluster and those that have been granted planning permission more recently’.11 I discuss the aesthetic argument that an office tower is capable of visually enhancing the Protestant Cathedral in the cityscape elsewhere.12 Here, I want to pose only two questions: first, are religion and financial capitalism separate forces that are distinctively represented in the cityscape? And, second, does, as a result of the construction of more and more office towers, the ‘enlargement’ or ‘intensification’ of financial capitalism work in the service of religion? We find an account that relates to the second question in Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, more specifically in his discussion of John Calvin’s doctrine that one must not ‘refuse to be God’s steward’ and, hence, one must labour ‘to be rich for God’.13 In this chapter, however, I develop another understanding of the relationship between religion and financial capitalism in the city. I show how the architects of the Pinnacle not only argue that the tower works in the service of religion’s legibility in the city but also that the tower is shaped by religion. In the Design Statement for the Pinnacle (Plate 11.1), the architects explain the building’s facade with the help of two visual references: first, an image of a snakeskin and, second, an image of an early



Renaissance painting by the Italian painter Piero della Francesca. The snake is a significant biblical symbol: it is a symbol of an enemy or Satan, of wisdom and of shiftiness. The most famous portrayal of the snake as an enemy and the first biblical reference to a snake is in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve are tempted by the snake in the Garden of Eden and ultimately fall victim to sin. Is the Pinnacle whose fac ade looks like a snake a reminder of original sin? A religious reading of the tower’s fac ade is spurred by the second visual reference. The architects refer to the central panel of a multi-panel altarpiece that was produced for the brotherhood of Sansepolcro, a small town in Tuscany, between 1445 and 1462. Flanked by images of standing saints and surrounded by subsidiary images in the predella, pilasters and pinnacles, it depicts the motif of Madonna della Misericordia: the Virgin of Mercy (Plate 11.2).14 The Virgin Mary raises her cloak, creating a large circular space below her that holds ‘selected personalities from the town’s elite burgher families on the left, and elegant ladies coified according the latest fashion to the right’.15 The Virgin of Mercy was a popular subject in Roman Catholic art in Italy from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. Piero’s altarpiece is based on a traditional polyptych. He was commissioned to paint the altarpiece in the manner of a pre-existing painting. Art historians explain that it is the painting’s clarity and simplicity that make his rendition so significant. The Virgin Mary is shown from the front. Her distant gaze is of one who now belongs to the celestial sphere. She ‘lowers her intense gaze on the kneeling faithful, promising to understand, help and protect those invoking her with trust, giving comfort, consolation and hope’.16 Various elements of the composition are carefully placed off centre and slightly off balance to endow the painting with a subtle movement and variety.17 A group of people shelter for protection under the outspread cloak of the Virgin of Mercy. Taking this image and transferring it to the City, the Pinnacle as the tallest and most iconic office tower shelters a group of other corporate buildings ‘under’ its building envelope (Plate 11.3). I do not argue that this is how the architects necessarily conceived of their design. This specific visual reference might have been, more than anything else, a communication tool they introduced after the tower had been designed. Furthermore, it is not my aim to provide a detailed discussion of the credibility of the



visual comparison. The Pinnacle is an asymmetrical spiral turning inwards and upwards and arguably not a cloak spreading outwards, reaching down over what already exists. I am less interested in a detailed examination of the visual comparison than in the fact that the architects make use of religious references in the first place. These references were included in an official and publicly available planning document. I want to take the architects at their word and consider religious dimensions of the office tower. Similarities between a contemporary commercial tower, the snake in the Garden of Eden and Mary the mother of Jesus position the Pinnacle ambiguously in human history. In my discussion, in which I work more closely with the reference to Piero’s altarpiece, I focus on three different temporalities and localities: the capitalist, the post- and the pre-capitalist city. THE PINNACLE AND THE CAPITALIST CITY: INTERNALISED DEBT The provocation that the Pinnacle not only strengthens a religious image of the city but that it has an inbuilt religiosity calls upon us to understand the secular as the sacred or, rather, financial capitalism as religion. For some time now, professionals in London have conceptualised the visual role of office towers in the cityscape within a religious framework. In the 1950s, the Royal Fine Art Commission suggested that towers in central London are acceptable ‘where they serve in a funny sort of way the same functions as churches; the function being not to draw people to worship [. . .] but the function being to denote [. . .] a major focus in the urban scene’.18 Office towers are not churches, but they have a similar role in the cityscape. One of the differences, of course, is that while a church building is accessible to the wider public or to a religious community, the office tower is a private building. The latter denotes a point in the city and draws attention to it. It draws you close but it does not let you in. It is inaccessible to the wider public both physically and cognitively. What exactly is going on inside these towers? A sense of sacred mystery that surrounds them – exacerbated by the malfeasance of banking practice as of late – lends to these buildings becoming a projection surface for people’s wishes, dreams and anger about the city’s socio-economic state. This became clear in several public debates that revolved around the prognosis that 50 additional office



towers will be built in London.19 As the tallest and most iconic tower, the Pinnacle, probably more than any other office building, encourages a moral reading of the cityscape. If the Pinnacle looks like Virgin Mary’s outspread cloak, if it has a similar role in the cityscape as churches, is it also capable of offering anything that religion offers? A related line of thought can be found in the fragment ‘Capitalism as Religion’, written most likely at the beginning of the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic in 1921 by the German-Jewish critical theorist Walter Benjamin. Benjamin builds upon and radicalises Weber’s suggestion that modern capitalism grew out of or at least benefited from a certain form of Protestant asceticism.20 Benjamin argues that capitalism is ‘not merely [. . .] a formation conditioned by religion’ but that it ‘serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments, and disturbance to which the so-called religions offered answers’.21 Capitalism, so the argument goes, developed ‘as a parasite of Christianity in the West’ up until the point where ‘Christianity’s history is essentially that [. . .] of capitalism’.22 Benjamin’s argument is not one of secularisation. He does not allege that capitalism has replaced religion. He also does not propose that capitalism is a religion. He rather refers to capitalism’s religious structure, more specifically, its structure of a ‘cult religion’, which is defined by the lack of a ‘specific body of dogma’.23 Capitalism is unlike Christianity but their histories are interwoven. Over time capitalism started to overpower religion, which was possibly due to capitalism’s structure of a cult religion. Capitalism ‘pretends’ to offer what religions offer – to allay anxieties, torments and disturbances – but it is not able to offer absolute values because it is merely a cult. Following Benjamin’s account, the religious structure of capitalism is related to the relationship between guilt and debt. It is this relationship as represented by – or better, projected onto – the Pinnacle that I want to discuss in more detail. Benjamin writes: Capitalism is probably the first instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement. In this respect, this religious system is caught up in the headlong rush of a larger movement. A vast sense of guilt that is unable to find relief seizes on the cult, not to atone for this guilt but to make it universal, to hammer it into the conscious mind, so as once and for all



to include God into the system of guilt and thereby awaken in Him an interest in the process of atonement.24

I suggest that the larger movement Benjamin refers to is related to Friedrich Nietzsche’s account of the history of morality and his argument that morality has replaced religion as dogma or, rather, that ‘Christianity as dogma was destroyed by its own morality’.25 If Christianity as dogma was indeed destroyed by its own morality, then Benjamin suggests that it was also forced back by capitalism as religion. Studying Benjamin’s and Nietzsche’s accounts, we are encouraged to explore the relationship between the history of morality and that of capitalism’s religious structure. This relationship, which involves both the moralisation of capitalism as well as the capitalisation of morality, is what we need to get to the bottom of in order to understand the religious Pinnacle in the capitalist city. Nietzsche notes that the German word ‘Schuld’ means both guilt and debt and alleges that ‘the central moral concept of “guilt” originated from the very material concept of “debt”’.26 Christian ideas about punishment began as forms of violent revenge against defaulting debtors.27 They originated not from the belief that the debtor who does not liquidate his debts could have acted otherwise, but ‘out of anger at harm done, anger which is then taken out on the person who causes it’.28 Punishment is intended as pleasure to the creditor as a form of repayment.29 Nietzsche has it that throughout history this ‘pleasure of cruelty’ has been internalised and moralised.30 Once an active and life-affirming force, punishment reversed direction and started to awaken a sense of guilt in the debtor. It started to evoke ‘bad conscience’ (schlechtes Gewissen), which, for Nietzsche, is hostility, cruelty and pleasure in assault internalised.31 In short, guilt is the internalisation of debt.32 Internalised debt, i.e. debt that has lost its active and lifeaffirming character and has turned into a reactive force, is ‘inexhaustible, unpayable’.33 Benjamin’s account draws on this aspect. Capitalism creates more and more debt. Debt becomes so monstrous that it cannot be paid off but ‘economic life goes on as if it will and must be paid’.34 As a result of the equivalence between the Christian guilt economy and the deterministic debt religion on which it depends, capitalism also creates more and more guilt.35



Guilt becomes inexhaustible. As a member of a Christian capitalist city, one is a debtor forever. And, indeed, debt and guilt accumulate not merely because we borrow more and more money and because of the interest we have to pay for doing so, but also because of the interest on interest, and so forth. Guilt and debt, then, are temporal categories. In other words, the capitalist city is one in which debt and guilt increase simply because time passes. This is a seemingly bleak situation, in which redemption, or so Nietzsche suggests, is ‘no longer a matter of suffering through which debt is paid; [. . .] suffering now only pays the interest on debt’.36 What does the religious structure of capitalism, which, in my interpretation refers to interwoven histories of morality and capitalism, mean for an understanding of the Pinnacle as the tallest religious structure in the capitalist city? As an office tower, it is part of the proliferation of debts in at least two ways. First, the Pinnacle is built on debts. With an estimated cost of £550 million (according to some suggestions it could cost as much as £1 billion) it boosts the credit services sector.37 This is a tower that is advanced on loan due to economic predictions and prognoses, according to which there will be future need of high-end office spaces for financial and business service industries. Crucially, the Pinnacle is not simply a passive representation of the economy’s behaviour. Skyscraper construction and real estate circles are intertwined.38 A tower like the Pinnacle not only serves but often also creates further demand for new office space; office buildings that will also be built on debts. This is the Pinnacle as a speculative building that contributes to capitalism’s expansion that results from the accumulation of debt. Second, once built, the tower will accommodate the industries that transact credit businesses.39 This, then, is the Pinnacle as a building that accommodates speculations in a material sense. In addition, with its superior height and a cloak that apparently spreads outwards, the Pinnacle is not just like any other office tower in the City. It is offered to protect other buildings that accommodate financial speculations and that are built on credit. This image poses questions about the moral economy of debt. When debt is seen as morally corrupting, when excessive debt is seen as symptomatic of a damaged life, for example, what does the protection of debt by debt or the protection of debt by guilt mean?40 A moral interpretation of debt



in the capitalist city, I suggest, must foreground that indebtedness ‘exacerbates the major fault lines of inequality within society: in terms of class, race, and gender, and across generations’.41 What is the highly visible Pinnacle signifying? Is it offering a moral justification of the capitalist city, as I suggest later in this chapter? Drawing on Nietzsche, is it creating ‘bad conscience’ in us who participate in the capitalist city or, rather, in all of us who cannot stop ‘guilt history’?42 Or is it primarily inviting questions about who is to blame for unpayable individual and sovereign debts? If the Pinnacle represents capitalist London, then London, one might argue, is less a wealthy city with a thriving economy than a city that is indebted and moralised. THE PINNACLE AND THE POST-CAPITALIST CITY: ‘GROWTH UP RIGHT THROUGH THE SKY’ What would a city look like in which debts are paid off and guilt is atoned? Benjamin argues that nothing and nobody stands outside indebted capitalism. At the same time, atonement cannot be expected from capitalism itself in its current stage. It can also not be expected from a reformation of capitalism not even from a renunciation of it. Capitalism ‘entails endurance right to the end, to the point where God, too, finally takes on the entire burden of guilt, to the point where the universe has been taken over by that despair which is actually its secret hope’.43 There is hope then. Hope in bringing down the capitalist city does not lie in attempts to decelerate or cancel the proliferation of guilt and debt but rather in the acceleration and intensification of them. Here, Benjamin draws on Nietzsche’s concept of the superman ¨ bermensch), which is a form of intensified humanity: an (U ‘apocalyptic “leap”’ that results from ‘an apparently steady, though in the final analysis explosive and continuous intensification’.44 Benjamin writes: ‘The superman is the man who has arrived where he is without changing his ways; he is historical man who has grown up right through the sky’. He describes this process also as the ‘breaking open of the heavens’.45 This is a powerful image for the religious Pinnacle in the postcapitalist city: a tower, unlike any other office building, that is so tall and so full of moral connotations that it grows up right through the sky and breaks open the heavens. Now, it is crucial to emphasise that



for Nietzsche the measure of culture is ‘in its highest exemplars’ and its rarest achievements and not in its most common and average ones.46 His understanding of what defines the ‘highest example’ is related to his concept of ‘eternal return’. Social theorists have interpreted this concept in negative and positive ways.47 In a negative way, it refers to the dreadful repetition of the same in modern society. In a positive way, it refers to an affirmation of existence independent of Christian morality.48 A positive interpretation of eternal return is a ‘transmutation’ that is ‘purely active and pure affirmation’.49 It refers to a process, in which ‘[o]nly that which affirms or is affirmed returns’.50 Reactive forces, to use Nietzsche’s terminology, are turned into active ones.51 It is this affirmation that defines the superman, who is beyond good and evil, beyond morality. Aligning Nietzsche’s and Benjamin’s accounts allows us to pose the following question: if both supra-morality and post-capitalism result from a continuous and explosive intensification of guilt and debt, how, then, is this intensification played out in the city? If Nietzsche’s superman can be related to a bankrupt society, as Nigel Dodd suggests, what is the role of the religious Pinnacle therein?52 Is the Pinnacle that is so tall that it grows right through the sky the precursor of a bankrupt city? According to a recent study undertaken by Barclay’s Capital, the construction of skyscrapers less often signifies economic wealth than heralds an economic crash. Throughout history, ‘skyscraper construction had been characterised by bursts of sporadic, but intense activity that coincided with easy credit, rising land prices and excessive optimism, but often by the time the buildings were finished, the economy had slipped into recession’.53 Building very tall buildings tends to be a sign of a building boom, which, in turn, often implies the misallocation of capital. The 230 skyscrapers that are in planning in London might herald the next economic recession, but it is only the religious Pinnacle that keeps growing and growing right through the sky that leads the city to its bankruptcy. Yet, what does this bankruptcy mean? Is this really the moment that allows the city to free itself from the history of morality and religious guilt on which the moral economy of debt is built? Is that the moment when the history of morality and the history of capitalism diverge? If the Pinnacle represents postcapitalist London, then London, one might argue, is less a city in



which Christian morality has finally battled a financial system that ‘rules rather than serves’ than a city that is affirmed independently of Christian morality.54 THE PINNACLE AND THE PRE-CAPITALIST CITY: ORIGINAL SIN So far I have developed two different readings of the religious Pinnacle: first, it drives the proliferation of debt and guilt in capitalism forward and, second, it drives this proliferation forward to such an extent that it produces the city’s financial and moral bankruptcy. It is time to return to the architects’ visual comparisons of the tower’s facade with Piero’s rendition of the Virgin of Mercy and with a snake and to emphasise that while the snake might be understood as a reminder of original sin, the Mother of Jesus is the one woman who, according to Catholicism, was without sin. Consider the four dogmas of Catholic Mariology: Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Motherhood of God and Assumption. The first two are often confused. While Perpetual Virginity refers to the belief in Mary’s real and perpetual virginity, even in the act of giving birth to Jesus, Immaculate Conception is the belief that when the blessed Virgin Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb she was kept free of original sin through the anticipated merits of Jesus Christ. The mother of Jesus was not afflicted by the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts humankind. She was filled with grace by God and lived free from sin. Some Catholic theologians maintain that Mary must have been completely free of sin in order not to ‘pollute’ the Son of God when giving birth to him. The Pinnacle is not simply an enlargement of office space. If it does indeed represent an intersection of religion and capitalism, if it is the City’s Virgin Mary, then it is the one commercial building that is free of original sin, protecting all the other buildings that are full of sin. To be able to elaborate on this interpretation, we must go back to Nietzsche’s understanding of guilt as internalised debt one more time. Nietzsche maintains that internalised debt is debt turned against man and that this involves both the debtor and the creditor. As we have seen, internalised debt for the debtor results in ‘bad conscience’. With regard to the creditor, it is related to Christianity’s idea of original sin: ‘God sacrificing himself for the guilt of man, God paying himself off’, i.e. ‘the creditor sacrificing himself for his debtor, [. . .] out of love for



his debtor’.55 It comes as no surprise that for Nietzsche the idea of original sin refers to a ‘will to self-torture’: an ideal of the ‘holy God’ is established against which one deems oneself unworthy.56 If we understand the Pinnacle, the tallest and most iconic office tower in the City, as a building that is without sin, and if we support the suggestion that the histories of morality and of capitalism as religion converge, then the question arises whether in capitalism there is an equivalent to original sin. According to Karl Marx there is, namely, in a particular account of how pre-capitalist societies were transformed into the capitalist mode of production. Consider the argument that capitalism arose from an ever-increasing division of labour, where individual producers became extremely specialised at making useful goods, who rose to the position of capitalists by dint of hard work and saving, while others were primarily ‘lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living’.57 In such an account, Marx suggests, ‘primitive accumulation plays approximately the same role [. . .] as sin does in theology.’58 He, of course, insists that capitalism’s birth was not the bloodless result of two different ‘types’ of people but, rather, a brutal and expropriating process, in which peasants were forced off their lands and penalised for becoming vagabonds and thieves. ‘The legend of theological original sin’, Marx writes, ‘tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential.’59 When the class society is justified on moral grounds, then the Pinnacle that is free from sin presents us with a moral justification of social injustice that is produced within the capitalist city. Economic original sin might be understood as a justification for capitalist class society preached in the defence of property and wealth concentration. If the Pinnacle represents pre-capitalist London, then contemporary London, one might argue, is less a city with a ‘socioeconomic system [that] is unjust at its root’ than a city in which people torture themselves for a position in society they believe they are destined to be in.60 A RELIGIOUS CITYSCAPE In the City of commercial spires, the tallest and most iconic office tower draws on religious imaginaries. I put forward three different



interpretations of the religious Pinnacle: first, the Pinnacle as a structure that represents less the expansion and wealth of a city’s economy than the intensification of the burden of debt and guilt in capitalism; second, the Pinnacle as a structure that leads the city to financial and moral bankruptcy; and, third, the Pinnacle as a structure that functions as a moral justification for the capitalist class system. These interpretations are polemics. I took the architects at their word and related the visual references they used to Benjamin’s and Nietzsche’s accounts. The credibility of visual comparisons between the Pinnacle, a snakeskin and Piero’s altarpiece will remain unanswered because the tower will never be realised in material form. Since the banking crisis, personal and sovereign debts have further increased at an enormous rate. A study by Oxford Economics shows that the financial sector has grown since 2008 and not contracted as many expected.61 Indeed, the financial sector has benefited from attempts by governments in Europe and the US to deal with the crisis. Big banks are now bigger, the shadow banking system is taking over more activity and the rich have become richer than before. Employment in financial service industries in the City continued to grow in the last six years. Construction works for the Pinnacle started in 2008. In 2011 and 2012 works were put on hold several times. In 2013, the developers announced that they failed to sign a major pre-let agreement. After the construction of the foundations, the basement, and a sevenstorey concrete core, the Pinnacle died. The formal complexity of the building envelope resulted in irregular floor plate shapes and sizes. These irregularities proved to be unattractive for many investment banks, insurance and real estate firms, which prefer big and regular floor plates that provide them with a maximum amount of flexibility. What we have, then, is an example of how the religiosity of the Pinnacle worked against the building’s productive role within capitalism. The partly built concrete core of the Pinnacle will be demolished in order to make space for a cheaper building, the so-called ‘Austerity Tower’ (Plate 11.4). According to a townscape consultant, the Austerity Tower will be ‘a more rational, less expressive design [in order to] achieve more attractive spaces for tenants for less height and less cost (much less steel) while still providing a distinctive centre piece to the [high-rise] Cluster’.62



Does the Austerity Tower encapsulate the idea that in times of an economic recession everybody has to economise? This idea, I suggest, does not coincide with the image of the religious Pinnacle. While the Pinnacle represents a form of intensification of financial capitalism, the Austerity Tower, as the name indicates, refers to an apparent restriction. However, we must not forget that despite its relative ‘cheapness’ it will accommodate high-end office space for globally operating financial service providers. Does the notion of austerity associated with the City mean that the financial sector is paying lip service to the moral critique it has been subjected to since the economic crisis by the wider public? And what does a cityscape that is open to ethical considerations, as called for by Pope Francis, look like? Is it one that is full of failed religious office towers? NOTES 1. Interview with a representative of Historic England who was involved in the planning process of the Pinnacle. The interview was conducted in the representative’s office on 5 February 2010. Historic England is a nondepartmental public body of the British Government that advises on the care of the historic environment in England. 2. See K. Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995). 3. C.M. Boyer, The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996). 4. R. Tavernor, Heron Tower: Environmental Statement, Townscape and Visual Assessment (Planning Document, 2005), p. 12. 5. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (Vatican City: Vatican Press, 2013), p. 48 [57]. 6. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, p. 61 [74]. 7. D. Boffey, ‘Campaigners fight to save London skyline from 230 more skyscrapers’ (29 March 2014), at 2014/mar/29/campaigners-fight-save-london-skyline (accessed 24 October 2014). 8. R. Tavernor, Heron Public Inquiry: Proof of Evidence (Planning Document, 2002), p. 9. 9. Tavernor, Heron Public Inquiry: Proof of Evidence, pp. 8– 9. 10. R. Tavernor, The Bishopsgate Tower: Environmental Statement, Townscape and Visual Assessment (Planning Document, 2006), p. 54. 11. Tavernor, The Tower: Environmental Statement, Townscape and Visual Assessment, p. 16. 12. G. Gassner, ‘Unfinished and unfinishable: London’s skylines’ (PhD dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2013).



13. M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 108. 14. B. Cole, Piero della Francesca: Tradition and Innovation in Renaissance Art (New York: HarperCollins, 1991). 15. A.M. Maetzke, Piero della Francesca (Milan: Silvana Editoriale Spa, 2013), p. 34. 16. Maetzke, Piero della Francesca, p. 34. 17. Cole, Piero della Francesca, p. 30. 18. Interview with an architectural historian and townscape consultant who was involved in the planning process of the Heron Tower. The interview was conducted in the consultant’s office on 3 February 2010. 19. Here, I refer, for example, to ‘The Towers Debate: Does London need more tall buildings?’, which was an event that was hosted by the Centre for London, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and New London Architecture (NLA) and took place at the Peacock Theatre on 2 June 2014. 20. See Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 21. W. Benjamin, ‘Capitalism as Religion’, in M. Bullock and M.W. Jennings (eds), Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 1: 1913–1926 (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), pp. 288– 91, on p. 288. 22. Ibid., p. 289. 23. Ibid., p. 288. 24. Ibid., pp. 288–9. 25. F. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 135. 26. Ibid., p. 44. 27. N. Dodd, The Social Life of Money (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), p. 144. 28. Dodd, The Social Life of Money, p. 45. See also N. Dodd, ‘Nietzsche’s Money’, Journal of Classical Sociology, 13:1 (2012), pp. 47–68, on p. 55. 29. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, p. 46. 30. Ibid., pp. 49 & 65. 31. Ibid., p. 65. 32. For a discussion of this interpretation see also G. Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2012). 33. Ibid., p. 132. 34. Dodd, The Social Life of Money, p. 159. 35. W. Hamacher, ‘Guilt History: Benjamin’s Sketch “Capitalism as Religion”’, Diacritics, 32:3–4 (2002), pp. 81 –106, on p. 85. 36. Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, p. 132. 37. E. Haslett, ‘The Stump is dead: Here’s everything we know about The Pinnacle, London’s next skyline-altering tower’, 3 November 2014, at



39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46.

47. 48. 49. 50. 51.

52. 53.

54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

187 (accessed 22 January 2015). See C. Willis, Form follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago (New York: Princeton Architectural Press). Willis argues that in the first half of the twentieth century market formulas produced characteristic urban forms and skylines in New York and Chicago. I want to add to Willis’ study that form does not only follow finance but that finance follows form, too. The list of different firms includes the main industries that currently rent office space in the nearby Heron Tower, which was completed in 2011. Dodd, The Social Life of Money, pp. 89 –90. Ibid., p. 91. See Hamacher, ‘Guilt History: Benjamin’s Sketch “Capitalism as religion”’. Benjamin, ‘Capitalism as Religion’, p. 289. Ibid., p. 289. Ibid. F. Nietzsche, ‘On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life’, in Untimely Meditations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 57 –123, on p. 111. Dodd, ‘Nietzsche’s Money’, pp. 57– 8. See also Dodd, The Social Life of Money, pp. 140–2. Ibid., p. 141. Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, pp. x –xi. Ibid., p. 179. It is in that way that we can understand Nietzsche’s notion of the will to power, which does not refer to the will to have power over someone – which is a reactive force – but which is defined by the power that ‘wills in the will’, as Deleuze puts it in Nietzsche and Philosophy, p. 79. Dodd, The Social Life of Money, p. 148. P. Inman, ‘China’s skyscraper craze “may herald economic crash”: Tall building boom may indicate impending disaster in China and India, claims report by Barclays Capital’ (11 January 2012), at http://www. (accessed 6 September 2014). See Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, pp. 48 [57]. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, p. 73. Ibid. On original sin see also F. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols and The AntiChrist (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 166. K. Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One (London: Penguin, 1990), p. 873. Ibid., p. 873. Ibid. See Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, p. 50 [59].



61. Oxford Economics, The Economic Outlook for London. December 2012, at ook-for-London-dec-2012.pdf (accessed 27 September 2013). 62. Email conversation with the townscape consultant who is involved in the design of the Austerity Tower on 9 June 2014.


Caricatures of Difference: The Changing Perception of Sikhs in London Political Cartoons Tahnia Ahmed

INTRODUCTION This chapter looks at the portrayal in political cartoons of the Sikh community in post-war Britain – especially in major cities such as London and Manchester – as a lens through which to examine changing attitudes towards religious diversity. After Partition between India and Pakistan in 1947, many Sikh men migrated to Britain, with the primary aim of seeking employment in order to save up income and return to India in a better financial position.1 Most were single males who found that they had to forgo the traditional turban and beard in order to secure employment. For many, to cut their hair and beards was an agonising decision since hair is connected to ideas of masculinity and strength. However, many Sikh men chose to shave their hair and abandon the turban rather than face the prospect of being unemployed and unable financially to support themselves and their families in India.2 As the Sikh community grew in size from the 1960s onwards, their perceptions of home and identity changed. With an increased sense of permanency many reclaimed the beard and turban, leading to a series of struggles for Sikh transport workers in London and other English cities to be able to wear the turban to work. The depiction of the turban in cartoons is used as a recurring trope to highlight the



‘otherness’ of the Sikh community in Britain. Looking through the lens of political cartoons, I argue that there is an evolution in the way they present Sikhs in relation to the wider British public, depicting the turban as a barrier to integration, a symbol of cultural and political subversion, and finally as a reference to power in postcolonial India. I also examine how Anglo-Saxon Britons reacted to the growing immigrant population and calls for more rights from the Sikh community. Due to the history of the Sikhs in the British Armed Forces in colonial India, the turban was already loaded with significance for many Britons, making it a crucial symbolic register for changing conceptions of national loyalty. These have been tested as the Anglo-Sikh community has become more established and called for greater rights. I argue that the cartoons ignore this history, which was a key theme in Sikh arguments for their status as loyal Britons. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TURBAN IN SIKHISM The establishment of the Khalsa by the final living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, at the end of the seventeenth century, summoned Sikhs to join the order through taking amrit – sweetened water stirred with a doubleedged sword. One of the requirements of Sikhs on joining the Khalsa is to promise to observe five things, commonly known as the Five Ks. The Five Ks include unshorn hair (kes), a comb (kangha), a sword (kirpan), a steel bangle (kara) and a pair of shorts (kachh). It is a personal choice whether a Sikh wishes to join the Khalsa and those that do not may still observe any or all of the Five Ks; often, unshorn hair and wearing the bangle are observed. Though it is not a religious requirement, the wearing of the turban has gained a prominent position (especially for males) deriving from the observance of unshorn hair, because it covers the hair in a tidy fashion. The turban also acts as a way to distinguish Sikhism from Hinduism, avoiding syncretism.3 It is important to appreciate the significance of the turban for Sikhs in order to understand why the community sought to fight for the right to wear it to work or on motorcycles, the source of two crucial disputes. For the orthodox male the turban is compulsory, and for another to try to remove it forcibly is treated as an insult. An assailant should be careful not to lay deliberate hands on either the uncut hair of a Sikh or his turban. Sikhs can act very directly when their own honour or the honour of the turban is impugned.4



Therefore, the turban and uncut hair is deemed an essential part of male Sikh identity which is closely protected. As we shall see below, the debate on whether the turban is a religious requirement, or a custom, formed part of the discussions in the struggle to be able to wear it without being subject to discrimination. It is worth noting at the outset that all of the cartoons depict Sikh males. In the cartoons discussed below, the image of the turbaned Sikh male conveys a sense of otherness from Anglo-Saxon Britons. Although Sikh women may (and do) wear the turban, it is not as common a practice as it is for male Sikhs. A practising female Sikh may keep her hair untrimmed but the image of an Indian woman with long, black hair is commonly associated with Indian women in general, rather than being specific to the Sikh female community. It is easier to depict a male Sikh but, intentionally or not, this presents Sikhism as a macho religion, allowing the religion to be associated with ideas of aggression and violence. However, despite the gender imbalance, I contend that the cartoons considered here are intended to reflect the wider Sikh community – regardless of gender, class or age – by virtue of the attitudes conveyed that display ignorance of the Sikh community and its diversity. The issue of the beard and turban for Sikh transport employees first came to national attention in 1959 when a Sikh bus conductor was not allowed to work wearing the turban by Manchester City Council because it ‘did not conform to existing conditions of service’.5 It was only when Sant Fateh Singh, a Sikh spiritual and political leader, visited Britain in 1966 that this particular case was resolved. He appealed for the ban on beards and turbans to be lifted. He reminded British politicians of the services that Sikhs had rendered to the British in India and abroad: 83,000 Sikhs ‘in beards and turbans’ had died for Britain in the Second World War. More pertinently, he argued that if Sikhs in beards and turbans could operate a tank they could certainly drive a bus or ring a bell without endangering the safety of passengers or causing an offence.6

Singh’s efforts resulted in the Manchester Transport Committee allowing Sikhs to wear the turban at work so long as it matched the colour of the uniform. However, the issue had not been resolved nationally and in the following year, a similar case appeared in Wolverhampton when Tarsem Singh Sandhu was suspended after



refusing to remove the beard and turban while performing his role as a bus conductor. By 1969, the case was followed both nationally and internationally with Sikhs marching to the British Embassy in New Delhi on 6 April to protest against the council’s decision. Eventually, the government intervened and persuaded the local council to lift the ban on 9 April 1969. These cases demonstrate how a segment of the wider British public were resistant to the changing definition of what it meant to be British: no longer did Britons necessarily fit the model of Caucasians with a shared Christian faith and cultural traditions. Instead, there was a strong Sikh community who wanted to be visible and were proud of their distinctive Sikh heritage. Whilst there was resistance to accepting the Sikh community as part of British society, the obverse was occurring within the Sikh community: many were proud to be working and living in Britain and saw no conflict between their faith and the country in which they lived.7 CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS AND LEGISLATION Owing to its large South Asian population, Southall in West London is often referred to as ‘Little India’. Southall received immigrants from diverse backgrounds, including many Sikh men from the Punjab, from 1948 onwards who found work at Woolf’s Rubber Company. Heathrow Airport and the surrounding areas of Southall were also areas where immigrants found employment.8 As Brian Keith Axel states, with ‘the movement of “Asian” men from Punjab to Southall came the transformation of those men from “immigrant” to “settler”’,9 thus demonstrating the centrality of employment in the identity of the Sikh immigrant. In this way, not only were the Sikh men primarily viewed as potential employees who were plugging the labour shortage in Britain at the time, but self-perception changed as employment engendered a sense of permanency and stability in their lives. However, the large numbers of immigrants entering Britain, especially from the Commonwealth, caused growing concern about the changing demographics within the country. One of the ways these concerns were reflected was in the changes in parliamentary legislation regarding immigrants. The 1948 British Nationality Act, which for the first time defined British citizenship,10 stipulated that ‘[e]very person who under this Act is a citizen of the British United



Kingdom and Colonies . . . shall by virtue of that citizenship have the status of a British subject’.11 Significantly, this meant any British subject – including those from former colonies – had the right to enter Britain, to vote in elections and even stand for Parliament. However, by 1962 the Commonwealth Immigration Act put in place restrictions for those coming from the Commonwealth seeking to live in the UK. Immigrants would now be issued job vouchers providing they met certain provisions, such as already having secured employment before entering the country. The alteration from automatic subject to one who now had to vie for such status illustrates the changing attitudes to Commonwealth citizens after the end of the Empire. The Sikh tensions looked at here were part of a much larger discourse on immigration. With imminent restrictions on immigration coming into force in the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act, many wives of Sikh immigrants came to Britain to join their husbands and established their families here.12 Consequently, many of the men felt a renewed connection to their Sikh faith and identity, leading them to grow their beards and don the turban once more.13 TURBANS AND TRANSPORT However, this posed problems between the men and their employers, as illustrated in David Myers’ cartoon (no caption) (Evening Standard, 4 July 1968). This image is one of a number from the 1960s specifically commenting on the plight of male Sikh transport workers who wanted to be able to wear the turban and the beard as part of their uniform. Myers’ cartoon shows a lone protestor holding a placard which reads ‘LONDON TRANSPORT WORKERS UNITE! BAN SIKH TURBANS!’ In this image, Myers seems to be challenging the reader to question what it means to be ‘British’ and more specifically, how Londoners should react to a more diverse capital. It is ironic that the protester wears a bobbly hat on his head as well as his work uniform. There are placards behind the protester reading ‘BIAFRA 400,000 CHILDREN DYING . . .’14 and ‘VIETNAM SLAUGHTER CONTINUES . . . ’, highlighting the triviality of the protestor’s call to ‘BAN SIKH TURBANS!’. Myers seems to imply that pursuing such a cause is futile and he lends support to Sikh London Transport workers who desire to wear the turban at work. Published in a tabloid, the



cartoon illustrates how the issue of turbans on public transport had become controversial on a national scale. The key theme in the images of this period seems to be how the turban in and of itself is perceived as the barrier to integration for Sikh men. Significantly, these images were published in a context of high racial tension. Writer Dilip Hiro speaks about the racial conflict between white and Asian youth gangs existing since the mid-1960s. Antagonising the situation further was the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968 which was legislated in response to the thousands of British Asians who were fleeing East Africa and attempting to enter Britain. Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech was delivered in April 1968 leading to racial clashes in many parts of the country.15 Powell was Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West at the time, but there was shared consensus across the political parties on immigration and the way some ethnic communities were viewed. In his speech, Powell referenced Labour MP John Stonehouse’s views on the way Sikh communities specifically were trying to ‘maintain customs inappropriate in Britain’16 because of their efforts to wear the turban to work. Thus, as hostilities between the Sikh community and the (AngloSaxon) British community grew in tandem, the turban and beard became symbolic of those tensions. Indeed, cartoons from the 1960s and 1970s share a common theme of hostility towards Sikh men wearing beards and, especially, the turban, with the issue posed as a battle of Sikh vs British identity. Keith Waite’s ‘Actually I’m wearing my turban underneath it’ (The Sun, 4 July 1968) illustrates how eager the bus driver is to impress upon the wider British public and his colleagues that he is committed to both his British and Sikh identities in equal measure (Plate 12.1). The image depicts two recognisable London red buses, with the drivers at the wheel. It is ironic that the Sikh bus driver is wearing a bearskin – an iconic British symbol – whilst the other bus driver is wearing a cowboy hat; however, he is white and therefore ostensibly has no need to prove his commitment to his British identity. The cowboy hat seems to make a wider point that, though this is an American symbol, it is acceptable because being British or American is contained within the generic ‘Anglosphere’ – so long as one is not ‘coloured’. Implicit in the cartoons is the idea of a social contract: the Sikh community must abide by the rules in order to be accepted by the



wider community. Consequently, the turban is turned into a litmus test for belonging and integration and if Sikhs wish not to observe the rules, they cannot expect to belong nor be considered to belong. Again, the London red bus is portrayed as a battleground between Sikh employees and their Caucasian colleagues. Stanley Franklin’s ‘I told you one thing would lead to another’ (Daily Mirror, 11 April 1969) depicts a red bus with a domed roof and two Sikhs on the bus wearing turbans – one is driving the vehicle and the other is a bus conductor. Two Caucasian men in the corner of the image watch as the bus drives past them. The caption implies that the Caucasian men in the cartoon (whose uniforms and caps suggest that they are bus drivers) had the foresight to see that once Sikh transport workers were given the right to wear the turban and beard to work, they would soon demand more rights and privileges, culminating in the demise of British values, symbolised by a domed double-decker bus, echoing the architecture of a Sikh gurdwara. This idea is repeated in another Stanley Franklin image, ‘It makes a change from Z-cars’ (Daily Mirror, 29 January 1970), which depicts a turbaned Sikh police officer riding an elephant. Both the elephant and the domed bus convey a sense of the familiar giving way to something alien. An iconic British symbol, the red bus imaginatively undergoes a radical change in which it loses its British character. The iconography of a turbaned police officer riding an elephant rather than driving a car reinforces the point that the police force (considered a core part of a developed society) is being trampled on. I would argue that these images go further than simply presenting the turban as a barrier to integration, as in the images above. They may indicate a reluctant acceptance of the turban as a new cultural reality, yet they also give voice to an underlying fear that this acceptance will lead the Sikh community or other minority groups to demand more rights, indelibly altering the cultural landscape.17 The turban is presented as an icon of subversion denoting a defiant, culturally and politically charged, statement of difference that is not ‘merely’ a sign of personal religious devotion. The turban is read in an increasing number of cartoons as an external statement subverting British society at its most fundamental level, and threatening to transform it into something foreign and not British at all.



MOTORCYCLES AND THE TURBAN Another major event in Anglo-Sikh history was the demand for Sikh motorcycle riders to be allowed to ride without a helmet. In 1973, the Conservative Minister for Transport, John Peyton, received requests from the Sikh community to exempt Sikhs from wearing a helmet on motorcycles. Peyton did not acquiesce because he feared that exemptions would make legislation difficult to enforce and because of the strong public support for the legislation.18 Keith Waite’s ‘No, I’m not a Sikh – it’s just that I wasn’t wearing a crash helmet’ (Daily Mirror, 11 September 1973) shows why there was such support: the public saw the issue as primarily one about safety and not as a tug of war between religion and the law. The image portrays two men lying in hospital beds: one has a beard and turban on, whilst the other has a bandage wrapped round his head in the style of a turban. Despite the safety risks that Waite was attempting to highlight, many Sikh motor cycle riders still rode without a helmet after the law came into effect.19 Mac’s ‘And we can’t do a damned thing – the driver’s wearing a crash helmet!’ (Daily Mail, 11 September 1973) comments on the situation the police were facing with those Sikh men who were determined to ride motorcycles without a helmet (Plate 12.2). It shows a police car chasing a motorcycle on which a helmeted rider carries 11 turbaned Sikhs in a circus-style act. These cartoons suggest that the fears conveyed in Stanley Franklin’s cartoon were not completely unfounded: the Sikh community were demanding further rights, having acquired the right to be able to wear the turban to work. When the issue of a helmet exemption for Sikhs was presented to Parliament, one of the key questions asked was whether the turban is an essential part of Sikh faith.20 Furthermore, a key point raised in both the Commons and the Lords debates was the longstanding history of service of Sikhs in the British armed forces.21 In much the same way that the issue of Sikh military contributions was used to make the case for Sikh transport workers to wear the turban, the same case was made here. ‘In battle time, the Sikh has never been called upon to discard his turban in favour of the war hat or tin helmet worn by other soldiers under battle fire.’22 The Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act was enacted in November 1976 exempting Sikhs who wear the turban from having to wear a helmet.



A critical message to take from these cartoons is how immigration does not end as soon as someone arrives at their destination; it is a two-way process involving the ‘host society’, as well as the immigrants themselves. Both the Sikh community and AngloSaxon British society were rediscovering and reinterpreting their ideas of identity. Under Empire rule, Sikhs were associated with loyalty and respect,23 especially in dangerous situations, where the Sikh soldier could be expected to sacrifice his life for Britain. The fact that the Sikh community had played such a critical role in British India through their military service was used as a powerful tool in recognising the contribution the community had made, well before there was a sizeable contingent living in Britain. However, this changed when this contribution was brought into the domestic sphere where ethnic pride was no longer encouraged or accepted by British society. Perhaps because their contribution was largely outside of mainland Britain before Sikhs immigrated in large numbers, Britons had to keep being reminded that Sikhs had played a prominent role in British history. TURBANS AND TERRORISM During the 1980s, the perception of Sikhs changed dramatically. The assassination of India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by a Sikh bodyguard, projected an image of violence and terrorism. There was political agitation in India for an independent Punjab, known as Khalistan, which resulted in the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984 by the Indian army. Magnified by the media, the events of 1984 led to ideas of Sikhs taking their martial background to extremism and terrorism.24 Michael Cummings’s ‘The good news is that our next war will be fought in outer space – the bad news is that other people’s wars will be fought in the streets of Britain’ (Daily Express, 13 June 1984) is a satirical take on the intercommunal violence in Britain as a result of the events that were taking place in India.25 The caption implies an ‘us’ and ‘them’ division in which the events of India belongs to ‘them’ (Indians in India) and not ‘us’ (Britons, whatever their ethnic background). Margaret Thatcher and a policeman look on bemusedly at the ensuing violence between Hindus and Sikhs, the latter two in army tanks with the words ‘Death to Hindus!’ and ‘Death to Sikhs!’



written on them. The sandbags that protect Thatcher and the police officer are a figurative way of emphasising the barriers of difference between the Caucasian British community and the British Indian community; whilst the Caucasian British community is shown as meek and pacifist in this situation, the British Indian community is shown as militant and violent. The battle takes place in the capital, on one of its most important roads: Downing Street (as can be seen by the street sign above Thatcher’s head) against a backdrop of the bullet-riddled Houses of Parliament in the process of being destroyed. The image is meant to shock and raise the question: ‘If the Sikh and Hindu community in Britain are so concerned with events that are taking place in a different country, are they truly British?’ By showing the destruction of the very heart of British democracy by the actions of the British Indian community, the answer Cummings wants the reader to arrive at is an emphatic ‘no’. Despite the message of this cartoon, the reality was that by the 1980s a growing number of the Sikh community were born in Britain26 and the Sikh community had ‘changed from an immigrant community to a minority group’.27 Thus, by the time of the publication of Cummings’s cartoon in 1984, the majority of Sikhs had accepted their stay in Britain as more permanent and yet, at the same time, were deeply affected by the political events taking place in India. In this context, many within the Sikh community were divided over their own heritage – were they tied primarily to India or Khalistan? Simultaneously, were they tied to Britain, despite the racial discrimination they experienced?28 TURBANS AND POWER The final image I examine here is Peter Brookes’s cartoon, (no caption) (The Times, 29 July 2010), which was published 26 years after Cummings’ cartoon above. In the intervening years, there is almost no archival material directly relating to Sikhs in Britain, illustrating how the community were no longer in the national media spotlight. Moreover, Brookes’s cartoon is not about Sikhs in Britain per se. Instead, the cartoon highlights the otherness of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in India in contrast to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Cameron



sits beside a red ministerial box synonymous with the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement of the annual budget. The red box has two coins inside it. There are undertones of post-colonial anxiety in the image – portraying a Britain which once ruled a vast empire now asking its former colony for financial help. Whereas Singh is fully dressed, Cameron is dirty, wearing a vest and patched shorts and is begging, emphasising Britain’s subservient position in contrast to India. Singh walks past Cameron, his body language demonstrating indifference. Here, the Sikh emanates power and dominance over the Anglo-Saxon, in contrast the previous images discussed. The lack of cartoons relating to the Sikh community in Britain in the preceding years shows that the issue of the turban was no longer a nationally controversial issue owing to an acceptance of Sikhs as a part of British society. Rather, what Brookes’s cartoon shows is how the negative image of the troublesome Sikh with his un-British demands has been replaced by the prominent and influential figure of Manmohan Singh – the first Sikh Prime Minister of India.29 CONCLUSION To differing degrees, the cartoons in this chapter all deal with questions of race, religion and nationality. These are very sensitive topics and, unsurprisingly for political cartoons, irony and satire are used as vehicles for serious commentary on contemporary society. The identity of the target audience is significant when analysing the cartoons. London’s landmarks are often depicted as sites for the battle between Sikh immigrants and the wider public. There seems to be an implicit assumption that the typical reader is Anglo-Saxon, or at least assimilated into British society, and shares the newspaper/cartoonist’s ideology. Through guiding the reader to view the situation from a certain angle, through subtle rather than overt iconography, the key function of most of the cartoons examined is to help the reader to think more deeply about opinions they already hold. For example, Stanley Franklin’s caption, ‘I told you one thing would lead to another’ seems to echo the fears of the reader, yet the image is absurd: a domed bus is perhaps not what the reader had in mind when thinking about the consequences of allowing Sikh transport workers to wear the turban. If the function



of cartoons is to make the reader think more about issues pertaining to the subject of the image, the lack of archival material between 1985 to 2009 is one way of understanding how ideas of nation and home have changed in relation to the Anglo-Sikh community since the publication of the first cartoon looked at above in 1968. Whereas the reader then was led to question popular beliefs about the turban and the impact it would have on British society, now such questions are seldom raised in cartoons and, indeed, it would be considered racist to do so. For example, it is a common occurrence to see a turbaned bus driver or to see identifiably Sikh men playing in the England cricket team. Though the turban has lost the negative connotations once attached to it, it is perhaps true that it has also lost the positive connotations it had during the British Empire where it was connected to ideas of military bravery. The turban is seen more as a sign of permissible difference and, in turn, the Sikh community is no longer one to be feared or questioned simply because of the appearance of its members. NOTES 1. A.W. Helweg, Sikhs In England: The Development of a Migrant Community (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 21. 2. Ibid., p. 2. 3. D. Beetham, Transport and Turbans: A Comparative Study in Local Politics (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 10. 4. W.H. McLeod, Sikhism (London: Penguin, 1997), p. 212. 5. Beetham, Transport and Turbans, p. 18. 6. D. Hiro, Black British, White British (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), p. 128. 7. Beetham, Transport and Turbans, p. 85. 8. Brian Keith Axel, The Nation’s Tortured Body: Violence, Representation, and the Formation of a Sikh ‘Diaspora’ (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), p. 165. 9. Axel, The Nation’s Tortured Body, p. 164. 10. I.R.G. Spencer, British Immigration Policy Since 1939: The Making of MultiRacial Britain (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 54. 11. British Nationality Act 1948, 30 July 1948, at http://www.legislation. (accessed 20 October 2014). 12. Helweg, Sikhs In England, p. 21. 13. S.M. Poulter, Ethnicity, Law and Human Rights: The English Experience (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 291.



14. The Republic of Biafra was established on 30 May 1967. Seceding from Nigeria, Biafra encountered war and famine during its short existence, causing millions of deaths. It reintegrated into Nigeria on 15 January 1970. 15. D. Hiro, Black British, White British (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), p. 176. 16. Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, 20 April 1968, at html (accessed 20 October 2014). 17. In a way, this was true. After the Wolverhampton case was resolved in 1969, there were calls from other minority groups to be granted rights such as Muslim female bus conductors being allowed to wear headscarves. Beetham, Transport and Turbans, p. 64. 18. Poulter, Ethnicity, Law and Human Rights, p. 292. 19. Ibid. 20. House of Lords debate, 4 October 1976, Motor-Cycle Crash-Helmets (Religious Exemption) Bill, at 1976/oct/04/motor-cycle-crash-helmets-religious#column_1056 (accessed 20 October 2014). 21. Poulter, Ethnicity, Law and Human Rights, p. 296. 22. S. Bidwell and The Sikh Missionary Society, The Turban Victory (Southall, Middx.: The Sikh Missionary Society, 1987), p. 10. 23. ‘Recognizing the militaristic qualities of the Sikhs, the English classified them as a martial race and incorporated them into the Indian Army. Their loyalty to the crown was crucial for the British to maintain control in South Asia’. A.W. Helweg, ‘Sikh Identity in England: Its Changing Nature’, in J.T. O’Connell, M. Israel and W.G. Oxtoby (eds), Sikh History and Religion in the Twentieth Century (Toronto: Centre for South Asian Studies University of Toronto, 1988), p. 359. 24. Poulter, Ethnicity, Law and Human Rights, p. 283. 25. Ibid., p. 283. 26. Helweg, ‘Sikh Identity in England’, p. 359. 27. Ibid., p. 370. 28. Ibid., p. 371. 29. Although this is positive, I do believe that this is also partly to do with the Sikh community being replaced by the Muslim community being viewed in much the same way as Sikhs were in the 1980s. This falls outside the scope of this chapter but it is interesting to note the parallels between the way the burqa and the turban are portrayed in cartoons, such as Matt, Daily Telegraph, 17 September 2013 at Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=99612. Today, terrorism is often closely associated with the Muslim community. See M. Rowson, The Guardian, 9 August 2014 at rc=CalmView.Catalog&id=MRD0512.



Building and Becoming: The Shahporan Mosque and the Unfolding of Muslim Visual Identity in London Shahed Saleem

The mosque in Britain has a complex history spanning over a century, beginning with a converted house in Liverpool in 1887 and the first purpose-built mosque in Woking, Surrey in 1889 (Plate 13.1). However, the mosque as an architectural symbol actually appeared in London more than 100 years earlier in a pavilion in Kew Gardens. This small folly was a product of its time, with the eighteenth century witnessing a growing fascination with the ‘exotic’ fuelled through imperial exploration and exploitation. Its architect, Sir William Chambers, was well embedded within the colonial structures of power. Born in Gothenburg to a Scottish merchant in 1723, Chambers travelled in India and China with the Swedish East India Company before studying at the E´cole des Arts in Paris, followed by five years in Italy studying drawing, the buildings of antiquity and the neo-classicism of the day. Chambers was one of two architects (the other being Robert Adam) appointed by the Crown in the Office of Works. His Moorish Mosque of 1762 was a representation of Islamic architecture, distilled into a garden folly, complete with a central dome and two flanking minarets in a loosely Ottoman style.1 This was the first mosque in Britain, although it was not actually a mosque. It was the image of a mosque, a representation of Islam



set alongside a series of other representations of exotic global cultures, including a Chinese pagoda. Chambers’ work at Kew seems to have been a menagerie of styles, from the exotic to the more conventionally classical, and his mosque offered one of the ways in which the world beyond Europe could be understood and consumed. As a researcher and designer of mosques myself, my question is whether Chambers’ Orientalism, which collapsed Muslim culture into a singular visual artefact, is simply characteristic of colonial practice, or whether diasporic Muslims, who settled in Britain after World War II, have revived this strategy in the real mosques that they have built. I intend to explore this question by combining an overview of Muslim architecture in Britain with an appraisal of a building that I have designed: the Shahporan Mosque on Hackney Road in London. THE ORIGINS OF MUSLIM ARCHITECTURE IN BRITAIN Whilst references exist for a ‘London Temporary Mosque’ near Regent’s Park in the late nineteenth century, the first purpose-built place of Muslim worship was at Woking in 1889: the Shah Jahan Mosque. As with the pavilion at Kew, this building was coincidentally also designed by a William I. Chambers, this time a local architect with a modest practice. Like the folly at Kew, this was a manifestation of the mosque as an exotic and wholly non-European building, with Mughal domes, Mamluk parapets and florid decoration. This combinatory approach to the design of a Muslim building demonstrates, ‘another kind of authority, that of the Western architect who sifts through the archive and recombines his findings to new effect’. Through the resulting visual repertoire, the Shah Jahan, ‘presents a studied synopsis or distillate of knowledge about some object imagined as utterly other’.2 The mosque was built as part of an educational institution, the Oriental Institute, set up by the Hungarian-born linguist Gottlieb Leitner, who had spent most of his working life as an educator in colonial India. The aim of the institute was to teach ‘Asians living in Europe and Europeans who wanted to study or travel in the East’. Leitner’s idea was that Asians could study in England, ‘without coming into any sort of contamination . . . with European manners and customs . . . . This mosque therefore offered a further insulation



through staging a confirmation of absolute cultural difference.’3 The Oriental Institute was set up on the outer edges of London, where a certain kind of exotic fantasy could be played out. As with the mosque-folly at Kew, here again the mosque is the encapsulation of Otherness, intended to transport visitors, Muslim or not, into a wholly other time and place. Reinforcing this idea of the mosque as stage was the fact that Leitner did not intend his mosque to be a place where the requisite five daily prayers would be held in congregation, and it was used instead as a showpiece for visitors, some of whom might well have used it for performing prayers.4 The settlement and growth of Muslim populations in Britain was markedly different between the early and late twentieth century. Before the independence of India in 1947, Muslim communities were small and centred around ports, as migrants worked in the shipping trade of the British Empire. They were mostly single men, who might stay for a period of time before moving on, or returning to their places of origin. There was also a continuous flow of educated Indian Muslims through London who studied or worked in the colonial administration and, likewise, formed a transient community. During this period only two purpose-built mosques were created: one in the south London suburb of Southfields in 1925, and another in Cardiff to serve the mostly Yemeni Muslims working on the shipping lanes. William I. Chambers reportedly prepared designs for another mosque in central London, described as being in an ‘Indian style’, thus seemingly continuing the visual strategy employed at Woking, which was never realised.5 POST-WAR MUSLIM MIGRATION TO BRITAIN After World War II, Indian independence and the establishment of the Commonwealth, migration from former colonies took place on such a scale as to change the social and cultural make up of Britain. In 1951, the estimate for Britons of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent stood at 5,000, whereas by 1991 the figure had reached 640,000.6 Muslim migrants came from a few specific areas, namely the north Indian state of Gujarat, the Pakistani states of Punjab and Azad Kashmir, and from Sylhet in Bangladesh. There were a number of social and economic processes at play that resulted in these migratory



networks being established. Migrants settled in urban areas across the UK, following employment opportunities and looking to consolidate social and communal networks. Consequently, Muslim communities emerged in the inner cities of Britain’s main industrial conurbations; London, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire, and Clydeside in Scotland. A number of factors combined to produce these settlement patterns, such as labour requirements, cheap housing, chain migration networks, along with social support and ‘shared linguistic, cultural and religious traditions’.7 As the growing Muslim communities started establishing their religious and social spaces, so they began to re-shape and re-signify the urban landscape they found. Communal structures from places of origin were replicated in their new environments. For example, the Muslims of Bharuch, Gujarat, already lived in India in considerably self-contained enclaves, a pattern which was repeated, and indeed intensified, in Blackburn, with chain migration reproducing village and kin networks.8 It was the arrival of families in the 1960s that changed the nature of these early settler communities. Previously, migrants from different places of origin and thus varying ethnic and cultural backgrounds, lived together, often sharing boarding houses and religious facilities.9 It was the reuniting of families that led to the gradual separation of multi-cultural Muslim diasporic communities into ‘ethnic settlements’, and it was from within these distinct cultural and ethnic groupings that their religious institutions started to form. What emerged at the end of the 1970s was therefore a patchwork of communities, each impressing its particular national, ethnic, linguistic and doctrinal character on the organisations it created.10 This was the cultural context from which the mosque, as the primary social institution, emerged in Britain post-1960, its role being as much a place of practical support and cultural comfort, as of religious provision. ‘These mosques were primarily concerned with the promotion of worship and religious life, the encouragement of fraternal links in Muslim communities, the provision of assistance and moral support for individuals . . . and the improvement of social, cultural and educational conditions.’11 The result was that the handful of mosques that existed in Britain up to 1960 snowballed over the decades to follow.



The mosques that were established in the early post-war years were rudimentary operations, formed mostly from converted houses or other buildings which were adapted to serve a new religious function. A mosque could be created with the most elemental of alterations, in essence the opening up of rooms to form prayer halls, where congregants could perform the prayer in rows, facing Makkah. This way of creating mosques through the conversion of an existing building was the prevalent method through which mosques were initially made by new Muslim communities. It was usually later on, after mosques had been established for some years and the communities had grown, that these buildings might be extended further or replaced with a purpose-built mosque, either on the same site if possible, or nearby. Through the proliferation of conversions and new buildings which spread across the country from the 1970s, a Muslim architecture started to emerge in Britain. These new buildings provided the opportunity to deploy architectural symbolism and religious imagery that could clearly denote them as Muslim places of worship. INTERPRETING THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF THE DIASPORA MOSQUE From a handful of mosques in Britain at the end of World War II, in 2015 there were an estimated 1,500 mosques, and a Muslim population of almost 3 million. Whilst most mosques have been formed through the conversion of existing buildings, around 200 have been purpose-built. It is these, along with some of the more elaborate conversions, where physical and visual adaptations have taken place, which have resulted in an architectural and visual culture of Islam in Britain. Certain symbolic strategies and visual tropes have become the established pattern of mosque design, whereby commonly recognised symbols from Islamic architectural history have been repeatedly and continuously deployed, in particular the dome and minaret, alongside a variety of other visual references (Plate 13.2). Do these buildings revive the Orientalist approach, continuing the process of reducing and simplifying Muslim culture into stereotyped images, stripped of complexity and contemporaneity, in the same way that the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century examples did? Or, does this new Muslim



architecture of the late twentieth century, whilst dressed as an exotic Orientalist vision, articulate the aspirations of marginalised diasporic communities? Put another way, have Muslim diasporas, once Orientalised through visual tropes devised by colonisers, internalised and consented to this depiction and reproduced that practice? Are we witnessing a process of ‘self-Orientalisation’ or a re-empowering of the subaltern voice?12 Criticism of the aesthetics of the diasporic Muslim mosque in Britain, and indeed northern Europe more widely, has become fairly widespread, and has been variously described as the architecture of homesickness, imitation culture,13 or as ‘a kind of barbarian Orientalism’ and ‘garish syncretism’, designed by ‘underpaid jobbing architects’ who are ‘dimly recalling Muslim culture in the SubContinent’.14 In 2002, the architectural critic of a national newspaper wrote, ‘Why are there no great British mosques?’15 He considered Woking Mosque the only real expression of a credible Muslim architecture in the country, with the mosques that followed failing to reach any criteria of architectural merit, often being, ‘no more than brick boxes with minarets and domes applied like afterthoughts? Why are the new mosques . . . so determinedly glum?’ It was a question that came back in the same paper a few years later, when a commentator lamented that, ‘despite the huge number of new mosques being built, few reach beyond the level of flimsy imitation’.16 A major new mosque in the German city of Cologne, designed by ¨ hm as a contemporary interpretation of traditional Ottoman Paul Bo mosque architecture, was critiqued by the academic Nebahat Avcioglu as perpetuating ‘the worn-out Orientalist cliche´s of Islam as either unchangingly distinct from the “West” or identical everywhere in the “East” . . .’.17 She argued that this approach ‘only serves an ideological end: the representation of identity which traps Muslim communities in a perpetual state of “otherness”, foreclosing change and distorting reality’.18 The salient point that Avcioglu makes is that mosque architecture as a new visual symbol in the heart of European cities has become a site of contestation between diasporic Muslims and indigenous populations. In this tension over architectural symbols, for example, the minaret becomes, ‘the site of dispute between those who are for or against the mosque’.19



Following this line of thought, features such as minarets and domes become evidence of the inability of Muslim society to integrate within a modern and enlightened Europe. Instead, these symbols denote an architecture – and thus a community – fixed in a pre-modern time, unable to adapt to a contemporary world. When the Regent’s Park Mosque was completed in 1977, Architectural Review ran a feature on it that made precisely this comparison between Muslim, Oriental architecture versus progressive Christian forms: The Muslim religion is based on acceptance of a set of eternal truths. A thousand and more years ago the accepters of these truths worked out a set of architectural forms which embodied them – and this was it: there was no motive to depart from those forms . . . . By contrast, in Christianity, an unchanging Divine Truth enters into a continuous dialogue with the changing secular world and this gives rise to a culture which is not static but evolving. As a consequence, the Christian tradition was able to accept Modern Architecture . . . The Islamic tradition could not do this: there could be no corresponding dialogue: its forms had to survive intact and . . . be tacked on to buildings shaped by a different approach. It is this difference in cultural attitude which gives modern Islam such a flimsy look in Western eyes and why it is so difficult for us to shake off associations with Turkish Delight and Ali Baba.

The fundamental flaw with this view of Islamic architecture is that it is somehow founded on a set of original forms which were authentically embedded in a religious truth. Rather, Islamic architecture has been a continuous series of adaptations and inventions across time and place, driven by the specifics of culture rather than by an ahistorical religious understanding. The editorial does, however, hit on a useful point. Whilst the design of the mosque is not palatable from a Western viewpoint, it probably is exactly what the Muslim users needed, as this was the visual language with which they were able to identify: we can see that a Mosque which would have ‘represented’ Islam in the sense of giving Westerners a point of entry into Islamic belief and thought would not have made its users feel at home – and would not, in any case, have won the competition.20

The Review was partly correct. The clients for Regent’s Park Mosque did expressly want a building that would be recognisable as a Muslim place of worship, and in fact they had preferred a much more



historicist design by an Egyptian architect than the winning design by Sir Frederick Gibberd, but were obliged to abide by the decision of the jury, led by one of the UK’s eminent modern architects and head of the London County Council architectural department, Sir Robert Mathews. These debates around, and critiques of, the purpose-built mosques emerging in Britain in significant numbers from the late 1970s onwards, suggest that they are trapped in a perseverating condition where a repertoire of historical signs are repeated in ever more ad hoc, convoluted forms. The resulting architecture is critiqued as enforcing a sense of alienation and otherness of the Muslim diaspora, and of reinforcing the fears and anxiety felt by those who oppose the growing visibility of the Muslim presence. Conversely, so the argument goes, the Muslim diaspora needs, and is reliant upon, the very simplicity and recognisability of these signs to be able to selfidentify as a Muslim community and feel that their place of worship is properly and fully Muslim. Herein lies the rub. The argument in favour of these historical archetypes is that these are integral signifiers of Muslim society and culture and, as such, to omit or reconfigure them would be to compromise or lose something of the identity of the diasporic community. The question is: why has the diasporic Muslim identity become so deeply entwined with the replication of a limited palette of architectural imagery? To start delving into this question, it is worth reflecting on the relationship between migrant Muslim diasporic communities within a longer view of Muslim history. THE DIASPORA AND MUSLIM HISTORY The past is charged in a particular way for diasporic communities. Colonialism and migration have left them disrupted from their historical and cultural traditions, and new points of connection have to be made to provide points of anchorage and forms of identity. Religion offers a series of explanatory frameworks, and provides a sustaining meta-narrative, rooting groups and individuals to a certain image of the past. Given the complex history of Islam, covering a wide geographical scope and some 14 centuries, diasporic communities attempt to connect to various points within this history, according to the narratives and myths that circulate between and



within them. For second-generation Muslims, often born in the UK, connections with places and cultures of origin are more distant, even remote. As such, their points of connection with Muslim history can often be quite different those of the parent generation. For Muslim diasporas, whether first or second generation, Islamic history is crucial, and how that history is controlled and told, and how it is then consumed and used, is at the crux of their identity. The diasporic mosque emerges from within this consciousness and is one of the key cultural mechanisms through which this history is mediated. It is part of a wider diasporic strategy of replicating and reinventing a Muslim social praxis that has been ruptured through the colonial and migratory process. The mosque’s ability to push its boundaries by experimenting with its own visual signifiers is thus reduced, because of the fear of destabilising identity. It is within this context that I designed the Shahporan Mosque. As I hope to show, this building seeks to offer an alternative articulation of Muslim architecture in Britain, and potentially signify a shift in the visual strategies that the diaspora mosque can employ. Rootedness and innovation need not be opposing forces. UNPACKING THE SHAHPORAN MOSQUE I set up my architectural practice in the East End borough of Tower Hamlets in the early 2000s. It was a vibrant area, with a mixture of well-established, white, working-class residents, Bangladeshi Muslims and more recently arrived young people rubbing shoulders. From the start of my practice I was involved in mosque design work. One of my first projects was to draw up proposals for the redevelopment of a mosque in south London. Through word of mouth within the local Bangladeshi community, I was introduced to the Shahporan Mosque on Hackney Road, who wanted to redevelop and extend their housemosque. They had tried unsuccessfully to gain planning permission for a new building to the rear of the house-mosque, which fronted a side street as the house was on a corner plot. My task was to redesign the scheme to extend the mosque and attempt to gain planning permission. The brief that the mosque committee gave me was simple: create as much floor space as possible to accommodate the burgeoning congregation, who had to pray on the street on Fridays due to lack of space. The mosque committee



made no specific request for a ‘spiritual’ space, or to convey a certain identity or statement about the mosque or Islam. The extension was simply seen as a practical requirement. What I did with this building was, therefore, largely up to me, as long as I delivered the maximum amount of prayer space that was possible on the site. My relationship to the project was multi-layered. I was appointed as the architect and therefore the design ‘expert’, while at the same time as a secondgeneration migrant Muslim myself, I had a vested interest in the identity that the visual language of the mosque articulated. My proposal was to approach the whole facade as a single sign, as the space in which these multiple narratives would take place (Plate 13.3). The facade is therefore treated as a large pattern, the source for which is taken from tile work found on a complex of palaces from thirteenth-century central Anatolia. By sampling and copying references from disparate historical Islamic sources, the design process followed the diasporic tradition of borrowing historical touchstones. The key difference for me, however, is that the pattern was not recreated whole or intact, claiming an uninterrupted or immutable continuity with Islamic history. Instead, the pattern is enlarged so that only its corner and parts of the top and side appear on the facade. The rest of the tile pattern has to be imagined as occurring outside the frame of the facade. In this way, the idea of history as something that can be preserved and replicated is replaced with the idea of history as a process, with imperfections and absences, where narratives which are temporally and geographically distant go through a process of re-creation each time they are invoked in a new time and place. A metal mesh is applied in between the main stone pattern, which unifies the facade into one composition, and allows light to pass through to the windows (Plate 13.4). This idea of a perforated screen relates to traditional mashrabiyya fretwork which is prolific in historic Islamic architecture. The pattern of the fretwork on Shahporan is a replication of the fretwork found on the windows of the 1889 Woking Mosque. In this way, a visual language is referenced from another British mosque, thus creating a dialogue within British Islamic history, and so detaching itself from a reliance on more distant geographies (Plate 13.5). Therefore, the visual strategies used in the Shahporan Mosque, for me, suggest that a process of cultural self-sufficiency can be possible for Muslims in Britain. This self-sufficiency, for me,



is through an architectural detachment from the mythical place of origins, that is to say an imagined authentic Muslim world. The act of borrowing visual references is by now a tradition of British Muslim architecture, so I intend to continue this act to remain ‘part of’ this architectural trajectory, and therefore part of the ‘community’. However, my agency lies in where I choose to borrow from, which in this case is from British architecture that has already carried out its own act of translation from the ‘exotic’. In this way, through its materiality and within its urban context, I have attempted to embed the Shahporan Mosque in its contemporary environment. My aim for the mosque was for it to belong to its own time and place, to be a provocative presence signifying change and adaptation, and to reflect London’s culture as a dynamic, ever-changing urban and social matrix. CONCLUSION Let us return to our central question: how should we consider the replication of idealised Islamic symbols in mosque architecture in Britain, first by Orientalists, then by diaspora Muslims? As a design professional and a second generation migrant Muslim, I find myself in something of a perpetual paradox. As a designer, the practice of replicating historic Islamic architecture in the production of mosques in Britain through the 1980s and 1990s is deeply unsatisfactory. It signifies that Muslim diasporas are tied to a literal reading of a mythic Islamic history, and are unable to articulate an identity that reflects their contemporary reality. It also demonstrates a reduction of the complex and heterogenous history of Islam into a series of simple archetypes, and so as a design professional, I find that I concur with the self-Orientalisation thesis; that Muslims have been, through the design of their mosques, reducing themselves from a complex and multi-layered patchwork of communities into a simple and uncomplicated whole. However, from a perspective of community empowerment, the creation of these mosques in the raw and unschooled vision of their users represents a powerful statement of identity and presence. Their architecture has an added power because of the offence it causes educated and expert vision through its lack of sophistication. It has resulted in what we might call a ‘folk architecture’, positioned outside



of mainstream architectural aesthetics and production, displaying characteristics akin with folk art. For example, its marginal status and formal qualities are ‘shaped by the use of found materials, varying levels of technical skill and idiosyncratic construction’.21 This has resulted in an architectural visual culture which both nourishes and is nourished by ‘potent fantasies about “authenticity” and “purity”, mixed into a heady cocktail with the addition of a dash of nostalgia’.22 I find myself in admiration of this blinkered vision which shows that at least in some degree, through sheer perseverance against the networks of power stacked against them, the subaltern can speak. My hope is that the Shahporan Mosque is a departure from the tradition of mosque building in Britain in that it does not attempt a purist, historicist connection with an Islamic past that is imagined as some kind of ideal. Instead, the Shahporan Mosque adapts traditional form in a partial, interpretive way, and replaces an idealised version of history with the specificities of site and time. Whether the Orientalist vision has been internalised and perpetuated by migrant Muslim communities in the building of their mosques, or whether these mosques represent acts of resistance as the communities articulate their own voices, for me, remains unanswered or unanswerable. Time, and more mosques, will have to tell. NOTES 1. J.S. Curl, ‘Chambers, Sir William’, A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 2000., 1O1-ChambersSirWilliam.html (accessed 25 October 2015). 2. M. Crinson, Empire Building: Orientalism and Victorian Architecture (London: Routledge, 1996). 3. Ibid. 4. H. Ansari, ‘The Woking Mosque: A Case Study of Muslim Engagement with British Society since 1889’, Immigrants & Minorities, 21:3 (2002), pp. 1– 24. 5. The Times, 31 August 1906. Thanks to Usamah Ward for early mosque references. 6. P. Lewis, Islamic Britain (London: I.B.Tauris, 2002), p. 15. 7. H. Ansari, The Infidel Within: The History of Muslims in Britain, 1800 to the Present (London: Hurst & Co, 2004), p. 176. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid., p. 343.


14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.


Ibid. Ibid. With reference to Gayatri Spivak and Usamah Ward. O. Verkaaik, ‘Designing the “Anti-Mosque”: Identity, Religion and Affect in Contemporary European Mosque Design’, Social Anthropology 20/2 (2012), pp. 161–78. A.H. Murad, ‘Praying for the Mosque’, Emel Magazine, 53 (2009), pp. 32–4. J. Glancey, ‘Why Are There No Great British Mosques?’, The Guardian, 17 June 2002. D. Shariatmadari, ‘Modern Mosques are as Bad as Barrett Homes’, The Guardian, 3 August 2007. N. Avcioglu, ‘Identity-as-Form: The Mosque in the West’, Cultural Analysis, 6 (2007), pp. 91 –112. Ibid. Ibid. Architectural Review, 1977. R. Kenny, ‘Wallflowers at the Dance of Western Civilization: the Limits of Folk Art’, British Folk Art (London: Tate Britain, 2014), p. 126. Ibid.


The Desert in the City: A Post-Secular Work of Art for the London School of Economics James Walters

We must create a desert in the heart of crowded places.1 Carlo Carretto

The subject of this chapter is a new stained glass window, created for a multifaith centre at the London School of Economics in 2014 (Plate 14.1). But the significance of this window and its theme of ‘The Desert’ operate on a number of different levels and speak of important changes taking place within education, politics, art and wider culture. I will therefore tell the story of this window within three sections. The first is the briefest thumbnail sketch of contemporary culture’s shift towards the ‘post-secular’ and how the desert signifies a particular kind of sacred wisdom that is reemerging within the alleged ‘secular city’ of modernity. The second section explores how this post-secular shift is playing itself out within LSE as a secular institution, creating the circumstances for this commission to come about. The third focuses more directly on the process of creating the window and relates the artist’s own reflections on creating the windows to the interreligious vocation of the Centre. My final remarks consider how a work of art such as this may function in enabling a cohesive postsecular society.



SACRED DESERT AND SECULAR CITY? In nearly all the great world religions, wisdom has come from the desert. In the Jewish and Christian traditions it was as the people of Israel journeyed through the desert of Sinai that they received Yahweh’s revelation of the Law. Their desert journey was both their liberation from oppression and their turning from idolatry to true faith. Jesus retreated into the desert to pray and it was there that he overcame the temptations of the devil. Furthermore it was to the desert that men and women of the Early Church went in the third century to deepen their spiritual lives and to reflect on the meaning of the Gospel. Their writings constitute the most significant body of pre-modern Christian writing after the New Testament and their influence on St Benedict wove the wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers into the fabric of Western spiritual life. Spiritual associations with the desert are present in other traditions too. The Thar Desert of Rajasthan was a centre of Eastern spirituality, rich in Hindu saints and the place where Guru Nanak debated worldly renunciation with the Jains. Muhammad was born in the Arabian desert city of Mecca and it was on his retreats to a desert mountain that he heard his instruction to ‘recite’ the Qur’an. As such, in the religious imagination the desert is not merely a place; it is a symbol. Brother Carlo Carretto, who spent many months in the Sahara Desert in the 1950s, viewed the desert as a metaphor for the journey into God: [The desert] expresses the search for God in silence, it is a ‘suspension bridge’ thrown by the soul in love with God over the dark abyss of its own spirit, over the strange deep crevasses of temptation, over the unfathomable precipices of its own fears which form an obstacle to the progress toward God.2

If, in many traditions, the desert is considered sacred, by contrast the myth arose in the course of European modernity that the city is somehow innately secular. It is a myth that perhaps finds its roots in the godless biblical cities of Sodom, Nineveh and Babylon, but it developed as a peculiarly post-Enlightenment notion that considered the complexity of the city as the antithesis of the simplicity of the religious mind. As the city developed as the centre of commerce and scientific learning, this myth reinforced the view that religion was



much more at home in the quieter, slower places: the countryside, the wilderness, the desert. It was a myth associated with (sometimes propagated by) the institutions that appear to characterise the city: the universities. These were the centres of urban enlightenment that had eradicated the need for God. The cosmopolitans had recognised that religion was redundant superstition. The future was urban and secular. This myth was always nonsense. Cities have frequently been the incubators of religious fervour and development. One only has to read the New Testament to see that early Christianity took root and thrived in complex urban centres. Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, and so on, were all ethnically diverse and socially stratified metropolises in which religious life flourished. St Benedict may have come out of the desert but the communities he founded and the churches, hospitals and schools they established dominated Europe’s cities for centuries. Furthermore, the European universities arose as theologically grounded institutions of learning, expressions of the mission of the Church across the continent’s urban centres. Clearly, these universities evolved from their ecclesial origins and institutions of less overtly religious affiliation emerged. But the myth of the aggressively secular university that drives out the possibilities of believing does not stand scrutiny.3 So the city was never really secular and the university was never totally secularised. It is the case, however, that an academic mode of thought emerged that set itself at odds with the wisdom of the desert. European cities expanded dramatically through the industrial revolution at a time when the theory became popular that economic development and secularisation went hand in hand. This was what Max Weber described as ‘the disenchantment of the world’ as a maturing humanity turned less to religion and magic for explanations of the world and more to science and reason.4 A new rationalism came to dominate which stressed facts over values, knowledge over wisdom and explanation over ends. Those who championed it were largely atheist and assumed that, as the rest of the world became more enlightened, so it would quickly follow suit. But as the twenty-first century progresses it becomes ever clearer that rationalism has not replaced the richer narratives of religious wisdom. The social sciences have helped us understand religion but they have not done away with it. While allegiance to traditional



religious institutions continues to decline in the West, globally secularisation has gone into reverse. With the growth of democracy in former communist countries and the crisis of democracy in other parts of the world, three-quarters of the world’s population currently label themselves as belonging to the four largest world religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism – and this is set to rise to 80 per cent by 2050.5 But the crisis of rationalist materialism is not simply about religious revival so much as it is about the frustrations and moral failures of this worldview itself. Indeed, the post-secular turn must be conceived not simply as the apparent return of troublesome religious ideologies. It arises, in equal measure, from the nagging persistence of a need for resources of deeper reflective capacity, characterised by the quest for a kind of emptiness and simplicity amidst the overwhelming complexity of late modernity. Here again, Jean Baudrillard employs the experience of the desert as a symbol of what modernity lacks: If humanity’s language, technology, and buildings are an extension of its constructive faculties, the desert alone is an extension of its capacity for absence, the ideal schema of humanity’s disappearance . . . When you emerge from the desert, your eyes go on trying to create emptiness all around; in every inhabited area, every landscape they see desert beneath, like a watermark.6

To this postmodern writer, the desert continues to represent some kind of clarity of vision, the capacity to reflect on the connectedness and meaning of things. In the world Baudrillard describes, saturated by the presence and circulation of objects, information and capital, the desert represents radical absence, which is itself a presence underlying much of everyday experience and found within us as ‘an extension of the inner silence of the body’.7 SIGNIFYING THE POST-SECULAR AT THE LSE The LSE bears out this narrative well. It was not founded with any staunchly atheist agenda (the Bishop of London was the first chair of its Council). But its mythos has long been identifiable with that of the ‘secular city’. Its motto ‘To know the causes of things’ (‘Rerum cognoscere causas’) prioritises causality over teleology, knowledge over wisdom and, despite several prominent religious academics over



the twentieth century,8 the Weberian assumptions of religious decline underpinned much of its output. When its founders Sidney and Beatrice Webb visited Stalin’s atheist Russia in 1942 they believed they were seeing the future. While subsequent generations of social scientists have deconstructed the twentieth century’s great secular ideologies as the quasi-theologies they were, they have been surprised to discover that the truly theological has proved the most robust. The LSE has been presented with the challenge of the post-secular in two ways. First it has recognised that the world it is studying is enduringly (perhaps increasingly) religious. The third millennium has seen the destruction of the Twin Towers by Islamists, an explosion of Pentecostalism in the developing world, the rise of ISIS in the Levant, the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and the renewal of religious narratives in the Israel/Palestine wars. We may be seeing a growth in those who now declare no affiliation to a religious institution in many countries. But nonetheless, the dominant forces shaping the world today, for good or for bad, are bound up with religion. But more surprising to the markedly more secular faculty has been the recognition that religion is not merely a phenomenon ‘out there’ to be studied; it is integral to the identity of many LSE students themselves. Approximately one-third of students describe themselves as belonging to a faith community. 700 of a 10,000 strong student body are active members of religious societies, which easily constitute some of the largest, most active groups on campus. The increased significance of religion as a dimension of identity politics has multiple causes, but as globalisation renders the traditional groupings of race and nationality less significant, the LSE’s profoundly international student body appear to view religion as both a respected element of cultural difference and a transnational unifier. While the Hindu and Sikh Societies may be dominated by students from the Indian subcontinent and British migrant families from that region, the faith societies of all the Abrahamic religions unite students from numerous countries across the globe. In an era when globalisation has eroded the significance of national identity to a more cosmopolitan generation, many are inclined to see religion as their primary cultural signifier. 9/11 marked the turning point for the consideration of religion within the Higher Education and the wider public policy



environment. Religion’s new role in identity politics and the emerging geopolitics proved fatally wounding to the longstanding European relegation of religion to private, internal life. Controversially, after a succession of legislative changes, religion and belief was incorporated as a protected characteristic into the Equality Act of 2010. This requires that no public institution should discriminate against employees or users on the grounds of religion and belief in the same way as protection is given to different races, genders, those with disabilities and so on. The implications of this are still being worked out and, combined with most universities’ desire to compete with other institutions on facilities that will enhance student experience, discussion of prayer facilities, dietary provision and consideration given to timetabling are common across the HE sector. The LSE’s response was to allocate a large section of its new Students Centre to a multifaith facility that would combine preexisting Islamic prayer rooms and chaplaincy space into a comprehensive centre for religious observance, student wellbeing and the promotion of interfaith dialogue. A pragmatic architectural plan laid out space for designated men and women’s prayer rooms, ablution facilities, social space, a meditation space, the chaplain’s office and a large room with ample storage to house the artefacts and equipment of different religious groups. Housed within a stunning design by Irish architects O’Donnell and Tuomey, it was a very concrete expression of a post-secular arrangement. After over a century of the LSE existing without purpose-built facilities for religious observance, the presence of the religious was now not only to be acknowledged but embraced at the centre of a hectic university campus. A desert was to be created at the heart of the city. As well as representing the religious sentiment in contrast to an alleged secular urbanism, the theme of the desert seemed relevant in two other important ways. First it expressed something very important about the project’s pluralistic nature in the way in which the desert is terrain that appears to resist colonisation. The desert is nomadic space where tribes will come and pitch their camp before packing up and moving on. The instinct to colonise and claim territory is a problematic dimension to contemporary religious conflicts, exemplified in the land disputes of Israel/Palestine. This was to be a centre that all groups could use in their particularity but of which they could only claim ownership in their universality.



No permanent religious iconography can be left on display and the balance of faiths present within the centre needs constant attention. It was to be a space where people could be comfortable and respected in their own identity, but where they would be challenged by encounter with the other, just as Muhammad’s family encountered Christians and Jews on their journeys along the desert trade routes. Second, as the Bishop of London pointed out at the dedication of the work, the desert is not ultimately a place where we go to escape; it is where we go to encounter what is difficult. The desert is where we encounter our mortality, our bodily desires and needs, our hunger and our thirst. All university chaplains know that universities are places of great fun and opportunity, but also, for many, places of great struggle and pain. Many students are a long way from home, facing personal or family difficulties alone for the first time. Many have found themselves to have been on a treadmill of parental expectation and now, at the beginning of adult life, are asking fundamental questions about who they are and what they want to achieve. This space was intended to be a desert where these difficult questions can be addressed, where people can take time to look inward in the midst of a very hectic inner city campus. A DESERT ENCOUNTER It was decided that the desert would be depicted in three large glass windows that provide the focal point for the main room, and therefore the Centre as a whole. Stained glass would evoke a religious sentiment while a non-representational commission would make the art appropriately inclusive and consistent with the reservations concerning figurative imagery within certain strands of Judaism and Islam. The artist commissioned was the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun who, although he produced two works in oils for Liverpool Cathedral, is not known as a religious artist, and had not previously worked in glass. The project was overseen by glass specialist Andrew Moor, who previously worked on the Henry Moore window at St Andrew’s Church Much Hadham and the Patrick Heron window at Tate St Ives, and the manufacture was carried out by Glasmalerei Peters in Paderborn, Germany. For four generations the Peters family have produced stained glass for cathedrals and churches in Germany and now, with advances in



technology and style, for all kinds of buildings, sacred and secular, around the world. Inspired by his own time spent in the deserts of Saudi Arabia on a painting trip for the Prince of Wales, Christopher Le Brun took up the theme of contrasts: ‘Hot and cold is the primary aspect of the desert . . . [and] warm against cold is the basis of colour structure for painting. So this simple idea gave me a structure rather than looking for a representative image.’9 Thus, in his design, the left pane was dominated by an intense, burning red and the right pane by a cool, deep blue. This allowed the central pane to explore the encounter between these opposites, not as a simple merging but as a complex fusion that generates texture as well as allowing for an intensification of the light. This centrality of complex interaction seemed integral to the vocation of a multifaith centre. The starkness and depth of the confrontation that can occur between religious communities should never be underestimated and the purpose of the LSE Faith Centre is not to seek an insipid lowest common denominator or neutralise difference but to see what creativity follows when those in disagreement are brought into dialogue. Thus the central pane depicts an interaction where these intensely hot and cold colours are refracted but not dissipated. So the theme of ‘encounter’ came to the fore, and interesting parallels emerged between the interfaith encounter and the encounter between subject and object that is the creative process of the painter. Le Brun observed: Any artist starting a painting is confronted by a blank canvas. That encounter’s very tough but essential because the way I work is to respond to what I make or imagine on the canvas. I don’t have, as it were, a picture in my head or a photograph which I copy (which would be deeply boring to me). I look and I think, and I look and I think, and I keep responding until I have a conviction about the picture that arises. I think in the purest way that has an equivalence with [the interfaith] encounter, because it’s not carrying out a simple process; it’s responding.10

It seems that in both the interreligious encounter and in the artistic process the outcome is not predetermined. There is some kind of leap of faith, an essential act of trust in the face of the inevitable risks. This is all the more so for an artist working for the first time in glass where an initial watercolour design is handed over to the manufacturers



who render their own interpretation of it. Describing his visits to the Peters family studio, Le Brun remarks, ‘I rolled my sleeves up and shared some of the glass painting just to get the feel and experience of it. But essentially we handed the design over to Peters and their family . . . So there’s a sort of letting go aspect to it, and that’s part of what makes the process anxiety inducing.’11 In the (occasionally anxiety inducing!) interreligious work of the Faith Centre this trust-based encounter often takes the form of a transition in a student’s perception of another faith based on media representations (and perhaps some knowledge of teachings) to relationships formed with members of that faith community. Theories and concepts are replaced by individuals who communicate something of that religion’s ability to shape the imagination and develop social life. The depersonalised ‘religious other’ becomes a ‘human other’, which does not inevitably lead to harmony but does allow the possibility of deeper connection that leads to transformed understanding. Again, the distinction is illuminated in the painting process by the contrast Le Brun draws between knowledge and experience: Knowledge, the world is full of. Google it! It’s just everywhere! But experience is the thing everybody’s seeking. So to do a design and just have it made is somehow unsatisfactory . . . I am seeking a particular experience, I want the picture, as it were, to resist me and I want to learn something from the encounter. I’m not interested in just carrying out the task.12

The creativity of painting appears to arise out of immersion in an experience that is an encounter with the unknown. It is part of what Le Brun describes as ‘the metaphysical dimension’ of art by which ‘the human is enormously absorbed in painting and drawing’. He goes on, ‘So as an artist, when I make a picture or even put a colour down, you sense this odd significance. I don’t want to overdo it. But it just feels as if it matters.’13 ART AS POST-SECULAR EXPRESSION It is important to resist imposing a definitive theological narrative on Le Brun’s motivations as a painter or even on the significance of the stained glass within the space. To many observers it will be nothing more than a decorative addition to an unusual space. But in considering these three interwoven narratives it becomes clear that



this window, with its fusion of contrasting colours, represents the coming together of a number of contemporary themes. Most especially it is the vehicle for the articulation of some kind of postsecular future, a future that we hope might be characterised by interreligious cohesion rather than conflict. In any event, it signifies the limitations of the secular in achieving this vision. In this regard, Rowan Williams has commented on the role of art in moving beyond the impasses of a secularism in crisis. In an essay that defines the secular as the restriction of public discourse to a rationalist ‘calculation about functions . . . dominated by instrumental or managerial considerations’,14 Williams sees the nonsecular as the ability to cultivate a non-functional perception of the other. It constitutes ‘a willingness to see things or other persons as the objects of another sensibility than my own, perhaps also another sensibility than our own, whoever “we” are, even if the “we” is humanity itself’.15 Without this, the public realm becomes little more than competing bids for power and the furthering of subjective agendas. Within this understanding, art plays an essential role: Imaginative construction, verbal or visual, works to make present an aesthetic object that allows itself to be contemplated from a perspective or perspectives other than those of the artist’s own subjectivity. Art makes possible a variety of seeings or readings; it presents something that invites a time of reception or perception, with the consciousness that there is always another possible seeing/reading.16

The Desert Window has become just such an aesthetic object. Its theme points to a sacred, non-combative core to human identity and the sense that we are all ‘crossing the desert of meaning’17 before the presence of God. Yet there is an acknowledgement that it will mean different things to different groups and individuals and that the image is able to sustain that multiplicity. The positive reception by staff and students to its installation has been marked by the recognition that this is an image with the potential to be a unitive symbol. One senior member of staff commented, ‘I think the window captures that rather beautifully; it allows difference but doesn’t emphasise the boundaries.’18 It is a desert in which all may find themselves and have their own relation to the transcendent recognised, in contrast to a secularism that ruled these commitments inadmissible. Yet equally it creates space to recognise



the metaphysical identities and commitments of others in nonthreatening encounter. Christopher Le Brun’s work has created a stunning backdrop to the day-to-day activities of the LSE Faith Centre which encompass a diverse range from Catholic mass to Sikh meditation to interfaith leadership training. But much more than this, it articulates the ethos of the centre in its subtle exploration of the interaction of contrasts and it represents a great deal about the possibilities of today’s postsecular turn: a sacred desert in the heart of the city. NOTES 1. C. Carretto, The Desert in the City, trans. B. Wall (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1979), p. 19. 2. Ibid., p. 18. 3. See M. Guest et al., Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). 4. See M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1930). 5. Estimate by the World Christian Database run by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and quoted in Micklethwaite & Wooldridge, God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World (London: Allen Lane, 2009), p. 16. 6. J. Baudrillard, America, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 68–9. 7. Ibid., p. 68. 8. Notably the Christian Socialist R.H. Tawney and more recently the sociologist of religion, the Reverend Professor David Martin. 9. Dialogue between James Walters and Christopher Le Brun at the conference The Sacred City: London, Art and the Religious Imaginary, at the LSE Faith Centre, Tuesday 8 July 2014. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid. 14. R. Williams, ‘Has Secularism Failed?’ in Faith in the Public Square (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), pp. 12–13. 15. Ibid., p. 13. 16. Ibid. 17. M. de Certeau, The Mystic Fable, trans. M.B. Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 293. 18. In The Desert in the City, a film made about the stained glass by Jon Adams (2014).


From Punjab to Putney: Origins of the Sikh Gurdwara in London Peter Bance

Although there had been a Sikh presence in the capital since 1854, the first mass migration of people from the Sikh faith to Britain began in the 1930s. The establishment of a Sikh place of worship was many years earlier, on the instigation of a Cambridge student, a Harvard barrister and a dashing princely Maharajah. The Sikh place of worship is referred to as a Gurdwara, which translates to ‘the Gateway to the Guru’. The term ‘Sikh’ means ‘learner’ whilst the ‘Guru’ signifies the ‘teacher’ or the ‘master’, from whom one learns. There were ten such Gurus in Sikhism, who founded, consolidated and established the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak, born in the Punjab in 1469, was the founder. He gave Sikhs three simple tenets to follow: to make an honest living, pray to God and share one’s wealth by giving to the needy. These tenets were followed by the nine successive Gurus. The tenth, Guru Gobind Singh, during the oppression of the Sikhs in the late seventeenth century, made the Sikhs into a martial race, which he named the Khalsa, meaning the ‘Pure’. He gave them an identity and a distinct appearance. The story of the first Gurdwara in Britain goes back to 1906, when a young man by the name of Teja Singh from Gujranwala in the Punjab1 was baptised by the renowned preacher Sant Attar Singh Mastuana and sent along with four other students, Dharamanant Singh, Amar Singh, Hari Singh and Bhagat Singh, to England.2



This group of five young men were fully sponsored by Sant Attar Singh with the twin purpose of receiving higher education and spreading the message of the Gurus in the western hemisphere where Sikhs had begun to settle in significant numbers. On reaching Britain, Teja Singh joined London’s University College and attended the university while wearing his turban, unmindful of the stares of others. He wished other Sikhs in Britain to also retain their long hair and turban. Teja Singh had hardly completed the first semester at University College London when he was informed that Cambridge University did not allow a Sikh student to attend classes with his turban on, as at Cambridge all were required to wear a cap and a gown. During the next term Teja Singh took up the challenge, and sought admission to read the the Science Tripos at Downing College,3 and formally enrolled as an affiliated student from the University of Punjab.4 Teja Singh was able to convince the authorities of the significance of the hair, the turban and other symbols for the Sikhs and thus got this concession for himself and for any other Sikh wishing to join Cambridge. He became the first Sikh with a turban at Cambridge University.5 As a student at Downing College in Cambridge he preached the tenets of the Gurus to fellow students6 and a small congregation was formed which used to meet at his residence regularly every Sunday. Several Sikh students studying in England used to attend the hymns where kirtan and exegesis of bani were generally held. Thus in 1908, the ‘Khalsa Jatha British Isles’ was founded.7 The organisation was a considerable size by 1910 and it was therefore appropriate that a permanent place and base be established to hold prayers and a centre where all Sikhs could congregate. Sardar Narain Singh was a barrister in England at the turn of the century and was one of the founder members of the Khalsa Jatha British Isles. He was sent to India in 1911 to collect funds so premises could be obtained for the Khalsa Jatha and appealed at the Sikh Education Conference at Rawalpindi where the congregation open heartedly donated. He returned to England after two months, during which time the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh, Ruler of Patiala State, was visiting England. The Maharajah was leading the Indian cricket team on a ‘tour of England’ coupled with the coronation celebrations of King George V and Queen Mary in June 1911. The Maharajah was met with a student delegation from the Khalsa Jatha and



accompanied by a number of Sikh military officers who were stationed at Hampton Court Palace for the coronation processions. The Sikh officers emphasised the need for a ‘Dharamsala’ in London to the Maharajah, which would serve as a rest home for Sikh visitors and also as a place of worship for them. The Maharajah of Patiala gave an initial donation of £1,000,8 and a house in Putney was taken on lease and officially opened for use in 1911, being named appropriately the ‘Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala’ after its principal donor (Plate 15.1). It widely became known as the ‘Bhupindra Dharamasla’. According to the Times newspaper, the Maharajah pledged a further donation of £8,000 towards the project. The house at Putney consisted of a large room to house the Guru Granth Sahib, where a weekly service was held on Sundays. There was no priest, so all duties were performed by the Sikh students and Sikh residents. The Sikh population at this time mostly resided in Central London, and was made up of students from affluent Sikh families, professionals and Indian civil servants. The premises in Putney was described by early Sikh migrants as a simple house converted to a Gurdwara and rest house, but an image discovered later, said to be of the opening ceremony, shows the Maharajah of Patiala and members of the early Sikh community seated in the garden of a detached, splendidly spacious house.9 The Khalsa Jatha British Isles continued holding the sermons at the rented house at Putney for two years,10 until Teja Singh together with the efforts of Maharajah Bhupinder Singh obtained the freehold of a terrace house at 79 Sinclair Road in Shepherd’s Bush, West London.11 This was a typical three-storey residence, with a basement level which was used to prepare the food for the free kitchen which operated in every Sikh place of worship (Plate 15.2). The characteristic Victorian house looked very unlike a Sikh temple, with only a single flag pole, wrapped in a saffron coloured cloth affixed to the front exterior wall to signify that this building was indeed a place of Sikh worship. The operating of this permanent place of worship was a community effort. As well as Harvard graduate Sardar Narain Singh Sargodha,12 who became the Gurdwara’s first secretary, other prominent early members of the Khalsa Jatha British Isles were Balliol graduate Hardit Singh Malik who became the first Indian to fly for the Royal Flying Corps,13 and his brother Teja Singh Malik.14



During this period the Khalsa Jatha British Isles had over 100 Sikh student members, and organised that two Sikh students would go to ports and stations and welcome newly arriving Sikhs to the country and direct them to the Dharamsala. In this way all new Sikhs would be aware of the Dharamsala and in return the Dharamsala would support the Sikhs and help them settle in Britain. It was resolved by the Khalsa Jatha that each member would subscribe £1 monthly towards the funds for running the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala.15 Although the building was being used as a rest house for Sikhs as well as a Gurdwara, the religious aspect was greatly promoted. Teja Singh carried out the first baptism ceremony here, and those Britishbased Sikhs who had previously lapsed in their observances became re-inclined towards Sikhism. The Dharamsala became a base for all Sikhs visiting and staying in England, including a deputation from Canada consisting of Dr Nand Singh Seera, who stayed at the Dharamsala en route to India to demonstrate against British rule. Max Arthur Macauliffe, the renowned Sikh historian and scholar also visited the Gurdwara just before his death on 15 March 1913. From its foundation and until World War II, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, the youngest daughter of the late Maharajah of the Punjab, Duleep Singh, was a patron and supporter of the Dharamsala (Plate 15.3). The 1930s saw the arrival of Indian revolutionary Udham Singh to Britain, who resided for a time at the Dharamsala, often reputedly borrowing money with no intention of returning it, from the Khalsa Jatha funds.16 The Dharamsala’s early congregation consisted not only of Sikh migrants from the Punjab, but also many white English men and women, who were regularly seen participating at weekly prayers, which may have been triggered by their link with the British Raj in India, as many had grown up and lived in India as families of military service personnel. The pattern continued until the 1950s, but due to lack of Sikh preaching outside the community the numbers declined. By the 1930s, the Sikh population in Britain had increased from a few hundred to around 1,000.17 The 1930s migration consisted of predominantly male Sikhs from West Punjab. Most began settling around the Jewish East End, and adopted the favourable peddling profession, selling light household goods and clothing, door to door.



Supplies were purchased from established Jewish migrant wholesalers, who offered the newly arriving Sikhs not only lodgings above their East End stores but a supply of wares to sell. The Sikhs began venturing towards port towns and cities as pedlars, and although many settled outside London, most had to come to London at least once a week to stock up on their supplies. Hence London was still the main hub for all Sikhs, and the Dharamsala was the only place for these Sikhs to worship in Britain. During World War II, the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala was occupied by the then Secretary and acting priest Sarwan Singh Chakwal whilst the Guru Granth Sahib was temporarily removed for safe keeping by the Khalsa Jatha’s long-term president Dr Diwan Singh to his residence in Birmingham18 as London was in danger from the blitz. The end of World War II witnessed a second wave of Sikh migration. The main bulk of the London community lived around the East End; pockets had begun settling around south-east London and towards the London suburb of Southall. As each Sikh settlement around Britain grew in the 1950s it was common practice to hold weekly prayers in the houses of established Sikh families. There were similar patterns also for Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. When communities had outgrown such spaces, they began to hire local school halls or community centres to hold weekly prayers. This practice continued until communities could afford to purchase a Gurdwara premises of their own. In most cases wherever there was a settlement of Sikhs, no matter how small, a place of worship was quickly established. In London, those living on the Kent border found the house of Charan Singh Jandiala19 served them more conveniently then the Dharamsala at Shepherd’s Bush, whilst in west London and Middlesex, Sikh societies were established to meet the growing communities’ worshipping needs by hiring local venues. Although the East End of London had the earliest settlement of Sikhs in Britain, it was not until 1959 that the first Gurdwara was founded on that side. Prior to this the community had gathered at weekly prayers at St Nicholas Church in Stepney. As the East End community expanded and moved further eastwards beyond Stepney, Bethnal Green, Mile End and gradually towards Stratford20 there was an increasing need for a more local and conveniently located place of worship. In 1959,



the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat was opened at 1a Campbell Road, Bow, a former annex building to the rear of Barclays Bank, and used as a working men’s club (Plate 15.4). The small two-storey premises were converted with a prayer room on the ground level and a first floor room utilised for the priest’s residence. This building was purchased by the local East End Sikh Community, made up mostly of the prewar peddling community. These Sikhs, who were from mainly West Punjab before the partition of India, were known as Bhat Sikhs. But as Sikh migrants increased, the pattern of community Gurdwaras, particularly under the division of caste or geographical origin, emerged. At Bow, the combined Sikh communities congregated here until the Ramgarhia Sikhs established a Gurdwara in Forest Gate, and the Singh Sabha founded the Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar in East Ham. In general, the first Gurdwara in a certain region would be founded by the joint efforts of the residing Sikh community, but then gradually split and sub-communities would form their own Gurdwaras once they had a considerable population of their own. For example, Ramgarhia Sikhs established a Gurdwara of their own once there was a sizeable population in Southall at Oswald Road.21 Sikhs arriving from Singapore and Malaysia too formed their own societies as their customs may have differed from those practised by Sikhs who had come directly from Punjab. Social and cultural differences amongst various sub-communities within the Sikhs also caused circumstances leading to separation and splits. Sikhs from other former British colonies operated their Gurdwaras in their own traditional ways. A Sikh from Singapore who arrived in Southall in the early 1960s noticed that Sikhs sat on the floor in the prayer room, whereas in Singapore the congregation had sat on chairs with the Guru Granth Sahib placed on a higher platform.22 Sikhs arriving from Afghanistan in the 1990s noticed that Gurdwaras in London were run completely different to the doctrines they had previously followed. One commented that they were operated more like businesses with price lists for various prayer services in Britain, whereas in Afghanistan there had been a no-fee structure and it was the will of the worshipper to donate as he felt fit for certain prayer ceremonies. The division continued as communities grew and Sikhs from India, Malaysia, Singapore and East Africa arrived during the 1960s. This was best summed up by Dr John De Witt, who stated in his book in 1969 that Sikhs



have founded separate Gurdwaras in some communities probably reflects not so much covert caste discrimination as both the Ramgarhias’s [sic]23 and the Bhattras [sic]24 have lived abroad much longer than the Jat immigrants25 and developed a sense of community long before most of the Jats left the Punjab. The Bhattras have lived in Britain for many years and many of the Ramgarhia’s came to Britain from East Africa rather than from the Punjab.26

This claim was reinforced by the founding of the Guru Nanak Durbar Gurdwara27 in 2002 in Southall by the newly arriving Afghanistan Sikhs who had lived in their very own close-knit community in Afghanistan since the seventeenth century.28 By the 1960s the premises at 79 Sinclair Road was becoming too small to house the growing congregation. The community now demanded a purpose-built building for use as a Gurdwara. It was becoming impractical to operate from Sinclair Road, not only due to its size, but it was in fact a residential building in a residential street. The locals too were getting inconvenienced due to the vast number of worshippers congregating in their quiet street. The premises of the Salvation Army at the nearby Queensdale Road, known as Norland Castle, came on to the market at this time. Although there was much interest for this desirable building, the Khalsa Jatha managed to obtain this vast corner plot. The purchase of these new premises was not as smooth as one expected it to be. Firstly an arson attack led to the Salvation Army building being burnt down soon after its purchase, and then Hammersmith and Fulham Council imposed a compulsory purchase order on the site. With great difficulty and litigation, the Khalsa Jatha overturned the ruling, and the local Sikhs worked tirelessly night and day to have the new building ready for use (Plate 15.5). Prominent Sikh leader Sant Fateh Singh the President of Shrimoni Gurdwara Prabandak Committee,29 visited England in 1966, and he laid the foundation stone for the new Gurdwara. It was to be renamed the ‘Central Gurdwara London’ and inaugurated on the 500th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak on 7 December 1969. The result, a rather square and flat early modern structure with an almost Russian communist bloc feel, was completed in 1969. An attempt to give a characteristic Sikh-inspired appearance during the 1990s failed, when a gold onion-dome was placed atop the flat roof with a further two semi-domes above both entrances. The



interior layout was also overhauled along the lines of new Gurdwaras being established in Britain at the time. It was becoming common for the Gurdwaras to have the prayer hall on the highest level of the building, in contrast to the Punjab-based Gurdwaras. The Sri Harmander Sahib at Amritsar, known as the Golden Temple, itself was built on the lowest level possible, even lower than its surrounding structures, to emphasise humility. In India, the prayer halls of historical Gurdwaras were mainly square, with entrances on each side to signify that people from all walks of life were welcome. The Sikh holy scriptures were placed in the centre of the room, and the congregation were seated and gathered all around the centred holy texts, men and women seated together; signifying equality.30 The concept was that all castes and creeds were welcome, and would come together and be seated equally, men, women, irrespective of their background, colour or faith. 31 The design of the British Gurdwara drew on Western, Christian forms. This may have been partly due to the fact many Gurdwara buildings being purchased were in fact former churches, however the pattern was followed for purpose-built Gurdwaras too. The Gurdwara reflected church layouts, with long rectangular halls with a central aisle, with the Guru Granth Sahib at one end of the room, as with a church altar. The long central aisle separated the congregation, with men seated on one side and women on the other;32 all facing the altar. The comparison can be seen in early photographs of the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala in Sinclair Road from 1936 which show a mixed congregation seated around the Guru Granth Sahib, but post-war images show the segregation of men and women in later Gurdwaras. With the growing Sikh population in London and its suburbs, there were two large settlements established on either side of the capital. There was the East End community and on the west side a large hub had settled around Southall. For the Sikhs settling in Middlesex in the late 1950s, the need to establish a Gurdwara or a Sikh body within close proximity was necessary. The Dharamsala at Sinclair Road was not within a practical commuting distance, especially as many had hectic lifestyles, fitting in more than one shift or holding more than one job. In 1959 the Southall Sikh Cultural Society was formed to accommodate and maintain these religious needs.33 The Society would hold prayers once a month, and later



once a week at Shackleton Hall in Southall.34 In 1961, the ‘Southall Sikh Cultural Society’ purchased 11 Beaconsfield Road,35 a terrace house at a cost of £4,200, to use as a Gurdwara,36 and Southall’s first permanent Gurdwara was established. Two years later the adjoining house was purchased and the partition wall was removed to make a larger prayer room, but with complaints from the neighbours and also the local authority, the religious services were reverted back to the school halls. As the Sikh population increased, here too Gurdwaras were established under sub-divisions. In Southall, the Sikhs arriving from Singapore and Malaysia had formed the Sri Guru Nanak Satsang Sabha in 1962, and purchased ‘The Green’ at Southall with the generosity of prominent businessman Gurbachan Singh Gill,37 and opened the Gurdwara on the anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev’s Martyrdom Day in June 1964. Prior to this they had hired the local Bingo Hall at the corner of Beaconsfield Road for large religious services. Both the Southall Sikh Cultural Society and the Sri Guru Nanak Satsang Sabha ran simultaneously, until they were merged in 196438 to form the Sri Guru Singh Sabha. In May 1966, a local dairy came on the market. Building work began to transform the Havelock Road dairy into an operational Gurdwara, and local Sikhs worked day and night in between their own jobs to contribute to the renovation. The Sikhs coming from East Africa were predominately Ramgarhia Sikhs, and settled largely in the areas of London and its suburbs, Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Leicester and Leeds. In Middlesex the Ramgarhia Sabha Southall was formed in 1966. The Society began holding weekly prayers at the local Bingo Hall which they hired, and later at Shackleton Hall in Southall. In 1969 they purchased an old laundry at 53 – 55 Oswald Road, and converted its flagship Gurdwara for the Ramgarhia East Africa community, which opened in 1971.39 Over the years the West London Gurdwaras saw regular makeovers in design and in particular in size. In Southall the Havelock Road former dairy building was completely demolished to make way for the iconic super-sized Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, fashioned with an emphasis on typical nineteenth-century Sikh architecture with a touch of postmodern design. With underground parking and polished marble halls, the interior was reminiscent of a five star hotel foyer, and the ground floor prayer room shifted to the upper level, complete with stained glass windows. Whilst



construction work was going on, a temporary Gurdwara was built on the site at Park Avenue. This simple single storey was conveniently located between old Southall and the Broadway and became the main centre for worshipers in the community. When the exquisitely built new £17m Gurdwara was opened in 2003 at Havelock Road by the Prince of Wales, it found that its former congregation did not return in its entirety. The Park Avenue Gurdwara was found to be more conveniently located and its ground level prayer hall and spacious parking made accessibility, especially for the elderly, much more desirable. A similar pattern followed for the Sikhs living east of the capital. Although the East London Sikh community was established longer, the Sikh population in the West London suburbs had exceeded the east and grew considerably faster. In 1971, the Singh Sabha London East purchased the disused Quaker’s Meeting House at Barking, which had been rebuilt in 1908 in the Queen Anne style.40 The Sikh community here have largely kept the exterior of this graded Friends’ House as it was, adding only a small Sikh-inspired dome in gold above the bell tower. The next 30 years saw a number of local community and sub-divisional Gurdwaras sprinkled around the London suburbs. Closer to the city of London, it was not until 1979 that the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat moved from Campbell Road to a much larger premise at the former Mile End & Bow District Synagogue on Harley Grove, a fine example of neoclassical architecture. The building had been a Methodist church which had closed in 1926 before being converted by the incoming Jewish community.41 When the Jewish community began leaving the East End, the Sikh community occupied this impressive building, keeping the synagogue’s interior intact for many decades adapting around and preserving its original features. A huge fire in 2008 destroyed the fine ceilings and carved wood stalls on the decks, but the grand structure, fascia complete with huge Corinthian pillars, remained unblemished, and the Sikh community was able to rebuild the interior and floors around the original walls and structure. One of the later major Gurdwaras to be established in East London is the Karamsar Gurdwara in Ilford, perhaps the only example of a purpose-built Gurdwara in London styled purely on traditional Indian architecture. A blend of typical Sikh and Mughal inspired



designs, Karamsar Gurdwara is very much reminiscent of a historically constructed nineteenth-century Gurdwara in the Punjab. Its facade and distinctive domes are perhaps its most striking features. The exterior walls, carved entirely from pink sandstone from Rajasthan, were shipped to Britain and reassembled in London. The foyer is a grand and simple space with a skylight bringing in natural light all the way from the third floor.42 The Gurdwara, built on the site of the Labour Party Club, was officially opened in 2005, and is a marker of what many future Gurdwaras in Britain aspire to. Historically and traditionally, Gurdwaras are built on community funding and voluntary labour known as Seva, without the need for outside funds. This may explain why there are fewer Sikh Gurdwaras and their construction may take longer compared to other places of worship. The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall in the west and the Gurdwara Karamsar in the east of London have become two defining and iconic Gurdwaras for the Sikhs in London and, in fact, Britain. They are an example of how Gurdwaras in London have evolved in terms of sheer size, creative design and financial might, to elaborate that style and design. From the terrace houses and former church buildings, the last century has witnessed the British Gurdwara revert to an architectural blend which is Indian – and traditionally Punjabi – while simultaneously keeping up with the times, with a touch of contemporary style. NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

6. 7. 8. 9.

Now in West Punjab, Pakistan. The men left Bombay by sea and reached London on 24 August 1906. Downing College Archives, Cambridge University. Cambridge University Archives, Ref: Graduati 32/34; Min.VIII.62. A Mr Teja Singh later registered at University College in October 1910. He passed his ‘Sp Intern Engl’ in 1911 and was awarded a pass in his BSc in English (Hons) in 1913 (Richard Temple, Archivist, Senate House Library, University of London). Cambridge University Archives, Ref: Graduati 32/34; Min.VIII.62. Khalsa Jatha British Isles 1908 –2008, commemorative volume (London: KJBI, 2008). Khalsa Jatha records suggest the Maharajah gave an initial £1,000 donation with further funds when he returned to India. The house in Putney was later demolished for development.



10. Cited in the Amended version of the Constitution, as approved by the General Body of the Central London Gurdwara on 29 December 1985. 11. 79 Sinclair Road was purchased freehold, and was sold by the Khalsa Jatha during the 1980s to fund the purchase of the two adjoining houses to the new Gurdwara at Queensdale Road. 12. Teja Singh MA, LLB, AM (Harvard) later became known as Sant Teja Singh Mastuana. 13. Hardit Singh Malik gallantly served as a fighter pilot in World War I and fought against the infamous Red Baron. 14. Khalsa Jatha British Isles 1908–2008. 15. G.S. Sahni, History of Khalsa Jatha British Isles (Punjabi Translation, 1985), p. 4. 16. Udham Singh was a survivor of the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, when troops under the command of General Reginald Dyer had shot over 300 civilians in an open ground near the Golden Temple. Udham Singh wanted to take revenge on Dyer for his actions, but on his arrival in England, he found Dyer had already died, so Udham Singh shot dead Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Governor of Punjab, who had given Dyer his backing. Udham Singh was arrested, tried and later hanged at Pentonville Prison. 17. S. Tatla and G. Singh, Sikhs in Britain: The Making of a Community (London: Zed Books, 2006), p. 49. 18. P. Bance, Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs (London: Coronet House, 2012), p. 111. 19. The house of Charan Singh at 37 Wakefield Street was used to hold weekly prayers between 1954 and 1957, until a Gurdwara was established at 55 Edwin Street, Gravesend. 20. In the 1970s the Sikh community began moving to the areas of Newham, and then gradually further eastwards to Essex. 21. With the arrival of a large influx of Ramgarhia Sikhs from East Africa in the 1960s, the Ramgarhia Sabha Southall was formed in 1966. Mistry Balwant Singh Virdee who came to England in the early 1930s, and was among the first to go to Leeds to work in construction, was instrumental in starting the Leeds Ramgarhia Board. The Ramgarhia Association (Midlands) was established in Birmingham in 1963. Just as the Ramgarhia’s had operated the running of Gurdwaras by their own Sabhas (societies) in East Africa, the system too continued when they came to Britain. 22. Ajit Singh Khera, Southall. 23. Ramgarhia Sikhs are a sub-caste of skilled carpenters and craftsmen. Many had migrated from British India during the British Raj to East Africa to help build the Colonial infrastructure. 24. Bhat Sikhs are a sub-group who were travelling bards in the seventeenth century.



25. Jat Sikhs are a sub-caste of farmers, predominately from the Punjab. 26. J. Dewitt Jr, Indian Worker’s Associations in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 27. 27. Guru Nanak Durbar, King Street, Southall, Middlesex. 28. Sikhs had been fleeing Afghanistan since the 1990s due to religious persecution. 29. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandak Committee (SGPC) is the central Sikh Regulatory body responsible for the administration and upkeep of Gurdwaras in the Punjab and its adjoining states. 30. This concept is followed in most historic Gurdwaras, including Sri Harminder Sahib at Amritsar, Takhat Kesgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib and Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. 31. It is common for Hindus and some Muslims to attend Sikh temples in the Punjab and Pakistan. 32. This gender separation does not occur in Gurdwaras in India. 33. First General Secretary was Ram Singh Flora. 34. The school hall was on Shackleton Road, Southall. 35. J. Oates, Images of England: Southall (Stroud: Tempus, 2002), p. 76. 36. The mortgage for the property was secured in the name of Surjit Singh Bilga. 37. Gurbachan Singh Gill was formerly in the Indian National Army (INA) under Subash Chander Bose during the British rule in India. He later worked for a time at the Woolf Rubber Factory at Southall, and built up a large property portfolio. 38. The first merger was in 1963, but the move fell apart and merged again in 1964. 39. Courtesy of Swaran Singh Riyat, Ramgarhia Sabha Southall. 40. Information courtesy of the website of London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Council. 41. The Campbell Road Gurdwara was still kept as a functioning Gurdwara, and a separate committee was formed to manage this. 42. Official website of Gurdwara Karamsar: karamsargurdwara.wordpress. com.



Recent Commissions at St Paul’s Cathedral Mark Oakley

Whilst Henry Moore was recovering from a serious illness the idea was put to him of creating a work for installation in St Paul’s Cathedral. The commission renewed his energy: ‘I can’t get this Madonna and Child out of my mind’, he said. ‘It may be my last work, and I want to give it the feel of having a religious connotation.’1 Mother and Child: Hood was made out of travertine marble, a suitable material for the chosen site in the north choir aisle of the cathedral, close to the High Altar. Carved in the Henraux stoneyard in Querceta in the Carrara mountains of north Italy, and on loan from the Henry Moore Foundation, it stands seven feet high (183 cm) and today commands naturally reflective attention from the hundreds of thousands of visitors and worshippers St Paul’s welcomes each year. What the feel of a ‘religious connotation’ might be over 30 years later is an intriguing and somewhat beguiling question. The Chapter of St Paul’s decided in 2007 to let this question hover rather than bring it into land by agreeing to engage with work by contemporary artists in two ways. The first was to continue the tradition of artistic production that has complemented the work of cathedrals since their earliest foundation. As a physical expression of faith and devotion the construction, decoration and use of such sacred spaces provides abundant opportunity for the thoughtful combination of form and function. St Paul’s is no exception and has a history of over 1,400 years of artistry and craftsmanship furthering the mission of



the cathedral. It was agreed to continue this by occasionally commissioning works that would form part of the liturgical and permanent life of the cathedral. However, it was also agreed that a Visual Arts Policy would be created with the intent of bringing into the cathedral, for time-limited installations, the work of contemporary artists. LITURGICAL AND PERMANENT COMMISSIONS The most significant items recently commissioned by the Cathedral are those which are used for the celebration of the Eucharist: the ceremonial plate, vestments and altar dressing which augment this central act of worship. An audacious theft in 1810 denuded the Cathedral of much of its historic silverware, but many notable pieces have been acquired by commission and donation since then. Most recently, a hanging pyx, for housing the consecrated host, was commissioned by the Cathedral Chapter to celebrate the new Millennium. The artist chosen was Rod Kelly, one of the United Kingdom’s leading silversmiths, who specialises in low-relief chasing, often inlaying the chased details in fine gold. He produced an oxidised silver and gold pyx which was dedicated by the Chapter on 26 September 2000 in the artist’s presence. It hangs in St Dunstan’s Chapel. As the 2010 tercentenary of the Wren building approached, the officiating ministers at St Paul’s were still using vestments which dated from the 1930s or before. It was decided that a new set of vestments would be an appropriate acquisition to mark the anniversary and rest the historic garments. Central St Martin’s Woven Textiles students were invited to enter a competition for the commission to design the new set. The contenders were given an understanding of the life and work of the Cathedral, viewed the existing textiles and embroideries in the Cathedral Collections and were briefed on sizes, shapes and the colours associated with the ecclesiastical calendar. Three entries were shortlisted from which the judges selected one collection to proceed. Marie Brisou won the competition with a design which drew on the history and decoration of St Paul’s. Inspired by the ironwork and the phoenix emblem in the quire, Brisou produced an arresting design which now adorns a full set of cathedral copes. While the original design for the vestments was by Marie Brisou, the project became a collaboration with a group of volunteers who



helped to make up the garments and continue to maintain them today. Many of the art works in St Paul’s are the vision of a single artist but the culmination of the work of different people and creative processes. One such piece was added to the crypt in 2011: a memorial commissioned by the British Arctic Memorials Trust to commemorate Britons who lost their lives in the service of science in Antarctica. Between 1948 and 2011 a total of 29 people died in the British Antarctic Territory, one of the most extreme, inhospitable and uncharted places on Earth; the bodies of those who lost their lives were never recovered and they have no known grave. The memorial plaque was installed in the crypt on 12 April 2011 and was dedicated following a special Evensong on 10 May 2011 which was attended by the friends and family of the deceased. It is cut from a piece of slate excavated from the Berwyn Slate quarry in Llangollen and the memorial was transported to a specialist stone-cutting company Cerrig in Pwllheli where advanced water-jet techniques were used to cut out the profile of the Antarctic and other land masses. The lettering and the relief of six Emperor penguins were marked out and finished by the sculptor Fergus Wessel. Even items as every-day as a set of gates need to be appropriate to their context and this challenge can give rise to inspiration and creativity. A range of procedures and committees are in place to manage the successful design, execution and installation of almost anything added to, or used in, the public spaces. The Treasury of the Diocese of London was established in the crypt of St Paul’s in 1981 – an exhibition which presented the church plate and vestments owned by the Cathedral and the parishes in the Diocese of London. Sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and curated by Charles Oman, the display required gates that needed to be both secure and aesthetically appropriate. The Cathedral commissioned the English artist and blacksmith Alan Evans to design and manufacture the gates. The finished work was made up of elegant, intersecting arcs of milled steel inspired by the vaulted ceilings of the crypt in which the gates still stand. Following the success of Alan Evans’ intervention, gates were considered as a means of commemorating Winston Churchill, whose state funeral had been hosted by St Paul’s in 1965. Unveiled in 2004, the eight-metre long Churchill Memorial Screen is a solid but elaborate set of gates forged in steel and bronze, made to



commemorate the indefatigable prime minister. It delineates the public space in the Crypt and is placed with a visual connection to the tombs of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, the only other two non-royal Britons to be honoured with a state funeral. A design submitted by James Horrobin, a master blacksmith, was approved by the Cathedral Chapter and his three-tonne construction of spears of steel sweeping upward were crafted at his forge in Porlock, Somerset. It took 7,000 hours over 12 months and he was assisted by ten people. He strove to evoke the pageantry associated with Churchill, incorporating the heraldic devices of the Churchill Lion, the roundels of the Order of Merit, the Order of the Garter and Warden of the Cinque Ports. He hoped to impart ‘a sense of endeavour and an uplifting sense of celebration’. He added: ‘My hope is that the screen is perceived as a celebration of peace brought about by Churchill’s efforts’.2 Given space restrictions and Cathedral priorities, non-functional decorative art works are less frequently commissioned by the Cathedral. However, St Paul’s hosted Regan O’Callaghan as artistin-residence as part of the visual arts programme in 2007. The artist had moved to the United Kingdom from New Zealand to study theology and art, including the technique of icon painting. In 2001 he was ordained into the Church of England and combined his religious ministry with his art, leading many art projects and workshops as well as painting a number of important commissions including an icon for St Paul’s in 2008. In his icon, St Paul is seen holding his letters, upon which St Paul’s Cathedral is carried. Above him is his tent and on his shoulder the Huia, an indigenous bird of New Zealand. The artist writes: ‘The Huia, above all other species in the forest, was sacred to Maori. It was believed a gatekeeper to the seventh heaven and was also closely associated with the great chiefs of the land and only chiefs of distinction could properly wear its tail. When it became rare, Maori declared it “tapu” (sacred) but sadly this was not enough to save it as its tail feathers became sought after in Europe as well. The Huia became extinct in the early part of the twentieth century. As well as its plumage, the Huia’s call was very beautiful. The Huia that sits on St Paul’s shoulder reminds us that even though its song has been silenced, we are all still called to listen for the inspired beauty of God’s song found in creation and Holy Scripture.’3



The earliest portrait of a dean in the Cathedral Collection is that of Alexander Knowle, Dean of St Paul’s 1560–1602. The Cathedral collected portraits of deans and canons sporadically until the mid nineteenth century and since then every dean has been captured on canvas. Two of the most recent were painted by the artists Jane Bond and Margaret Foreman. Continuing this tradition, two portraits have recently been commissioned to hang in the renovated Chapter House: Lucy Winkett, the Cathedral’s first female canon 1997–2010 and Graham Knowles, Dean of St Paul’s 2007–11. The portrait of Graham Knowles has recently been completed by Daphne Todd, whose painting Last Portrait of Mother depicting the artist’s mother immediately after her death, won the BP Portrait award in 2010. Painted from life, with seven, three-hour sittings, the new portrait shows the dean in threequarter length in his current office in Westminster as Registrar of the Sons and Friends of the Clergy charity. VISUAL ARTS POLICY AND TEMPORARY INSTALLATIONS In 2007 the Chapter of St Paul’s agreed a Visual Arts Policy which begins: ‘Our policy is to use art in all its media to express, explore and celebrate faith in the Triune God.’ It goes on to make reference to the iconoclastic controversy of the eighth century and notes that as the place of art in the Christian tradition has developed it has provoked reflection on the nature of perception and beauty in relation to God, and on imagination as the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit. Art, it concludes, ‘in the Christian understanding, is therefore, ‘bound up to show what is in some sense real; it shows something other than its own labour of creation’.4 The policy refers to both temporary and permanent installations but it is specifically time-limited exhibitions of works that the Visual Arts Policy Advisory Committee has overseen in the last eight years. The policy is clear that the cathedral’s use of art ‘must have some stated purpose that will, with outstanding distinction, illuminate and further our mission’ but in addition to implicit devotional and evangelistic purposes, the use of art, it argues, should further the cathedral’s mission in the following ways: –

Enrich the pattern and content of liturgical worship and preaching

250 – –

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY Provide a focus and opportunity for lectures, symposia or other forms of theological and intellectual reflection Establish or renew dialogue with those who represent a distinctive interest in London and at national and international levels Market St Paul’s, thereby attracting new visitors, while also offering fundraising opportunities to the St Paul’s Foundation.

Over the last ten years St Paul’s has consequently installed the following works for a temporary period: Moon Mirror (2005) – Rebecca Horn This mixed-media sculpture by the German artist Rebecca Horn was placed in the west end of the cathedral and shown as an extension of the Hayward Gallery’s retrospective of her work. The piece consisted of a revolving mirror, set inside a static one, creating the illusion of gazing deep into a well. Looking up, the viewer sees a moon, with fires flaring on its surface, suspended from the cathedral’s ceiling. The whole was accompanied by a poem by Horn. The Nativity, The Public Ministry, The Crucifixion, Resurrection (2005 – 7) – Sergei Chepik Four monumental paintings by the Russian-born Sergei Chepik, created between 2003 and 2005, designed for the pillars to left and right of the Nave, were installed for two years. Panel I: Nativity, Virgin and Child. Panel II: The Public Ministry, The Baptism. Panel III: The Crucifixion, The Judgement. Panel IV: The Resurrection. The commission was undertaken in partnership with the Catto Gallery. Morning Beams / River of Life / Wish Tree (2006) – Yoko Ono St Paul’s Cathedral is an exceptionally light building; clear windows and reflective walls create a noticeably bright interior. The building is also home to the famous painting The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. Playing with the idea of a physical body symbolising light, Yoko Ono installed an engaging installation using many ropes attached to the Cathedral to create the illusion of shafts of light emanating from a natural source (Plate 16.1). Visitors were encouraged to explore between the beams and interact with the artwork.



The Question Mark Inside (2008) – Martin Firrell What makes your life worth living? The artist Martin Firell posed that question as part of this work to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Cathedral. The public were invited to submit their responses and the artist interviewed leading thinkers for their opinions. The results of the survey were projected onto the exterior of the Cathedral dome and made visible across London for one week. The probing question drew punchy answers; some were funny, some profound, some were commonplace and some politically challenging. All were beamed in giant letters on a blue background. Flare II (2010) – Anthony Gormley This dramatic sculpture by Antony Gormley, was installed in the Geometric Staircase in April 2010. The artist said of the installation: ‘Wren understood proportion, space and gravitational dynamics as no other British architect of his time and the Geometric Staircase is a supreme and elegant outcome of this understanding. In a press statement Gormley said Flare II is my attempt to use applied geometry to construct an energy field describing a human space in space.’5 Red Mannheim (2010) – Mark Alexander St Paul’s chose two new works by the British artist Mark Alexander to be hung either side of the central nave. Both entitled Red Mannheim, Alexander’s large red silkscreens were inspired by the Mannheim Cathedral altarpiece, which was damaged by bombing in World War II. The original sculpture depicts Christ on the cross. Rendered in splendid giltwood, with Christ’s wracked body sculpted in relief, and the flourishes of flora and incandescent rays from heaven, this masterpiece of the German Rococo was an object of ravishing beauty and intense piety. Remembrance Day Poppy Installation (2011) – Ted Harrison Over 5,000 poppies were scattered under the dome of St Paul’s in an art installation on Remembrance Day. From ground level the poppies appear to have fallen randomly, but when viewed from the Whispering Gallery the poppies form an image of three child soldiers; one from World War I and two from more recent conflicts. The 30-foot wide installation created by artist Ted Harrison highlighted the shameful involvement of children in war.



Perspectives (2011 – 12) – John Pawson As part of the Cathedral’s tercentenary celebrations, the London Design Festival invited John Pawson to present a remarkable installation which referenced Sir Christopher Wren’s desire that his buildings should have a scientific purpose. The installation, entitled Perspectives, designed in collaboration with Swarovski, was located within the Geometric Staircase. There was a good precedent for this idea of using the architecture as an optical instrument, since it is likely that Wren used a similar chamber in The Monument as an observatory. Sorry, Sorry Sarajevo (2013 – 14) – Nicola Hicks This work consists of a life-size bronze sculpture of a man holding another man, dead or badly injured, in his arms. Created by acclaimed artist Nicola Hicks, the work was made in 1993, at the height of the Bosnian War, since when it has served as a reminder that brutal warfare has continued to rage around the world. Hicks’ art is a fusion of the imaginative with the realistic, the psychological with the material. The sculpture was situated at the east of the Cathedral in the Dean’s Aisle, directly opposite Henry Moore’s 1983 sculpture, Mother and Child: Hood. This juxtaposition allows people to reflect both on the beauty of birth and relationships, and on the horror of war, murder and bereavement – sounding a call to protect the human. This work could be described as a militarised pieta and it was installed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian conflict. All the World is now Richer (2014) – Sokari Douglas Camp Six life-sized steel figures representing successive stages of the story of slavery, were installed inside the West doors. This work, by renowned African artist Sokari Douglas Camp CBE, was inspired by the words attributed to the liberated ex-slave William Prescott: ‘They will remember that we were sold but they won’t remember that we were strong; they will remember that we were bought but not that we were brave.’6 The installation commemorates the abolition of slavery and was brought into the cathedral as part of its celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr preaching at the Cathedral on his way to Oslo to receive his Nobel Prize.



Commemorative Crosses (2014 – ) – Gerry Judah As part of the Cathedral’s commemoration of World War I, a new work comprising two white cruciform sculptures, each over six metres high, was installed at the head of the nave (Plate 16.2). The twin sculptures, by London artist Gerry Judah, recall in their shape and colour the thousands of white crosses placed in the war cemeteries. On the arms of the cross are intricate models of contemporary and historical settlements decimated by conflict – such as we see currently in places such as Gaza and Syria, reminding us that in many ways that so-called Great War is still being played out in devastating ways. Visitors are able to stand under the sculptures, seeing the destructed cityscapes and also aware that the cross is over them as if they were in the grave. Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) (2014) – Bill Viola and Kira Perov The installation which caused most interest and excitement was that of a new work by the American video-artists Bill Viola and Kira Perov (Plate 16.3). Created for the east end of the south quire aisle and on permanent loan from the Tate Gallery, this is the first ever permanent video installation in a cathedral. Viola describes it: As the work opens, four individuals are shown in stasis, a pause from their suffering. Gradually there is movement in each scene as an element of nature begins to disturb their stillness. Flames rain down, winds begin to lash, water cascades, and earth flies up. As the elements rage, each martyr’s resolve remains unchanged. In their most violent assault, the elements represent the darkest hour of the martyr’s passage through death into the light.7

‘Martyr’ is a word that helps us focus on what a human being might be willing to die for – faith, conscience, justice, love of others. The contemporary art medium of film that so often controls mass culture is here slowed down and shaped to unravel that control, deepening our perception and allowing us to face ourselves alone with both our fragility and potential. We see the dignity and the resilience of the human in the face of all that would destroy what is true and good. The work speaks of how we each have been given the gift of being. The gift we have to offer in return is who we become and how our lives, and deaths, might transform the world.



Good art, like good religion, sets out to question our answers more than answer our questions and with a form and language that resist cheap paraphrase. Our many thousands of visitors, very diverse in belief and background, are able to encounter the universal spiritual questions of life and death that this extraordinary work lays before us with a distilling and affecting scrutiny. Responses to the work have been overwhelmingly positive although some have voiced concern about a cathedral depicting suffering in graphic imagery whilst others have questioned what they perceive to be the aestheticisation of torture and pain. There is no question that Viola subverts the tyranny of contemporary materialism in this and other works and opens up a sense of distilled time. The rumour of God is very loud in the work, as enigmatic as it is profound. Martyrs is Phase I of a two-phase installation and it is hoped that the second work by Viola and Perov will be placed in the cathedral in 2016. It will depict the life of Mary and be appropriately installed in the same aisle as Henry Moore’s Mother and Child: Hood. CONCLUSION I began with reference to Henry Moore’s comment about the feel of religious connotation in his sculpture. It seems to me that the days of cathedrals and churches commissioning art only to enhance their liturgical and evangelistic vocation are over. Of course this should continue as one tradition, art serving to nurture the faithful and capture the imagination of those searching for God. Also, however, the dialogue that a cathedral or church can initiate in its space is a contribution to a larger and more universal desire. To explore in depth those themes of our humanity and culture with the shared language of art, a language for the inner and outer landscapes, is crucial when so many of our diverse visitors today find a specific ‘religious’ vocabulary, whether written or visual, lacking in resonance. This will be done inevitably in the current milieu by works which are implicitly religious in their inspiration, without identifiable religious themes or traditional symbols. The person or place of faith can contribute to the conversation about how these themes and symbols of their tradition might relate to the work and do this as part of shared mutual learning. For the



non-religious this might open up more understanding to the potency of Christian narrative and mythology. For the Christian it will mean a deeper listening and maybe a deeper hoeing of the tradition that brings fresh soil to the top and makes faith potentially more fertile. By placing contemporary works of art in a cathedral rather than in a gallery, different questions are brought to the work and different questions come out of the work addressed to those encountering it. These questions circle naturally around the sense of transcendence, meaning, purpose, and whether reality can somehow ultimately be trusted. They express the great thirst for depth that many who casually stroll around a cathedral are often surprised to discover within themselves in the artistic and liturgical encounters the space provokes. We live at a time when spirituality is commonly thought to be a private project and sadly the liturgies and languages of the church can often intensify the perception that the church or cathedral space is primarily there for the ritual and polemic of an initiated group with learned and shared behaviours of mind and body. This would be a far too indulgent and shallow understanding of the Christian contribution to public life and imagination and it passionately needs countering. Taking the work of artists seriously, by being willing to be unsettled, confronted or puzzled by them, even in your own worship space, and inviting others to stand on the same level footing with you in exploration of their meaning and consequence for all of us, is an urgent and vital vocation. In the words of Frank Burch Brown: ‘the art that has the greatest significance is not necessarily the art of institutional religion but rather the art which happens to discern what religion in its institutional focus needs most to see’.8 NOTES 1. N. Lynton, Henry Moore: The Human Dimension (London: Lund Humphries Pub Ltd) 1991, no. 114, illustration of another cast p. 137. 2. G. Horrobin, The Making of the Churchill Memorial Screen at St Paul’s Cathedral (Minehead: Maytime Publishing, 2009), p. 40. 3. – -st.-paul-and-the-hu ia–-icon.pdf (accessed 8 May 2015). 4. R. Williams, Grace and Necessity (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2006), p. 17.



5. 20press%20release.pdf (accessed 8 May 2015). 6. Quoted in A. Tibbles (ed.), Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), p. 128. 7. (accessed 8 May 2015). 8. F.B. Brown, Religious Aesthetics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 11.


The Museum Space as a Mediator of Religious Experience: Sacred Journeys at the British Museum Rosalind Parker

In 2010, Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, commissioned a series of exhibitions on sacred journeys which pioneered an innovative – and for some controversial – curatorial strategy. For each of these journeys, whether to sacred treasures from medieval Christianity, or along the pilgrimage route of Hajj to Mecca, the audience entered an exhibition space which was demarcated as religious. Choices were made in the layout and structure of the hang to handle the religious subjects in an emotionally heightened, selfconsciously atmospheric way. Although not unprecedented, this surprised many audiences and differed from previous British Museum exhibitions where the strategy was more overtly didactic, with either a focus on specific educational groups or individual spectators. In this restructuring of the museum experience, curatorial approaches were employed which sought to open up their particularly religious subjects to new cultural audiences. However, this opening up of religious subjects went further than simply increasing audience reach, it also opened new possibilities for spiritual engagement and indeed a new vision for the place of spirituality in the museum experience. Looking particularly at Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, and Hajj; Journey to the Heart of Islam, I will explore how public spaces can offer new scope to enable religious



experience. I will initially look at these case studies from a sociological perspective, focusing on how the construction of the space impacted the audience experience. My analysis will take Paul Heelas’ and Linda Woodhead’s thesis on the subjectivisation of spirituality in the public domain,1 anchor it in aesthetics and apply it to museum spaces, with specific reference to the notion of the collective embodied gaze as discussed by David Morgan. For Morgan, ‘the power of images consists in their ability as extended forms of embodiment to provide the touch and hold of what they (re)present’.2 In this way, audiences can encounter an image in what Morgan names a collective embodied gaze which designates ‘a form of religious practice that does not simply instrumentalize media artifacts, but materializes belief as a practice’.3 Situating the materialisation of belief in praxis, I look to Heelas’ and Woodhead’s approach to the state of twenty-first-century religion in Britain, to consider their proposition that religion is giving way to something called ‘spirituality’. Using fieldwork from a major research project in Kendal to nuance what has been called the subjective turn in modern culture,4 their findings acknowledge that the decline of religious activity in institutional settings is countered by a rise of spirituality in private or autonomous contexts. However, their studies further indicate that this rise in private spirituality, whilst not operating within church or congregation, is nonetheless articulated collectively; making sense of both decline and growth of twenty-first-century spirituality by relating both axes to this single process of subjectivisation. Contemporary public space, or what Heelas and Woodhead name as our holistic milieu,5 is thus characterised by relationality: ‘by the expression and cultivation of unique, and thus autonomous, subjective lives within associational settings’.6 The increase in spiritualisation found in autonomous modes of expression is crucially still dependent on the facilitating environment provided by shared spaces in the public arena: spaces which are not officially identified as religious. New strategies in the handling of religion in exhibition contexts can offer an opportunity for collective religious experience which does not require its audience to define, or even think of themselves as either religious or non-religious. The threshold is not that of a church or mosque. The two case studies I will explore provide a forum for personalised engagement with religious subjects in a group setting; a new opportunity for religious expression mediated in the exhibition



space.7 The museum can thus render itself a facilitating environment, able to offer diverse audiences a collective and congregational experience of the sacred which is not bounded by categories of religious self-identification. In this way the space may enable a procedural approach to identity construction, where religious and social identity are mediated through shared experience. In Morgan’s notion of the gaze as a mediator of something, the process mediates the religious in its very collectivity: Vision is one medium whereby people engage in embodiment, the process of imagining oneself as an individual as well as belonging to a corporate body. Embodiment is not a condition, but a process, and it contributes powerfully to religious life by joining people in communities of feeling.8

In this way I propose my case studies demonstrate spaces that encouraged visitors to become an audience, to experience their religious subjects individually, and moreover to be able to share them across new communities of feeling.

TREASURES OF HEAVEN: SAINTS, RELICS AND DEVOTION IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE My first case study, Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, was the second in the British Museum’s series on sacred journeys. It followed Book of the Dead, an exhibition which invited its audience on a journey to the ancient Egyptian afterlife using media and interactive technology to reinterpret and assemble spells on papyrus and linen over 3,500 years old, with a specifically educational focus. Similarly immersive, but tailored to its distinct context, Treasures of Heaven ran from 23 June to 9 October 2011, bringing together 150 objects from over 50 institutions around the world with the intention of situating these medieval relics in their historical context, occupying the central part of Christian worship that they would have had in daily religious life at the time.9 Whilst the religious focus of Treasures of Heaven was clearly Christian, the exhibition was designed to provoke spiritual engagement on what MacGregor called ‘a human level’, across faith communities and diverse audiences – a rhetoric which points to a universal meaning, able to transcend its specific cultural and religious



context; ‘human’ is presented as being beyond the religiously particular. The British Museum promoted the exhibition as: Loaded with emotional meaning, relics speak of human longing, fear and hope . . . Discover a dazzling array of treasure from a deeply religious age, concerned with the mysteries of life and the power of saints. Art and spirituality come together . . . . [in an] exhibition that will delight and surprise the devout and the curious.10

The objects were presented in a way which enhanced them as conveyers of emotional meaning, or spiritual mystery, able to enrapture the ‘curious’, if not to convert. Indeed, many visitors, both Christian and non-Christian, complimented the exhibition for making a specialist topic into something to which they could relate.11 The German Reliquary of the True Cross (1135) was one such pertinent example. The relic is believed by some to contain a piece of wood from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. As with many of the objects on display, this relic was contained in an individual glass cabinet, brightly lit to illuminate its gold and jewelencrusted form. The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, spoke of this as a piece which ‘invites us to enter into the mystery that it expresses’.12 For Nichols, it offered a physical invitation into an incarnate theology, where the artwork serves ‘to lead us through its beauty to the inner reality’; it ‘invites that contact, as it were, between the object and our spiritual selves’.13 The religious content of the relic is conveyed through its aesthetic; in it, Christ’s life is conveyed from the cradle to resurrection, through stones from Bethlehem and from the place of his ascension – a mystery of faith which is both human and divine. In illuminating the beauty of each object, giving it space and light to resonate, the Reading Room space was designed to draw the viewer to focus on the beauty of each piece in turn. The audience expressed a heightened awareness of the construction of the space and moreover were complimentary about the curatorial choices made in the layout and hang. Where the heightened theatricality of curation was observed as unusual, visitors largely spoke of this as a positive feature, that different elements worked together to situate the objects in their original contexts. The British Museum’s visitor report speaks of the overall ambience of the show combining to create an ‘immersive environment’ leaving visitors feeling ‘far removed from



everyday life’. The exhibition encouraged visitors to enter a spiritual domain, opening up a space away from the everyday, an opportunity for visitors to engage in a way that they would not normally.14 That the audience found the exhibition demarcated as a distinct space ‘away from the everyday’ suggests an openness to new forms of behaviour, social engagement and modes of encounter with the subjects on display. Audiences were also particularly responsive to the use of music: monastic chant played in embedded sound cones in the display. Data collection from visitors leaving the exhibition space reports an overall positive impression. Different visitors commented: It is consistent with the music that the visitors to those shrines would have heard when they went to see the shrine I think it all adds to it . . . Because it is monastic and you are sort of in the presence of monastic things I like the way everything’s presented and I like that music. I think on the whole it gives due reverence to what is presented. You know because it’s like religious objects and it seems to be referencing the spirit in which they were created15

In this way the music was felt to be appropriate to the subject matter, placing the work in what was referred to as an ‘authentic’ relationship to its original context. Further links were made between the museum space and a space for worship. Functioning as almost a quasisanctuary, many described the architecture of the exhibition in religious terms, which, as with the music, was felt to be proper to the subject matter; ‘the soaring dome of the Reading Room’ seemed suitably ecclesiastical for the exhibition content.16 Nichols spoke of gratitude to James Robinson, the exhibition’s curator, for his transformation of the Reading Room: a most beautiful space to house these treasures from heaven. We’re underneath this vast dome, which in a way is like the dome of heaven . . . and it’s about the length of a medieval church. We are entering, as it were, into a holy Space.17

The ambience of the exhibition enabled the objects on display to function religiously without detracting from their museum context: whilst the treatment of the subject may have been surprising, audiences did not respond to this as a curatorial sleight of hand,



slipping in a religious experience in the guise of museum culture. Moreover, it was the handling of the space which impacted on reported audience experience as much as any individual object on display. From the British Museum’s audience data collection, 81 per cent of visitors reported that the ambience of the exhibition space enhanced their visit, allowing them to experience ‘deep levels of emotional and spiritual engagement, being awe-inspired by the objects and encouraged to contemplate’. The audience engagement with the exhibition subject was facilitated, and enhanced, by the ‘immersive environment’ provided.18 From the audience’s awareness and appreciation of the atmosphere, it would seem the environment provoked a relationship with the subject that can be called both museological and religious. In what I would call an experiential handling of subject, curatorial choices encouraged the audience to engage with the objects as spiritual icons or mediators of the divine, rather than as historical artefacts in a museum collection. Could we say, then, that a curatorial discourse which aimed to convey authentically the particularly Christian context of the works as they would have been engaged with in medieval times enabled and even provoked the universal engagement on a ‘human level’ which MacGregor sought when commissioning the series? In so doing, it would seem that the exhibition balanced, or even linked together, the tensions between authentically conveying the particularity of a specific tradition and engaging audiences in a wider, or universal appeal to something that can be felt to be religious across a demographic including both Christians and non-Christians. The space was constructed in a way which conveyed the religious component spiritually, rather than presenting it didactically, with ‘comparatively low proportions of visitors experiencing a social or intellectual outcome as their highest outcome achieved’ in contrast to their ‘sense of awe’.

HAJJ: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF ISLAM Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam ran from 26 January to 15 April 2012, as the last of MacGregor’s commissions on spiritual journeys. Here too, the curators cast it as taking its audiences on an experiential journey, yet it played on different associations and practices for different audience groups. Given that at this time Islam was



frequently linked in the news with terrorism and depicted as a threat to British security, the exhibition had to navigate a complex web of educational, spiritual and cultural trajectories. In pursuit of perhaps that same human appeal of which MacGregor spoke in Treasures of Heaven, this was an exhibition specifically about Muslim pilgrimage that nonetheless facilitated shared experience. Tim Adams, writing for the Observer at the time, congratulated the exhibition’s ‘boundless efforts at cultural diplomacy, and sheer determined curiosity, which allow us all to enjoy the detail and scope of a story that is to many a closed book’.19 Indeed, MacGregor said he wanted to offer viewers the chance to witness something that they could not do elsewhere: This exhibition will enable a global audience to deepen their understanding of the significance and history of the Hajj. In particular, it will allow non-Muslims to explore the one aspect of Islamic practice and faith which they are not able to witness.20

The space was organised into three main sections: preparation for Hajj, the ‘journey to the heart of Islam’ and retrospectively what it means to be a Hajji. Beyond creating an immersive space for the viewer to enter, the exhibition layout was constructed to give an explicit sense of journey: the spiral route which the exhibition path took, going deeper and deeper into the reading room, echoed the circling of the ka’aba in Mecca. The traffic through the exhibition physically picked up the centripetal flow of the pilgrims around the black stone. This is in contrast to Treasures of Heaven, where the space was organised to control visitor flow and to give each object enough space to speak. The layout transposed aspects of the Hajj into the museum setting: a physical journey which could be activated by Muslims and non-Muslims in the shared space of the museum. Either through sharing a transcultural notion of a pilgrimage journey, or else activating specifically religious ideas of pilgrimage for certain groups, the subject of Hajj could be enjoyed across a culturally and religiously diverse audience. As with Treasures of Heaven, audiences expressed a heightened awareness of their surroundings whilst in the exhibition, commenting on the atmosphere and the way that the space had been handled. Visitors responded to what the report calls a ‘powerful immersive atmosphere’, with 81 per cent of visitors reporting that ‘the atmosphere



enhanced their visit’, and 82 per cent feeling that the layout and flow of the exhibition enhanced their experience. Many used language which pointed to the theatricality of the curation – calling the tapestry pieces ‘backdrops’, noting the lighting and the use of sound. The British Museum’s exhibitions are generally built out of objects and accompanying descriptive texts. Although the Hajj Exhibition included 180 objects, the curators found it difficult for them to tell a story in themselves; unlike Treasures of Heaven where the objects themselves mediated the spiritual subject, the subjects here were chosen to first and foremost to tell a story of people. The exhibition took two years to put together and, as it developed, choices were made to use increased audio, as well as modern photos and documentary style footage of pilgrims on the Hajj. Whilst audio and video are frequently present in British Museum exhibition collections, it is extremely rare to find them equally weighted with the artefacts, as they were here. The objects were continually interwoven with personal testimony. Venetia Porter, one of the curators, explained: With an exhibition as extensive as this, you do not need more than 180 objects, but each one must tell a story – it must serve as a springboard for the visitor, taking him or her in a particular direction. The exhibit must work as a jigsaw, the pieces coming together in order to tell a story.21

The fact that the curators were keen to prioritise an experiential engagement with the subject matter, perhaps even over a didactic one, is most clearly indicated by the placing of video footage, which marked the half-way point. The curators said the film played a key role in ‘helping those who have not been [to Mecca] to visualize Hajj’, breaking down the stages and ‘explaining each aspect so that it gave a comprehensive summary’. Some visitors felt this placement half-way through the exhibition was frustrating or confusing, as they would have appreciated a clearer introduction to the topic of the Hajj within Islam in general.22 However, other visitors reflected that this enhanced their experience in building suspense, and that they enjoyed the fact that an element of physical journey was enacted before they were given a more synoptic overview regarding the different stages of the pilgrimage in Mecca. Most visitor feedback was voiced in experiential rather than didactic language. Visitors were less likely to express their reactions in terms of what they had learned, and more by how they felt.



The report states that across Muslim and non-Muslim audiences, both groups experienced ‘high levels of emotional and spiritual outcomes’. What was happening, then, if visitors were describing their experience of being in the museum as spiritual, given that the religious subject matter was specifically Islamic, and that the audience was visibly, and unusually for the museum context, comprised of almost 50 per cent Muslims?23 The exhibition room became a space for collective encounter with Hajj, for shared religious experience of pilgrimage. In the nature of the spiritual inclusion reported, it was the immersive environment of the space gave permission for nostalgic or imaginative engagement with the Hajj experience, rather than the spiritual being mediated through the specific objects on display, as with an icon, with one exception: the initial impact of the entrance. Here a single cabinet displayed one of the oldest known copies of the Qur’an, from the eighth century, borrowed from the British Library. This was hit by a single light source in an otherwise low-lit entrance hall, whilst the adhan, or call to prayer, was played from concealed soundcones: an overall effect which intentionally propelled the visitors into their journey through a kind of ‘sacred portico’. In this way the Reading Room was demarcated as an entrance to a different kind of space, an exhibition which invited the visitor to cross a threshold into the subject matter was perhaps especially important to those who may have otherwise felt some barrier to engaging with Islam.24 Whilst in both of my case studies visitors reported strong spiritual outcomes, the nature of the spiritual qualification was particular to the way the subjects had been handled. In Treasures of Heaven the spiritual experience visitors described as having was tied directly to the objects in the exhibition. The atmosphere played a key part in enabling sufficient focus or reverence but it was the object itself which was characterised as mediating or affording the spiritual qualification of their visit. This apprehension of sanctity was felt across religious and non-religious visitors, but for most expressed in a Christian context: linked to a cherishing of the icon, the physical object carrying or embodying the spiritual significance of the space. Contrastingly, the reported testimonies from visitors of the Hajj exhibition described the religiosity of their experience in a different way:



It’s trying to stimulate the atmosphere . . . stimulating the effect of Hajj. The entrance was particularly compelling, it transported visitors from their day to day lives, and immersed them in the experience of making a pilgrimage. It’s a little dark hallway and you’re walking towards the light . . . it made you feel as if you were going on Hajj yourself.25

The curatorial intention was to convey Hajj as first and foremost a story in which the narrative element allowed the historical journey of Hajj to intersect with today’s story. This was unusual for the British Museum, to weave the historical into the present day. However this ‘making contemporary’ was not just achieved in relating the past to the twenty-first-century pilgrims in Mecca. Beyond this, the space was constructed in a way designed to lace the historical, global phenomenon of the Hajj into the experiences which visitors were having in the exhibition space.26 Alastair Smart, reviewing for the Telegraph, credits the exhibition as one which ‘collapses much of the ideological distance between us and the pilgrims’, where its ‘trick is to turn our route through the Reading Room into a mini-Hajj itself’.27 You begin to hear the adhan (call to prayer) before you’ve even entered the exhibition and this immerses you in the reverence that is afforded to the Hajj.28

In demographic, number, and behaviour of audience, this exhibition was atypical for the British Museum. Of the visitors to the Hajj exhibition, 47 per cent were Muslims to 53 per cent non-Muslim.29 Of this, there were 40 per cent Asian visitors, compared with only 8 per cent of Asian visitors to the British Museum in general during that period. To put this in a wider context, in the 2010/2011 Taking Part database of British Museum visitors, only 3 per cent were recorded as Muslim. From its opening, the exhibition was crowded, receiving 80,000 visitors in just over seven weeks, and selling out so rapidly that the museum extended its opening hours to Saturday and Sunday evenings. Many visitors commented on the large numbers of people and noise, and, where commented on, mostly this was expressed positively, that the numbers ‘added to the experience’, and further, ‘giving them a sense of togetherness and shared experience.’ Many



people also commented on the sound of the exhibition; there were speakers installed in the space, soundcones embedded in the display which played various sound-bites including the call to prayer and crowd sounds from footage of people on Hajj. In this way visitor chatter was amplified by, or rather melded into, the sound of pilgrims in Mecca. In addition to the sheer volume of people in the Reading Room, it may also be relevant to consider here that there were a high number of first-time British Museum visitors, with 25 per cent new intenders – first-time visitors to the Museum – whose visit was specifically motivated by seeing this exhibition. There was also a high rise in family and group visits, with 36 per cent family groups, compared to 5 per cent at Treasures of Heaven, and 18 per cent visitors aged under 16, compared with 4 per cent Treasures of Heaven. The audience was built out of an unusually high number of families and groups, visitors who came to share their experience of the exhibition together. It was a dynamic space, and this served a crucial function. Not only did it encourage a direct link with the dynamism of the crowds circling the ka’aba, as the space physically and aurally reinforced the movement and purpose of pilgrims on the Hajj. Visitors were particularly aware – and at the time of their visit – of their own experience of being in the museum. This is clear from both the theatrical language which the visitors used to describe their visit, and the number of visitors who commented on how the components of the space manipulated their experience. The lighting and sound had as much of an effect on what the viewers wanted to talk about in focus groups as many of the objects on display. In the way that the viewers inhabited the space they became an audience that was allowed, and indeed encouraged, to be selfreflective, and aware of each other in a relational and collective context which did not detract from their engagement with the subject of Hajj. It was not a distraction, it was an enhancement. Without suggesting that Muslims and non-Muslims felt that they were having the same experience, would it be possible to say that, as the Hajj ritual was translated into the museum space, the way this dislocation was handled opened out the experience to non-Muslims, without desacralising the Islamic aspect to self-defining Muslim visitors? In an audience composed of 47 per cent Muslims and 53 per cent non Muslims:



Muslim visitors were in many ways distinct from their non-Muslim counterparts; but despite their different profile and motivations, they had equally fulfilling experiences.30

In what I described earlier as a ‘heightened awareness of fellow visitors’, many Muslim visitors commented on the fact that the nonMuslim audience presence enhanced their experience, and vice versa. Here we have an acknowledgement of religious difference which did not diminish audience experience; that same experience which 81 per cent of visitors qualified in ‘emotional/spiritual’ terms was described in personal narrative then linked to pilgrimage in general, and for some the Hajj experience in particular. Muslims and nonMuslim audiences found their mutual interaction and encounter in the exhibition enriching. The second destabilisation that was engendered by the museum setting was the unusually high number of Muslim visitors. In envisioning the Hajj together, the audiences were aware that they were sharing something which they would not normally expect to be sharing, a spiritual aspect shared across people who were aware of having different cultural or religious backgrounds. As with the previous exhibition it is important that there was, for both groups, although differently, a baseline of normalcy, of expectation which the museum setting brought with it, which the exhibition itself then unsettled. At the outset of this case study, I described the curation as encouraging the viewers towards an experiential, as opposed to didactic engagement with the religious subject. To nuance that binary now, perhaps this case study is a model which offers less an either/or between ‘learning’ and ‘experience’, and rather indicates a loop between the two; that the museum context brought with it expectations: of instruction, of attention to objects, of silence, of being solitary, which provided a context that provoked the audience to frame their reactions to the exhibition in particularly experiential/ immersive terms. Muslim visitors described leaving the exhibition being more proud of their faith, and non-Muslims described now having the ability and confidence to discuss Islam with others.31

In fostering a sense of religious pride, the exhibition encouraged an outward-facing emotion towards a culturally specific subject.



It gave Muslim visitors an awareness of their faith informed by wider community in the shared gaze of a multifaith audience. This would suggest that knowledge of this specialist subject was encouraged across different faith groups, but it was mediated through the experience of being in the space together. The expectation of didactic learning which the museum setting brought with it was indeed achieved, if via a more experiential route. CONCLUSION Both exhibitions offered distinct examples of a space constructed to mediate a religious subject to an audience in a new way. In offering experiential encounter with the medieval icon and a physical sense of the journey of the Hajj, the curators designed a space which encouraged the viewers to have a heightened awareness of themselves as they moved through the exhibition, envisioning the religious subjects individually whilst the museum environment held together a sense of collectivity. This increased audience selfreflection then functioned as a counter to what could be conceived as a primarily emotional impact for many; a twofold impact which also relieved any potential accusation that a heightened atmosphere in the curation may have achieved a merely affecting, immersive, playground-like experience which obscured their religious subjects, or re-routed them from their original contexts. Through Morgan’s notion of the situated, embodied gaze we can see here an audience sharing religious subjects with a new sense of ‘collectivity’:32 As with a fleshly corpus, belonging to a social body means sensuously experiencing the world through it. Vision is one medium whereby people engage in embodiment, the process of imagining oneself as an individual as well as belonging to a corporate body. Embodiment is not a condition, but a process, and it contributes powerfully to religious life by joining people in communities of feeling.33

The spaces I have discussed were constructed in a way which rendered the Reading Room a space for embodied process and, as such, struck a particular resonance with the religious content. In engaging the viewers in a physical journey, Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam functioned as a space for the viewer to enact their epistemological route into the ‘heart’ of Islam, a journey to Mecca described in



anthropomorphic language and enacted physically by its audience. In Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, the notion of embodiedness resonated both through the incarnate theology of its Christian subject, but also in the choice to situate the icon in its human relation: ritual devotion through the touch of the object, the physicality of the haptic gaze.34 The notion of embodied gaze, of experiential encounter with a subject, foregrounds aspects of embodied religious experience. Whether focussing on reliquaries – things that you touch – or pilgrimages that you undertake, both exhibitions used metaphors of religious process to offer an intensely physical engagement with their subjects. In their Kendal fieldwork, Heelas and Woodhead noted that what may be called a rise in private spirituality is still in practice relational, operative in the holistic milieu of the collective in shared space. Following Morgan’s notion of seeing as a formative process, the heightened awareness of each other whilst envisioning a subject as an audience, as I have described, offered an experience which we can call spiritual, and moreover one capable of creating community, cultural locus, and even civic identity.35

NOTES 1. P. Heelas and L. Woodhead, The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005). 2. D. Morgan, The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012), p. 33. 3. Ibid., p. 166. 4. See C. Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 26. Likewise ‘For many people today, to set aside their own path in order to confirm to some external authority just doesn’t seem comprehensible as a form of spiritual life’. C. Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002). p. 101. 5. Holistic milieu being the more ‘invisible activities’ of spirituality as against ‘the heartlands of religious and spiritual life . . . face-to-face, associational activities whose primary purpose is engagement with the sacred’. Heelas and Woodhead, The Spiritual Revolution, p. 8. 6. Ibid., p. 26. 7. ‘Mediation designates a form of religious practice that does not simply instrumentalize media artifacts, but materializes belief as a practice. Media are how believers cancel the distance between themselves and the world.


8. 9.



12. 13. 14. 15. 16.



19. 20. 21. 22.

23. 24. 25. 26.


This bears directly on the way in which media are enchanted. It involves a kind of alchemy or transmutation of one thing into another. Mediation is an embodied process that might be understood to be as corporeal in its own way as eating.’ Morgan, The Embodied Eye, p. 166. Ibid., pp. xvii–xviii. Treasures of Heaven’ video, ture_exhibitions/treasures_of_heaven/introduction.aspx (accessed 1 December 2014). ‘Treasures of Heaven’ video, ture_exhibitions/treasures_of_heaven/introduction.aspx (accessed 1 December 2014). ‘Art, Spirituality and Power’: An Evaluation of Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the British Museum (Manchester: Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, 2011), hereafter MHM (2011). Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. B. Sewell, ‘Treasures of Heaven, the British Museum – Review’, Evening Standard, 23 June 2011. See Eamon Duffy’s review: ‘And so the lavish display of the reliquary was a glimpse of heaven’. E. Duffy, ‘Treasures of Heaven, the British Museum’, The Guardian, 24 June 2011. Lead Curator James Robinson in conversation with Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Diocese of Westminster t.asp?content_ref¼ 3407 (accessed 1 December 2014). Ibid. This immersive environment as distinct from what has been called the ‘white cube’ exhibition space. See Brian O’Doherty, Beyond the Ideology of the White Cube (MACBA: Barcelona, 2009). T. Adams, ‘Treasures of Heaven, The British Museum’, The Observer, 29 January 2012. (accessed 1 December 2014). Venetia Porter, interviewed by Sanam Maher, Herald, 2 April 2015, http:// (accessed 3 July 2016). Bridging Cultures, Sharing Experiences: An Evaluation of Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at the British Museum (Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, 2012), hereafter MHM (2012). Ibid. One year after Baronness Warsi named Islamophobic discourse as ‘having passed the dinner table test’. Baronness Warsi, 20 January 2011. Quotes from two non-Muslim focus groups and one Muslim focus group. MHM (2012). ‘Overall visitors appreciated the narrative structure of the exhibition which emulated the pilgrimage’s structure, and intuitively guided visitors


27. 28. 29.

30. 31. 32.

33. 34.


VISUALISING A SACRED CITY through the content’. MHM (2012). This ‘intuitive journey’ was often linked to the subject matter of pilgrimage, which in turn was sometimes – but not always – specifically related to the Hajj. A. Smart, ‘Hajj, at British Museum, Seven Magazine Review’, The Telegraph, 29 January 2012. T. Khan, ‘Exhibition Review: Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam @ The British Museum’, New Londonist Review, 28 January 2012. Non-Muslim audiences including those self-describing as religious, and non-religious, however within this category the visible demarcation would not have been as distinct. MHM (2012). Ibid. From our image-saturated culture, ‘My body is the fabric into which all objects are woven, and it is, at least in relation to the perceived world, the general instrument of my “comprehension”.’ M. Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 273. Morgan, The Embodied Eye, pp. xvii–xviii. ‘Haptic visuality to describe a certain powerful mode of vision – seeing that maps the visual terrain in terms of touch, texture, proximity, all sensory features that the hands and the body use to register the material character of something’. Ibid., p. 111. ‘Understanding how an act of seeing mobilizes people by situating them within the compelling social body of a community that is animated by a common ethos has everything to do with understanding how seeing constructs the sacred in visual practices and images.’ Ibid., p. 6.


‘A Real Temple of Jewish Art’?: A Century of Ben Uri in London 1915 – 2015 Rachel Dickson, with concluding remarks by David Glasser

We congratulate the Ben Uri [. . .] on the opening of its art gallery, and we wish that its activity [. . .] may grow and blossom [so] as to dispel spiritual darkness and depression that often prevails in London Jewish life, and [. . .] to fill it with as much multi-coloured beauty that the souls of the local Jews may be elevated and illuminated and that they may enjoy to the full the miracle that culture and art create.1

One hundred years ago the ‘Jewish National Art Society Ben Ouri’2 was founded in Whitechapel, heart of the Jewish ghetto in London’s East End. Its chosen name, ‘Ben Uri’, referencing Bezalel Ben Uri,3 the artist who created the Ark of the Covenant, immediately evoked biblical associations. A century later, following changes in identity, name, accreditation and location, Ben Uri has emerged under the banner ‘Art, Identity, and Migration’ in a modest two-storey temporary gallery in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, north London. This chapter briefly charts Ben Uri’s transition from ‘Art Society’ to secular, accredited museum4 operating within the cultural mainstream; its early years, when Yiddish dominated an exclusively Jewish identity, through absorption of two successive waves of e´migre´s (those fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe from the late nineteenth century onwards and those seeking refuge during the period of National



Socialism c.1933–45) to its reinvention for the twenty-first century. It acknowledges Ben Uri’s inward focus during the 1950s–90s, serving a local Jewish community; its closure in 1996; and its optimistic reemergence in 2001. The chapter also addresses the evolution of the largely secular collection which now numbers over 1,300 artworks. Conceived by artists primarily of European Jewish descent, the collection, and Ben Uri’s own journey, can be seen today to resonate with a number of minority communities, supporting the wider narrative of contemporary migration to London. In the final section, Ben Uri’s chairman asks whether, as the organisation celebrates its centenary in 2015, it offers a sustainable model as well as a model for others, at a time when Jewish cultural institutions are considering strategic consolidation to survive the next half century. 1915 – 32: FOUNDATION AND CONSOLIDATION When Ben Uri was founded on 1 July 19155 in the midst of World War I, it was to support Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox Jewish artists and craftsmen newly arrived from Eastern Europe, who had settled in the East End and were unable to access the cultural bastions of assimilated Anglo-Jewry. Historically home to successive waves of immigrants fleeing persecution, Whitechapel’s densely packed, largely impoverished neighbourhood became a microcosm of Yiddish-speaking, eastern European Jewish life. Described by local writer Joseph Leftwich (1892 – 1984) as ‘an amalgam of Jews from Vilna and Warsaw, Lodz, Bialystock, Kiev, and every place within the Pale’6 – the shtetl transplanted to London – it was a strong, close-knit and intellectually rich community, well able to sustain its own press, theatre, music and literature. Nevertheless, a certain distance existed between East End and acculturated West End Jews, such as painter William Rothenstein (1872 – 1945), of German descent, who took a studio in Whitechapel specifically to paint locals whom he dressed as religious Jews, having glimpsed their real-life counterparts inside Machzike Haadas synagogue in Brick Lane, where he was forbidden to work. Rothenstein could be considered an outsider, versus Polishborn painter and Whitechapel habitue´, Alfred Wolmark (1877 – 1961), whose moving scenes of Jewish e´migre´s at home and prayer, In the Synagogue (1906) and Sabbath Afternoon (c.1909 – 10, both Ben Uri Collection) reflect his own community.



From the outset, the Society straddled these two cultures. Ben Uri’s newly revealed archives7 reflect this duality, and this chapter provides the first opportunity to engage with much primary source material. The Society’s earliest activities were frequently recorded in the mouthpiece of Anglo-Jewry, the Jewish Chronicle, its sister paper – the more populist Jewish World – and in the Yiddish daily Di Tsayt, whose editor, Morris Myer, was a founding member of Ben Uri. Lazar Berson (1892–1954),8 the Society’s quixotic Russian e´migre´ founder, also contributed to Di Tsayt, often writing about art. Together, contemporary press cuttings from these publications form an integral part of the archive. The first year of the ‘Jewish National Decorative Art Association Ben Ouri’,9 was distinctly shaped by Berson who crucially oversaw the drafting of the first statutes, dated 1915,10 but published in Yiddish in the back of a fundraising album in 1916. More than 100 founder members were listed, often members of the same family, drawn from the breadth of East End society,11 a healthy proportion of women and with groups in Glasgow and Manchester. The statutes’ emphasis on decorative art clearly served Berson’s personal ambitions well; a 1930 catalogue acknowledged his ‘arabesque-like drawings on wooden vessels and other objects of decorative art [. . .] may be regarded as the nucleus’12 of Ben Uri’s art collection. His designs incorporated religious motifs, words from the Shema (the most important prayer in Jewish daily devotion), a symbol for the Cohanim (Plate 18.1),13 whilst a memorial for Zionist Theodore Herzl (1860 – 1904) was flanked by decorative menorot. Contemporary reports suggest he had recently designed a New Haggadah.14 Much early Society correspondence is on paper headed: ‘Art Director L. Berson, of Paris Salon, member of International Association for Art and Literature’, embellished with the distinctive logo he designed. His oeuvre emphasised a non-figurative tradition, enabling Ben Uri to avoid the thorny issue of what was appropriate art for a Jewish Society, given the biblical stricture against graven images. Joseph Kruk, noted Polish Zionist, praised Berson’s approach, as did the Anglo-Russian Review: The question of Jewish art is still enveloped in darkness [. . .] the way that leads our artists to ancient and oriental and not Aryan Christian art is much more fruitful and Jewish. New creative horizons would open up to our artists if they drew more on the distant East and on the ancient Jewish past. [. . .] the artist has used his time in London well: one notices the influence of the Kensington and especially the Indian museum.15



Berson uses the same wood and ceramic as the Russian kustari [art craftsmen] [. . .] The bowls and plates, the boxes and bound drawings [. . .] have been endowed with a soul, the soul of a people, by the hand of an artist; the sadness, the poetry, the solitude and homelessness, the religious subordination, the optimism and faith of the Hebrew race – all this is expressed in these beautiful art objects.16

Berson’s first designs were presented at a Hanukkah banquet in 1915, attended by ‘Zionists, territorialists, Bundists,17 PPS18 and anarchists, united under the banner of art’.19 This broad political spectrum echoed the Society’s desire to stand outside politics, despite the left-wing ferment in Whitechapel, and its calendar of events was shaped principally by Jewish festivals – Hanukkah, Purim, Simchat Torah – all pretexts for celebratory balls, concerts and lectures. Despite Berson’s founding role, Chairman Braydburg criticised him for neglecting his responsibilities towards making artwork, being ‘too involved in the technical side of Ben Uri [such that] the creative side [. . .] is suffering’.20 Minutes further record heated debate regarding a possible first exhibition, utilising Berson’s Parisian artist contacts (from whom Ben Uri ‘might purchase some inexpensive works for its own collection’21). Tantalisingly no names are mentioned, so it is impossible to gauge the calibre of these potential artistic partners, and the form of communication, via Di Tsayt and its Paris representative, seems haphazard at best. Although Braydburg hoped the French artists’ ‘suffering will be transformed into works of art to embellish and enrich Jewish life’,22 these ambitious plans came to nothing, and exhibitions remained peripheral until the 1920s, when the basis of a permanent collection was formed and a gallery established. In late September 1916 Berson suddenly and unaccountably disappeared. At an Extraordinary committee meeting a ‘strong protest’ was issued against this ‘latest irresponsible behaviour’23 and he was expelled from the Society. The removal of this dominant personality enabled Ben Uri to embrace a broader spectrum of activity, as ‘a national institution [. . .] engaged with Jewish art, whether it is sculpture, painting, decorative art [. . .] where Jewish artists could send their creations to a Jewish place.24 The revised constitution25 announced a name change: ‘The Jewish Art and Literary Society Ben Uri’ and emphasised the importance of acquiring a space for the collection and hosting exhibitions. This new identity accommodated



the Society’s wider remit and the slipperiness of any definition of Jewish art, a topic regularly tackled by notable artists including Wolmark and fellow e´migre´, Leopold Pilichowski (1869–1934). The latter gave a lecture in Yiddish in late 191626 countering the ‘opinion dominant in various anti-Semitic circles [. . .] that Jews have nothing artistic in them and have given no works of art to the world’,27 illustrating biblical examples including the Golden Calf and the Temple in Jerusalem, whilst suggesting the Diaspora’s only ‘Jewish works were [. . .] tombstones’.28 Noted Zionist, Pilichowski’s underlying message was that Jews would create once they had regained the land of Israel.29 The Chronicle also recorded that the event raised ‘a considerable sum towards [. . .] a “Jewish museum” in England, a movement initiated by Ben Uri’.30 By the summer of 1920, housing the collection, now comprising 19 paintings ‘by the two famous artists, Simeon Solomon and David Bomberg’, and Berson’s decorative art (‘together [. . .] worth several hundred pounds’31) was a clear priority, enthusiastically supported by the Yiddish press. Ben Uri demonstrated its early nonconformity with these acquisitions. Solomon, prosecuted as a homosexual, had died in the workhouse, whilst Bomberg’s darkly modernist Ghetto Theatre was acquired after its exhibition at the avant-garde London Group in spring 1920. Bomberg remained involved with Ben Uri throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the relationship often prickly; he later sought in 1938 to mobilise the Jewish artists into some sort of union. Secretary Simy Weinsten,32 a fellow ‘Whitechapel Boy’, speaking at Toynbee Hall in early 1922 on ‘Creative art among Jews’, exhorted his audience to concentrate on ‘art of the present, such as that by Jewish modernists Bomberg, [Jacob] Kramer and [Isaac] Lichtenstein’.33 Ben Uri spent the next half decade moving, appointing officers and increasing the collection, despite no formal acquisition strategy, lurching between financial crises. Post-Berson, its leaders were not aspiring artists but established members of the Yiddish commercial class. Early patrons included older, respected cultural figures, such as Whitechapel-born Israel Zangwill (1864 – 1926), considered the best-known Jew in the English-speaking world following publication of his novel Children of the Ghetto. President in 1922 – 3, he believed that Ben Uri ‘existed for the purpose of asserting Judaism [. . .] Many people still thought that Jews were all Shylocks and therefore it was well that they should know of all



the creative musical and artistic activity in their midst.’ 34 Solomon J. Solomon (1860 – 1927), only the second Jewish Royal Academician, succeeded Zangwill as President, weeks before the writer’s death,35 linking East End with West. Realist painter Pilichowski, noted for his social commentary and psychological interpretation of Jewish themes, supported the Society from 1916 until his death. His was the first exhibition held under Ben Uri auspices at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in July 1921, and he became in succession Vice-President and President. In the early decades of the twentieth century, London functioned as a crossroads between Europe, Palestine and the Americas, and Ben Uri welcomed numerous international Jewish cultural figures who spoke on a fascinating range of topics.36 However, religion as a subject was largely avoided, and despite much of the language surrounding the Society’s formation suggesting a deep spiritual element within Jewish peoplehood, the acquisition of works depicting direct religious or ritual imagery remained limited. Although deeply embedded with the Yiddish community, in its first nomadic decade Ben Uri oscillated between east and west London, from Whitechapel to Notting Hill,37 until 17 May 1925, when its first, short-lived ‘home’ opened at 68 Great Russell Street, opposite the British Museum. The earliest formal record of the collection, now displayed, numbered 37 works.38 Exhibits included religious and biblical subjects, as well as landscapes, portraiture and a lone caricature. The opening painting was the monumental, recently acquired Sabbath Rest by Samuel Hirszenberg (Plate 18.2), followed by 15 works by Simeon Solomon, many with biblical titles, including Head of Christ. Pilichowski was represented by his tragic commentary on European Jewry, Hear O Israel, the title taken from the first words of the Shema. Enrico Glicenstein’s recent biblical acquisitions were also shown. Wolmark, presiding, discouraged communal isolation. The gallery might lead to what he wanted – ‘a real Jewish Temple of Art [. . .] which should ultimately be handed over by British Jewry to the country of their adoption’.39 Haham Dr Gaster, leader of the Sephardi community, gave the inaugural address. No stranger to the visual arts, he had been closely involved with the earlier 1906 Jewish Art and Antiquities exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery which attempted to engage a local Jewish audience. Chairman Edward Good40 announced that ‘Anglo Jewry



was not content to remain in a ghetto in the East End’41 whilst the Chronicle’s correspondent noted waspishly the ‘slight extent to which exhibits are Jewish’, highlighting ‘Head of Dante, a caricature of Lord Kitchener and a Head of Christ’.42 This early willingness to incorporate images of Christ by Jewish artists has remained a constant throughout Ben Uri’s exhibition and collecting strategy, culminating in the controversial 2010 exhibition Cross Purposes, discussed later in this chapter, in which the crucifixion became the overarching curatorial theme. Closing after only a year in Great Russell Street, the need for a permanent home was again highlighted by Chairman Chechanover: ‘the destiny of Ben Uri is like that of the Jewish people as a whole. Just as a people cannot exist without a home, so an institution cannot exist without a resting place.’43 The article further described plans to create ‘in London a Jewish club, reading rooms and a Jewish cultural centre in general, like the ones that exist in Berlin and other great cities [. . .] Many members of the Hampstead Russian community have been running around with the idea but unfortunately nothing has come of it yet.’ Pilichowksi recommended: ‘start in the East End, where the beginnings of every Jewish institution in London were laid, and I’m sure the West End will come to your aid’ whilst Wolmark asserted that ‘only in the East End can such an institution be founded’.44 The debate over the merit of east versus west continued to divide the Society’s loyalties – and location remains a key strategic issue today. It is notable that whilst issues surrounding Zionism played out around Ben Uri, and a number of its key players, such as Pilichowski, were avowed supporters of a Jewish homeland, the Society did not see itself as having a final destination within a state of Israel. Its long-term strategy made donation of the collection to the British nation a possibility, whilst it actively supported the establishment of art collections in Palestine by hosting receptions for the Gifting of Pictures to the Tel Aviv Art Museums.45 Nevertheless, Ben Uri’s key role was to remain at the heart of the British Jewish community. As founder Edward Good (Moshe Oved) expressed eloquently: we can by no means assume that all Jews will enter the Land of Israel; we are and will be dispersed among all nations, where we must have a corner for our art and artists. And it is being built. The Institute for Jewish Research with its branches in all countries, the Hebrew



University in Jerusalem, the Museum in Tel Aviv and we here need to strengthen our corner.46

Ben Uri eventually celebrated its 15th anniversary in November 1930 back in the East End, with a new ‘gratis’ space in the Jews Temporary Shelter at 63 Mansell Street, E1. The opening was attended by two rabbis, Dr Gaster, now a Patron, and Dayan Dr Feldman, representing the Chief Rabbi, who consecrated the gallery, affirming that ‘[. . .] the society does not violate the second commandment with its exhibition of artistic paintings’.47 Gaster raised the perennial question of ‘Jewish art’, and its ‘symbolic’ importance in East London, concluding that, ‘out of this tiny gallery, a large and important Jewish folk institution will grow’.48 The opening catalogue listed 77 items in the collection. Hauntingly prescient, the ‘Introduction’ described Ben Uri’s foundation during ‘one of the darkest pages in the history of the world, [when] large numbers of people were forced to leave their homeland and seek refuge in foreign countries’.49 1933 – 50: TOWARDS A SECOND WAVE OF EMIGRE´S From June 1933 the renamed ‘Ben Uri Gallery and Jewish Literary Society’50 began three years in the newly completed Jewish Communal Centre, Woburn House, a space large enough to hang the collection and to host events. Treasurer Seres believed prospects had improved: ‘Ben Uri has left Whitechapel not because of its desire to break into “High Society” but because the indifference of Whitechapel [. . .] has forced us to look for another place.’51 Thus, in this most critical year for European Jewry, Ben Uri found itself unexpectedly able to offer exhibition opportunities for displaced artists fleeing Nazi persecution. Between 1933 and 1945 more than 300 painters, sculptors, graphic designers, illustrators and architects52 fled to Britain. Many clustered around Hampstead, an area with a strong artistic profile and home to a number of Ben Uri’s officers. Catalogues reveal that more than 40 Jewish e´migre´s, mostly German and Austrian, but also Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Romanian, exhibited with the Society during this period. On arrival, not only were these artists, whether established or lesser-known, faced with the difficulties of life in a foreign country, but with the additional problem that German art was



little known and unfashionable. ‘[To] the general public in Great Britain, modern German art is totally unknown’, noted critic Herbert Read referring to the 1938 exhibition Modern German Art.53 ‘A hiatus in our knowledge of work done in contemporary Germany will now have a chance of being filled’ observed the Chronicle: ‘About 23% of the men and women who have contributed so handsomely to the wealth of German painting and sculpture are Jews.’54 In September 1933, Secretary Marcus Lipton warned that ‘Jewish Artists will be lost to Jewry without Jewish Support’.55 This admonishment, initially directed at Anglo-Jewry, had a more urgent and wider agenda as the situation deteriorated in Germany, and it became apparent that the Society’s duty was to assist the growing number of displaced artists. Henceforth, ‘Annual Exhibitions of Works by Jewish Artists’, begun in 1934, were enriched by e´migre´ participation, and in early 1936, to further support living artists, it was agreed to hang ‘one picture of every artist who submitted [. . . provided] each picture should not have been exhibited the previous year’.56 ‘The Nazi Philosophy’ noted President Israel Sieff ‘was not merely an attack on Jews as Jews but on Jewish culture.’57 Beach further acknowledged ‘In the current difficult times, when the Jewish creative force is being persecuted and uprooted, the Jewish Art Society in London is some comfort and a support hub for Jewish artists.’58 Unintentionally poignant, a vanishing world was glimpsed in January 1935 in the Exhibition of Water Colours, Drawings and Sketches of Old Synagogues in Poland and Eastern Europe, XIV –XVIIIth Centuries by Russian e´migre´ artist and art historian, George Loukomski (1884 – 1952). From 1936 to 1939 the Society held an uneasy tenancy on the third floor of the Anglo-Palestinian Club in Great Windmill Street, W1. The landlord, despite hoping to benefit from attendance by Ben Uri members, made activities difficult, and few events at the Club are recorded beyond annual exhibitions. With the outbreak of war, Ben Uri was again homeless, though it maintained a lecture programme at various venues in an attempt to ‘carry on its artistic and cultural work as far as war conditions would permit’,59 in a similar spirit as the National Gallery. Through the efforts of Treasurer, Cyril Ross, the collection was stored in his Great Castle Street strong room, and, crucially, in autumn 1943, ‘in the midst of flying bombs



and worse’,60 the Society secured central, rent-free premises within a Georgian house at 14 Portman Street. Here it could display the collection (now around 150 pieces) alongside loans, and employ its first salaried curator and secretary, Fritz Solomonski (1899 – 1980). Previously, exhibition organisation had fallen to the secretary, who was neither artist nor curator, with ad hoc help from the Council. Solomonski was a professional, a German e´migre´ painter and art historian, recently interned in Hutchinson, the so-called ‘artists’ camp’ on the Isle of Man, with Kurt Schwitters, Ludwig Meidner and Erich Kahn. Unusually among artist internees, some of Solomonski’s work was religiously inspired. However, his appointment was clearly unsatisfactory, lasting barely a year. Solomonski left for America in 1954,61 his difficult professional progression characteristic of many e´migre´s, facing the fracture of a second, newly forged, career. As the tide turned in the global conflict, Ben Uri’s ‘magnificent’ re-opening exhibition in January 1944 featured 173 collection exhibits plus loaned works of Camille and Lucien Pissarro, Jozef Israe¨ls and Max Lieberman. Here, as 70 years later, Ben Uri demonstrated that its leaders, if not its audience, perceived the institution as a high-profile gallery, exhibiting international masters. More than a quarter of exhibitors were recent e´migre´s, including Solomonski, whose Elijah and the Angel was an oil version of a stencil created in Hutchinson. This commitment to the e´migre´ community was acknowledged months later in the ‘Summer Exhibition’ catalogue: ‘In view of the total ruin of Europe by the Nazis, the work undertaken by the Society has become of even greater significance.’62 In late 1946 ‘Subjects of Jewish Interest’ were bolstered by external loans (prompted by a call in the press). Unusually, these were predominantly biblical or religious, interspersed with e´migre´ responses to Holocaust, internment and refugee experience. 161 exhibits included studies of Chassidim by Isidore Kaufmann, Tisha Ba’av (1927) by Maurice Minkowski, Kramer’s study for Day of Atonement (1919) (Plate 18.3) and Pilichowski’s Hear O Israel (c. 1924). The Tate lent four works including William Strang’s Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1894 or 1904), and two pre-Raphaelite engravings, Rebekah at the Well after William Holman Hunt (1863) and Elijah and the Widow’s Son (1881) after Ford Maddox Brown. Exiled expressionist and Orthodox Jew, Ludwig Meidner (1884 – 1966) sent Chazan and Chassidic Jew, typical of his powerful religious imagery. Sculpture



included Benno Elkan’s models for bronze candelabras recently designed for Westminster and Buckfast Abbeys and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. ‘Gallery II’ displayed scenes of religious Jewish life by Moritz Oppenheim (1800 – 82), including circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, marriage and important festivals. In spring 1948, several artists exhibited views of their adopted north west London neighbourhood, besides masterpieces by Amedeo Modigliani and Chaı¨m Soutine. This split in display emphasised the continuing dichotomy facing Ben Uri: whether to be a lower key, inward-facing society, providing for its local e´migre´ community, or to show international masterpieces, or to attempt a balance. From the late 1940s the Society hosted a number of individual and small group e´migre´ shows, including the 1949 joint exhibition for husband and wife, Ludwig and Else Meidner,63 the former’s only British show in years of impoverished exile. Deeply observant, Ludwig had thrived in internment, surrounded by cultured, often Orthodox German-speaking Jews, sustained with kosher food, and able to draw. Jutta Vinzent suggests that on release Meidner and Polish e´migre´ painter, Jankel Adler, attempted to establish a Jewish art organisation, where Orthodox artists could create and exhibit appropriate subject-matter.64 Since this initiative failed, Ben Uri was perhaps the most acceptable alternative, and Meidner’s exhibits were primarily portraits, biblical scenes or overtly Jewish subjects. However, as painter Leo Kahn reflected: ‘The refugee community, pre-occupied with material worries and eagerly trying to adapt itself to the English way of life, generally paid little attention to its own artists [. . .] if Meidner hoped that his religious drawings would hold a special appeal to the members of Jewish congregations he overlooked that it was the spirit of the prophets and the Jewish mystics that lived in his work; a spirit that is all too often lost today.’65 Although the exhibition was significant for Ben Uri, for the Meidners its ‘Jewish’ positioning meant limited exposure. Czech art critic J.P. Hodin recalled it was ‘practically unnoticed’.66 Ludwig himself described it as ‘a second class funeral’.67 Despite the Meidners’ commercial and critical failure, in summer 1951 Ben Uri held an exhibition for Chenoch Lieberman (the second in October 1959), a largely self-taught Orthodox, Russian-born refugee. Following conscription into a Russian labour battalion and



the murder of his family by the Nazis, he hoped to preserve ‘through his paintings the traditions and way of life of the once thriving Jewish communities of Eastern Europe’.68 A modest ten-day show was opened by the Chief Rabbi, with 250 people present. Thirty-one exhibits included Chassidic Dance, Cheder, portraits of the Lubavitcher Chassid, the Chief Rabbi and Dayan Abramsky, Head of the Beth Din. Five pictures were sold. 1951 – 2014: FROM ‘CLOSED SHOP’ TO ART MUSEUM 1951 also marked the nationwide celebration, ‘The Festival of Britain’. The Jewish community contributed across many spheres, including Ben Uri’s Anglo-Jewish Exhibition, 1851 – 1951 Art Section,69 an adjunct to the main display at UCL. The catalogue introduction by Joseph Leftwich testified to ‘the place and the importance of the artist in Anglo-Jewish life’ and ‘the contribution of Jewish artists living and working all or most of their life in Great Britain and the British dominions’.70 A total of 127 works from the collection were supplemented by loans. Perhaps wishing to present an assimilated profile and to avoid over-identification with Jewish ritual, subjects were was mainly secular, including numerous British landscapes. Exceptions were Solomon Hart’s Simchat Torah – Reading of the Law, Kramer’s Day of Atonement, Rothenstein’s The Rabbis and Simeon Solomon’s biblical scenes. Sculpture included e´migre´ Else Fraenkel’s portrait of Haham Dr Gaster. Religious subjects remained a minority throughout the 1950s whilst Ben Uri exhibited a broader range of media and techniques. By 1959, the collection numbered more than 250 works, with religious subjects occupying less than 10 per cent. The founding of the state of Israel in 1948 did not immediately affect Ben Uri’s regular activities. Cultural links continued, as they had with Palestine, with exhibitions by Israeli artists peaking during the early 1970s, as the first generation of native-born sabras explored opportunities beyond their homeland. Between 1974 and 1975 seven shows were held in ‘co-operation with the Cultural Department, Embassy of Israel’, organised by Secretary Barry Fealdman, who felt that one of the Society’s priorities should be ‘to promote the work of Israeli artists to British audiences’.71 Following three years in Berners Street, W1, from 1961, and the exhibition Paintings on Biblical themes,72 Ben Uri relocated in early



1964 to a single room in the West End Great Synagogue building in Dean Street, Soho, remaining there until 1996 when the site was redeveloped, its closure until 2002 physical rather than constitutional. Although the decade 1971 – 80 represented a peak of exhibition activity (105 exhibitions) under Secretary Barry Fealdman, the move did little for Ben Uri’s profile outside the community. Alfons Rosenberg observed: ‘whatever the merits of Dean Street, it is simply not where the art lover looks for a gallery [. . .] The Ben Uri is reminiscent of the (Jewish) closed shop, which surely is not at all intended.’73 Indeed, the move was a costly mistake, the Society taking over 12 years to pay for its share of the building. The inaccessible fourth floor space was too small for its needs and the former broad range of activities shrank to exhibitions and the occasional lecture. Security in Soho, a location which had by the 1970s changed from swinging to sleazy, increased visitor access problems, meaning that income, even from an ever-increasing exhibition programme, did not meet expenses and debts grew exponentially, culminating in 1984 when, not yet an accredited museum, Ben Uri sold Gertler’s Merry-Go Round, its most important work, to the Tate. Even this did not raise nearly enough money to facilitate a move to a more suitable building, as some members had demanded. Attempts to combine with other Jewish cultural groups in the 1970s foundered from lack of communal funding, as most substantial monies at this time were destined for Israel. Simultaneously, highprofile patrons such as Sir Israel Sieff and Sir Simon Marks (of Marks and Spencer) shifted support from small Jewish charities, such as Ben Uri, towards mainstream British cultural patronage. Following abortive talks to set up a Jewish cultural centre in 1978 Ben Uri had begun the process to reconstitute itself into an educational trust or limited company which would not only encompass its widest cultural, artistic and educational aspirations but formalise the governance and terms of office of trustees. The memorandum of association as a limited company in 1980 clearly stated its ambitions: ‘to advance the education of the public in art, literature, language, music, history, religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people wheresoever situate and in particular (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing) to promote the improvement of public taste in the fine arts of paintings, drama, literature and music’. These



wider aspirations could be read as something achievable in a new building. The company was incorporated on 1 April 1980 (perhaps an inauspicious choice of date) and in 1983 the word ‘Limited’ was officially dropped. Despite obtaining museum accreditation in 1995, with the demolition of Dean Street Ben Uri was forced to retreat further within the community, first taking office space at the Jewish charity ORT in Albert Street, Camden, opposite the Jewish Museum, and subsequently in the Sternberg Centre for Reform Judaism, Finchley. Despite their brief proximity, combining with the Jewish Museum has never been a serious option given that the JM’s remit has inclined towards social history rather than the visual arts. However, the two institutions maintain strong channels of communication and collaborate where possible. In October 2000 a new Board was elected, setting a radically different strategy, removing the museum from the community, both physically – in the sense of disassociating itself from an existing community building – and culturally, by introducing a mainstream programme where Jewish content was driven by an appeal to a wider audience. In January 2001 its most ambitious exhibition ‘The Ben Uri Story: from Art Society to Museum’ was launched at Phillips Auctioneers,74 determining the direction and calibre of future programming. Following two further successful exhibitions, in June 2002, Ben Uri reopened in the former Artmonsky Gallery in Boundary Road (an address known for Charles Saatchi’s first gallery) as the ‘London Jewish Museum of Art’, embracing the mainstream in all its activities. Although Ben Uri still remains in Boundary Road, its expanding contribution within the museum sector has been endorsed by the British and international art community through high-profile loans, respected touring partners and assistance in the acquisition of Chaı¨m Soutine’s La Soubrette, one of only seven works by the artist in UK public collections. In January 2010 Apocalypse, an exhibition of Ben Uri masterworks at Osborne Samuel in Mayfair, an area known for prestigious art dealers and auction houses, further bolstered the gallery’s public profile. Its timing coincided with the unexpected acquisition from auction in France of a rare Chagall crucifixion, Apocalyse en Lilas, Capriccio (1945), in which Christ, with both male and female attributes, is portrayed as a Jew in phylacteries and talith



(Plate 18.5). This extraordinary work, with its clarity of message and composition, was created in response to the death of the artist’s wife, conflated with the news of the slaughter of six million Jews. With mention of these two major acquisitions, it is timely to conclude with the current status of the collection. Recent analysis of the 1,300 plus artworks includes a breakdown by genre.75 Under headings entitled ‘Religious General’ and ‘Religious Judaic’76 128 items are listed, less than 10 per cent of the collection. Yet one should not set too much store by this arbitrary categorisation; chosen by Ben Uri’s chairman, these were envisaged simply as a convenient shorthand to enable a preliminary analysis of the collection. In addition to those already discussed, 55 ‘Religious General’ include Old Testament Scenes by e´migre´ Hans Feibusch, noted as a master of Church murals, and graphics by Abram Games.77 The 73 ‘Religious Judaica’ include Jewish Festivals Portfolio by Czech e´migre´ Jacob Bornfriend, illustrations of synagogue congregants in Frank Brangwyn’s sensitive etchings and Yitzak Frenkel-Frenel’s Ecole de Paris Cubist-inspired Shabbat Blessing, where the power of ritual is conveyed using a modernist idiom. Depictions of Chassidim range from the realism of Paul Jeffay’s Visages du Ghetto to the naivety of Dora Holzhandler. Masterworks include two ‘Jewish’ crucifixions by Emmanuel Levy and the aforementioned Chagall, supplemented by a recent interpretation of the motif by Rick Morris Pushinsky. Contemporary Israeli photographer, Nathan Dvir, comments obliquely on the issue of Jewish settlements in The Shtetl is Burning, its central figure, a religious Jew in talith set against a flaming building. Its companion piece, Homesh Evacuation #1 (Taken Down) shows an injured settler lowered by Israeli soldiers (Plate 18.4); the imagery calls to mind Christ descending from the Cross. These photographs do not necessarily sit comfortably within their allotted category, existing somewhere between reportage and the photographic equivalent of history painting; the latter image moreover defined by powerful Christian iconography. Although religious art remains a minority genre, in keeping with Ben Uri’s non-religious affiliation, the timing of the Chagall acquisition neatly coincided with the presentation of Cross Purposes: Shock and Contemplation in Images of the Crucifixion, curated by Nathanial Hepburn in mid-2010. A survey of the motif in twentiethcentury art, the exhibition revealed a shift from the holy and



sacrosanct to irreverent and satirical through a group of Jewish and non-Jewish masterpieces, resulting in a controversy played out in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle. As Ben Uri’s Chairman reflected: The very word ‘Crucifixion’ stops conversation and compels thought. For the Jewish community it has its own particular ‘shudder’ as seas of its blood have been spilt during the Holocaust and much past history, using the Crucifixion of Christ as justification. Set that against the fact that for two millennia depiction of the event has been core to the development of art history.

A leading philanthropist declared ‘Why don’t they call it a Christian Museum? [. . .] What type of material is this for our Jewish Museum?’78 Glasser further responded: Need ‘Judaism and Art’ be uncomfortable bedfellows? Should we censure subject matter irrespective of how intelligently addressed? Is censorship not based on the same ‘principles’ as those advocating academic boycotts? What is so threatening about a Jewish Museum publicly addressing the Crucifixion within an artistic context? [. . .] Does that mean Ben Uri, The Art Museum for Everyone should be disowned and classified as a Christian museum because it has a global and local vision and impact?79

Tellingly, several complainants withdrew their criticism on visiting – each one invited to do so individually – with one senior community figure declaring in a private note that it was ‘an extraordinarily revealing exhibition and my only regret was that it took a Jewish museum of art to present it’.80 Furthermore, a subsequent straw poll by the Chronicle revealed that 63 per cent agreed it was an appropriate subject for a Jewish museum.81 Glasser’s thoughts are particularly timely given recent shifts in the Jewish cultural landscape in London. In September 2014 the amalgamation of two major organisations was announced – the wellestablished London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green and the recently opened JW3, in Swiss Cottage, primarily supported by philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield. This consolidation demonstrates how precarious the existence of each Jewish cultural organisation is, whose Jewish funders may only wish to support one institution. Since Ben Uri is neither a Jewish Museum nor currently prepared to join physically with an existing organisation located firmly ‘within’ the community, it strives to go it alone. Notably, Ben Uri celebrates its



centenary with an important exhibition at Somerset House, central London, from July to December 2015, confirming its position as the oldest surviving Jewish cultural organisation in Britain now established within the mainstream.82 This exhibition has been further endorsed by receipt of a significant HLF grant in December 2014 and in the Tate’s offer to lend Gertler’s Merry-Go Round – one of the very rare occasions the work has been loaned since the 1990s. Internal policy changes have also further reinforced this mainstream position. Until recently the gallery closed early on winter Fridays to respect the early arrival of the Sabbath, and for major festivals. However, with the advent of free exhibition entry, funded by Manya Igel Gallery, the issue of money changing hands on the Sabbath has been largely removed, paving the way for seven-day opening. The move to Somerset House, although temporary, will further embed these mainstream strategies, with seven-day opening reflecting those of other site stakeholders. It is also notable that the centenary exhibition will be held in a central London location, away from Ben Uri’s roots in the East End, reinforcing the relevance of its programming to a wider audience.

THE FUTURE OF BEN URI IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY – CONCLUDING REMARKS BY DAVID GLASSER Having clearly laid out its positioning, both inside and outside the Jewish community, with Cross-Purposes, Ben Uri now looks to its future role under the banner of ‘Art, Identity and Migration’. With this branding in place, it seeks to build on its Jewish heritage whilst offering visual arts programmes which will engage and resonate with the broadest possible audience. This is the road map for Ben Uri in the twenty-first century. The future of independent, non-estate funded museums (as with much of the public sector) relies totally on financial sustainability. So how will the sector sustain itself? This requires increasing relevance and engagement so it becomes core to the many communities around it. For Ben Uri, the challenge is to position the ‘offer’, in line with our collection and core objectives, to ‘click’ with the widest audience. In 1996 Ben Uri essentially closed to the public and withdrew to a suburban synagogue. In 2000 a new board was elected, having researched how an independently funded ‘Jewish’ museum (of anything) could achieve a minimum of



100,000 visitors annually – a requirement for some sort of financial sustainability – if it drew principally from a London-wide Jewish community of roughly 200,000. Hardly achievable, unless it was the ‘only offer in town’ which, of course, it was not. To make the task harder, our research further confirmed that 90 per cent of the adult museum/gallery audience in London placed ‘religious’ or ‘ethnic’ branded institutions far down their visit lists. This has long been evident in visitor numbers to European Jewish museums (Berlin being the exception since its location and remit appeal to those from all backgrounds wishing to understand more about the Holocaust) and at Ben Uri itself. However, the theme of migration is universal. Today 38 per cent of the capital’s population is comprised of immigrants and this figure will grow as London continues to prosper. Today our 2001 strategy remains barely altered: to contextualise our ‘Jewishness’ as one of many ‘others’, focusing on the universal narratives of our history and collection, to engage with the widest audience and to be located centrally, outside the traditional residential Jewish heartland of north west London. We present scholarly exhibitions, publish nationally distributed catalogues, produce nationwide Learning modules and social health programmes83 for communities locally, nationally and internationally, as ‘Ben Uri, The Art Museum for Everyone: Art, Identity and Migration’. Currently our programming is successful: 75 per cent of visitors are non-Jewish, rising to over 95 per cent for virtual access or touring exhibitions. It is striking how little has altered between the original statutes, written in a spirit of optimism, and today’s mission statement. Though divided by a century of cultural advancement, much of the collection, and even programmes such as drawing classes, remain. It is not that Ben Uri has failed to evolve, but rather its core principles have remained constant. One of the founding principles asserted with commendable pragmatism that if faced with ultimate failure, the collection should ‘pass into the possession of another national institution that will be deemed appropriate’, reflecting a vision of Ben Uri proudly representing the Jewish community in the national arena. Consequently, as Glasser acknowledges: ‘Its religious heritage, safely in the hands of mostly non-Jewish, passionate and consummate professionals, will shine as one of many contexts in Ben Uri’s second century, under the powerful banner of Art, Identity and Migration.’



NOTES All Yiddish documents and press cuttings are from Ben Uri’s uncatalogued archives, unless otherwise stated. Particular thanks are due to Ben Uri’s first archivist, Claire Jackson and to Sarah MacDougall, Head of Collections. 1. Unidentified Yiddish press cutting, November 1930. 2. Yiddish letterhead, 15 December 1916. 3. 35 Exodus 30:35. It also referenced the progressive Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts founded in Jerusalem in 1906. 4. Museum accreditation achieved in 1995. 5. Catalogue and Survey of Activities (London: Ben Uri, 1930), p. 12. 6. J. Leftwich, ‘Jewish London Fifty Years Ago’, in J. Sonntag (ed.), 1915– 1965 Fifty Years Achievement in the Arts (London: Ben Uri Art Society, 1966), p. 12. 7. Funding in early 2014 enabled Ben Uri to translate much of its earliest Yiddish material into English with the assistance of Dr Helen Beer and her team at UCL, and, following the appointment of its first archivist, Claire Jackson, to preliminarily catalogue its archive. 8. See D. Mazower, ‘Lazar Berson and the origins of the Ben Uri Art Society’ in G. Rathbone (ed.), The Ben Uri Story from Art Society to Museum (London: Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art, 2001), pp. 37 – 58. 9. An alternative name, uncatalogued Yiddish letter, 9 August 1916. 10. Key statutes state: 1) The mission of the Ben Uri society is to create an institution in order to develop and promote art among the Jewish masses. 2) To support every creative form of Jewish decorative art. 10) In case of the disbandment of the Ben Uri society, all the assets shall pass into the possession of another national institution that will be deemed appropriate.

11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

11) The Ben Uri society carries no inclination for any political affiliations and is open to anyone who wishes to partake in it, if they agree with its programme. Including Yitsak Naroditscky who printed Isaac Rosenberg’s plays. Catalogue and Survey of Activities (London: Ben Uri, 1930), p. 13. The line of Jewish priests descended directly from Aaron. Account of the Jews’ escape to the Promised Land, recited at Passover. Di Tsayt, undated Yiddish cutting. Anglo-Russian Review, undated Yiddish cutting. Bundism was a secular Jewish socialist movement originally founded in the Russian Empire in 1897. Polish Socialist Party.

292 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28.

29. 30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35. 36.

37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47.

VISUALISING A SACRED CITY Daily World, undated Yiddish cutting. Minutes, 25 March 1916. Ibid. Ibid. Minutes, 30 September 1916. Minutes, 12 November 1916. Undated handwritten document. 24 December 1916 at the Mile End Empire under Ben Uri auspices. Jewish Chronicle, 19 January 1917, p. 11. The issue of an historical Jewish visual aesthetic is discussed in K.P. Bland, The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001) and in M. Olin, The Nation Without Art (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001). Jewish Chronicle, 19 January 1917, p. 11. Ibid. Unidentified Yiddish cutting. The original group of so-called ‘Whitechapel Boys’ comprised three writers: Joseph Leftwich, John Rodker (1894–1955) and Samuel (Simy) Weinstein (1893–1991, later known as Stephen Winsten). Jewish Chronicle, 3 February 1922, p. 30. Jewish Chronicle, 4 August 1922, p. 26. Jewish Chronicle, 18 April 1924, p. 27. Speakers included Dr Zalkind on ‘Arabic art’, Prof. Dr P. Shneurson on the ‘Way to Spiritual Happiness’, Lazar Kahan on ‘Love and Jealousy in World Literature’, Emmanuel Olsvanger on ‘Art as a Universal Concept’. Berson’s address, 67 Blenheim Crescent, was used for the ‘Ben Uri Studio’. Leaflet to accompany the official opening of the Ben Uri Gallery and Club, 17 May 1925. Jewish Chronicle, 22 May 1925, p. 32. Edward Good (1885–1958), also known as Moshe Oved, was a Polish-born jeweller, artist, sculptor and Yiddish author who immigrated to England in 1903. A founding member of Ben Uri and a great supporter of Yiddish culture, he was also an authority on cameos, antique watches and clocks, owning the renowned Cameo Corner near the British Museum, designing his own original jewellery and Jewish ritual objects. Jewish Chronicle, 22 May 1925, p. 32. Ibid. Unidentified Yiddish cutting, 15 October 1926. Op. cit. See archival correspondence from Moshe Dizengoff re gifts of pictures during 1932. Yiddish cutting from the Jewish Times, 11 September 1932. Festive Opening of Ben Uri Art Society, unidentified Yiddish cutting. Notably, 73 years later, the ‘Chanukat Habayit’ mezuzah setting by Chief Rabbi,


48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71.

72. 73. 74. 75. 76.


Jonathan Sacks, took place during the opening of ‘Director’s Choice’: Highlights from the Ben Uri Permanent Collection Selected by Richard Aronowitz-Mercer on 24 September 2003, visibly reaffirming the intertwining of art and religion in the new Boundary Road gallery. Unidentified Yiddish cutting with handwritten annotation, 23 July 1937. Ibid., p. 12. Minutes, 13 June 1933. Undated letter to Di Tzayt. J. Powell and J. Vinzent, Art and Migration (Birmingham: George Bell Institute, 2005), p. 7. H. Read, ‘Introduction’, in P. Thoene, Modern German Art (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1938), p. 7. Jewish Chronicle, 8 July 1938, p. 8. Jewish Chronicle, 29 September 1933, p. 13. Minutes, 25 February 1936. Jewish Chronicle, 26 June 1936, p. 38. Unidentified Yiddish cutting with handwritten annotation, 23 July 1937. Jewish Chronicle, 17 November 1939, p. 23. Jewish Chronicle, 28 September 1945, p. 17. AJR Information, October 1954, p. 8. Catalogue to Summer Exhibition 23 June–7 August 1944, unpaginated. 5 October–2 November 1949. J. Powell and J. Vinzent, pp. 48–9. L. Kahn, ‘Profile of an Artist: Ludwig Meidner’, Association of Jewish Refugees Journal, (London: February 1953), p. 7. J.P. Hodin, A Jewish Master Ludwig Meidner (London: Tate Archives, n.d.), TGA 20062. Ludwig and Else Meidner, (exhibition catalogue, Judisches Museum der Stadt der Frankfurt, 26 March–12 June 2002), p. 21. Chenoch Lieberman Paintings & Drawings, 24 June – 4 July 1951, unpaginated. 9 July– 3 August 1951. Festival of Britain Anglo-Jewish Exhibition 1851– 1951, p. 3. See J. Weiner, ‘“Mr Ben Uri” – Barry Fealdman’s Years as Secretary 1950– 1976’, in G. Rathbone (ed.), The Ben Uri Story from Art Society to Museum (London: Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art, 2001), p. 70. 17 January–7 February 1962. A. Rosenberg, ‘Ben Uri Art Gallery Exhibition’, AJR Information, September 1966, p. 5. 101 Bond Street, London W1, 6 –25 January 2001. Reviewed in November 2014. Terms coined by David Glasser as temporary categories.



77. Although Abram Games was closely associated with Ben Uri during his lifetime (see Ben Uri archives and exhibition programmes) Ben Uri did not lend to the recent Jewish Museum exhibition Abram Games; Designing the 20th Century as the works in the collection were not appropriate. 78. Jewish Chronicle, 25 June 2010, p. 6. 79. D. Glasser, unpublished article for Jewish Chronicle, 23 August 2010. 80. D. Glasser, 26 November 2014. 81. Jewish Chronicle, 2 July 2010, p. 31. 82. Following the exhibition at Somerset House, there was a welcome and unexpected opportunity to display an expanded collection show at Christie’s auction house in South Kensington, entitled 100 for 100: Ben Uri Past Present and Future. This took place from 21 May to 9 June 2016 and opened up the collection to a new visitor demographic in SW7. 83. Ben Uri is currently embarking on a new Arts and Health Programme. The project which is still in its infancy aims to look at the interplay between art therapy, practical art-making, viewing works of art and the impact that these activities can have on those suffering from dementia.


Blind Faith in the City: Mark Wallinger and the Religious Imaginary Jonathan Koestle´-Cate

In a laudatory review of the work of the London-based artist Mark Wallinger, Sir Roy Strong referred in passing to the sculpture Wallinger had created for the Fourth Plinth Programme. Strong expressed the view that Ecce Homo (1999–2000), a life-size figure of Christ, was ‘one of the few works for the plinth in Trafalgar Square worth a second glance’.1 Not high praise, to be sure, but when Ecce Homo first appeared he was scathingly critical. He objected to its thematic incongruity in a space dedicated to heroes of Empire and saw no merit in its life-size scale, which rendered it disproportionately small in comparison with its grandiose neighbours. The result, he mockingly conjectured, ‘is about as appropriate as a statue of Dame Edna Everage in Westminster Abbey’.2 Strong’s adverse response was not untypical of early reactions to Wallinger’s Christ, and is instructive in drawing attention to what many perceived to be its failings. Ecce Homo came to public attention as the first in a series of temporary works sited atop the plinth in Trafalgar Square that had stood empty since the square was remodelled in the mid-nineteenth century. Initiated by the Royal Society of Arts in 1998, the project began as an attempt to find a solution for the vacant plinth by presenting a series of temporary works that would test public opinion regarding a permanent fixture for the site, but has since been



accepted as a forum for short-term sculptural proposals. Its remit was ‘to install contemporary works of art that had both credibility as critical interventions into public space but were also relevant to Trafalgar Square, London’s most important and symbolic public space’.3 Aware that his sculptural solution to the brief would be in place over the turn of the millennium, Wallinger settled very quickly on a startling yet obvious answer to mark what was essentially (whatever the ill-fated Millennium Dome chose to celebrate) the 2,000th anniversary of Christ’s birth. Ecce Homo was a classical yet contemporary representation of Christ, cast from a human figure in marbleised resin. Wearing only a simple loincloth, his hands bound behind his back, and crowned with a ring of gold-plated barbed wire, this abject, shaven-headed figure heralded the third millennium as, purportedly, the first public religious statuary since the Reformation. If the subject of Wallinger’s proposal was soon decided upon, so too was its theme, the moment recorded in John’s Gospel when, shortly after his arrest, Jesus is presented by Pilate to a baying crowd with the words ‘ecce homo’, behold the man. Wallinger believes this to be one of the most powerful episodes in the gospels, yet one underrepresented in sculpture. Here he is in conversation with Andrea Mason of The Art Newspaper: The context of the approaching Millennium and the fact that Trafalgar Square is the place of the crowd suggested ‘Ecce Homo’. This is a moment rarely dealt with in sculpture. For a believer this is the moment when the human Christ faces up to his divine destiny. For the nonbeliever this is the point when a political prisoner who is a danger to both the religious orthodoxy of his own people and the occupying power of Imperial Rome is placed before a lynch mob.4

FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE Throughout Wallinger’s oeuvre certain motifs recur time and again. One finds, for example, an incessant interrogation of what it means to be British, with a particular fascination for the more parochial iconography of national identity. Since the late 1990s religion too has featured repeatedly, initiated by Wallinger’s suspicion that underlying that ‘Britishness’ is a latent if dormant strata of Protestantism. According to his own testimony, what has been called the religious turn in his work was motivated above all by a kind of sociological



curiosity regarding Christianity’s deep roots in the British mindset. Even if Britain is now only nominally a Christian country, a Christian sensibility remains present, if buried, in its cultural psyche, while its laws and morality are built upon a Christian framework. In this respect, the very public appearance of a representation of Christ in the last days of the twentieth century was a forceful reminder that so much of what we call the secular world is built upon Christian precepts. Ecce Homo was a way of making Britain’s putative religion as visible as possible, as if to say, here he is, behold the man whose teachings underpin your culture, your politics and your society. Despite his fundamental criticism in 1999 of Ecce Homo’s suitability, Strong admitted that the subject itself was a good one, timely in the context of the millennium, but would have graced a cathedral close far more sympathetically than it did the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. Here, he felt, it was entirely wrong. As a ‘great secular pantheon celebrating Britain’s past imperial glories’ he surmised that ‘only people totally ignorant of the square’s very definite theme could have chosen something so glaringly inappropriate’.5 Strong is clearly missing the point here. It is a good subject precisely because of its location. What could be more appropriate when set against the martial hubris and imperial machinations of the state? Throughout his review, Strong persistently misrepresents the case for Ecce Homo, arguing that a prime duty of the artist is to take context into account, something he claims Wallinger has neglected, when he must surely understand the historical significance of Trafalgar Square as a site for large public assemblies, protest and even public executions. The other contextual issue that nonplussed many who wrote about this piece when it first appeared was the discrepancy of scale. For some, like Lynn Barber, the sculpture’s modest stature gave it ‘an extraordinary power over its surroundings’.6 For others, however, its oddly undersized presence, standing precariously at the edge of what then became an enormous and imposing plinth, merely signified the diminishment of Christianity in the world today. These two factors – the contextual mismatch of a Christ-figure in so public and secular a space, and his life-size, hence diminutive, even un-sculptural, scale – were precisely the grounds upon which Strong and others based their criticisms when Ecce Homo first obtruded upon an unsuspecting public. Yet the art critic Adrian Searle was surely right to propose that



the figure itself is only half the work. It is the figure in its setting that matters. As such, he continues, ‘we might see Ecce Homo less as an object, or a self-contained artwork, and more as a site, a kind of metaphoric place where ideas and object collide’.7 If the figure was only half the work, the other half was clearly the square itself. Contrary to Strong’s assertion that this was not a ‘fitting site’ for Ecce Homo, the unorthodox juxtaposition of site and artwork seems vital, for it was clearly designed not to blend in but rather to jar with the space, or, in David Burrows’s shrewd phrase, to act as a question mark punctuating its pretensions.8 Ecce Homo required both this public forum and an audience for its completion. But for such a scene the audience required was not the polite, restrained and critically engaged viewer in the gallery but a very public, mixed and thronging confluence of people, many of whom would encounter this image of Christ quite by chance. Seen from the perspective of the milling crowd below, its contextual puissance lay in the way that it turned the sightseer into one of Christ’s judges, casting tourists and Londoners alike in the role of the Jerusalem mob clamouring for the prisoner’s execution. As such, its scale suited the scenario. Here Christ was dwarfed by the pompous symbols of imperial aggrandisement, whether imperial Rome or the imperial Britain conspicuously commemorated by the square. Indeed, it was the contrast of this modest, unassuming and ‘demonstrably ungigantic Christ’ with his larger-than-life neighbours that was so immediately striking and lent this work an unsentimental pathos and dignity, next to which the ‘bloated’ rhetoric of militarism and power seemed hollow indeed.9 A THEOLOGY OF THE CITY In one of his many essays on the theology of the built environment, Sigurd Bergmann argues that the relationship between theology and the urban landscape is ‘the most crucial challenge to a theologian today’.10 He wonders what built environments mean for theology: how does God ‘take place’ in the city? Can the city actually make a theological statement? Bergmann’s emphasis is on architecture’s potential for ‘doing theology’, but art itself has this capacity to engage theologically with the built environment, thereby instating an urban religious imaginary. There can be few more potent examples of this tendency than Ecce Homo. More than simply a piece of public



sculpture, by virtue of its human scale and the biblical narrative it re-enacted it responded to its urban setting in a powerful yet understated way, the prominence of its public location key to the religious debate it unexpectedly and dramatically reawakened. Wallinger’s own version of an urban theology is contained within his admission that ‘I am playing with the possibilities of retrieving moments of spiritual unity in the generally unpromising contemporary urban landscape’.11 More often than not that urban landscape is London. The capital plays a leading role in many of Wallinger’s ostensibly religious works, providing the backdrop and testing ground for his proactive engagement with the politics and aesthetics of the city, whether in Angel (1997), filmed in the eponymous London tube station, or Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), filmed at London City Airport, or most dramatically and visibly Ecce Homo. But what kind of ‘spiritual unity’ does Wallinger have in mind? Richard Harries is probably right to see in Wallinger’s approach a form of ‘spiritual humanism’ where the emphasis is on the human experience as an immanent expression of spirituality.12 Even so, we should not underestimate the seriousness with which Wallinger treats his religious subjects. Unusually for an artist of his generation, his approach to religion is inquisitorial and critical but rarely cynical. Contrary to the readiness of his peers to ridicule, parody or misrepresent religious iconography and belief (one thinks of the calculated profanities of the Chapman Brothers or Michael Landy’s irreverent depictions of sainthood), it is not an iconoclastic impulse that motivates Wallinger’s investigations, but rather one that draws upon a British nonconformist tradition of dissent. The clearest manifestation of that dissent was his provocative response to the fourth plinth brief, declaring Ecce Homo to be ‘a kind of heresy against securalism’.13 Consequently, it is not difficult to discern a theological basis for Ecce Homo, and indeed for many of Wallinger’s other works. Rachel Wells, for example, identifies a valid theological justification for the sculpture’s size, making the important link between its life-size scale and ‘the Christian doctrine of God’s human embodiment’, especially within ‘a public square filled with adulatory enlargements of state heroes’.14 The incarnation indicates not only a movement of kenosis, the theological notion that through his embodiment Jesus emptied himself of divine power, but also signals a reduction to the human scale. Unfortunately, she then vitiates this reading by



regarding Ecce Homo as a kind of Everyman, one who embodies the human condition as ‘physically vulnerable, susceptible to pain, capable of dignity and courage, and directly affected by the actions of others’.15 Likewise, for Richard Grayson this pallid figure ‘talks of a shared humanity, of the oppressed and downtrodden, the persecuted, the vulnerable, the scorned. His palpable isolation speaks of the condition of man’.16 Such views were no doubt prompted by the ordinariness of the anonymous model for the sculpture, but it is surely a failure of the imagination to analyse away the specifics of this figure and what and who he represents into a generic bearer of humanity’s ills. Admittedly, the official rhetoric surrounding the piece supports such a reading. One of the members of the Vacant Plinth Advisory Group, the art critic Richard Cork, stated it plainly in his description of the work: Presented without rhetoric as the embodiment of Everyman, this suffering Christ had a poignancy that impressed many who came to view the statue after its unveiling. Wallinger’s decision to place a defiantly small image of the bound and humiliated figure took everyone by surprise. Blanched and resigned, he was the quintessence of vulnerability. And his straightforward, life-size humanity spoke to many who might have found a more conventional, elevated statue of Christ unbearably pious.17

One could, of course, criticise this version of Everyman as the neocolonial imposition of an all-too-familiar universalisation of western Christianity, in which case its context might then appear in a new, disturbingly apposite, light. Such an idea could only be problematic for so proudly multicultural and pluralistic a society as Britain’s, and would sit uneasily alongside Wallinger’s political allegiances. If Ecce Homo is susceptible to such allusions, we should also recall Wallinger’s many efforts to undermine all such imperialistic discourses, from Passport Control (1988) to State Britain (2007). Of greater significance to the issues rehearsed here, odd though it may seem, is that virtually all commentators on this work ignore its radical religious nature, thereby entirely missing the real scandal of the figure. This factor was not lost on Wallinger, whose Christ appeared as both a contemporary figure of the present – a challenge to the politics of religious differences, bearing in mind the atrocities that had then only recently occurred in Bosnia – and an attempt to re-present Christianity in a manner unfamiliar to a



Western audience. As Martin Herbert affirms in his monograph on the artist, Ecce Homo was not only a Christ for modern times but crucially also a human Christ.18 The moment of judgement inferred by the scene incorporated a larger theme: issues of religious and racial intolerance, political malfeasance, mob rule and the disavowal of minority rights. In his proposal to the Royal Society of Arts Wallinger saw his figure of Jesus as ‘a secular symbol for the oppressed, and for humility and democratic rights’.19 It is, he asserts, a reminder of our responsibilities as citizens, referring to the choice offered to the crowd as if indicative of an early version of democracy: Barabbas or Jesus? Thus, on the one hand, themes of betrayal, indiscriminate arrest, trial by public, the crushing of unorthodox views and cruel and unjust execution were all uniquely embodied in this solitary figure in alignment with the biblical narrative and, on the other, could equally be applied to any number of political situations in the world today. It may be right to propose Ecce Homo as a kind of metonym for tortured and persecuted humanity, but it is also clearly important to underline the specific identity of this particular victim, as indeed, in numerous interviews, Wallinger has done. WALLINGER’S RELIGIOUS IMAGINARY In the book of the television series Seeing Salvation, Wallinger argues, in reference to Ecce Homo, that whatever our view of Jesus as a deity, ‘he was at the very least a political leader of an oppressed people’.20 Arguably few Christians today would recognise this description as an accurate record of Christ’s mission, since political leadership was the very thing he rejected. Yet to object to Wallinger’s observation on this basis would be to fundamentally misread the political event reenacted in this mise-en-sce`ne. What we must remember is that among the many epithets conferred on Christ – Man of Sorrows, Lamb of God – it was the title King of Israel (Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:32) or King of the Jews (Luke 23:3) that marked him out as a political figure and a putative threat to imperial stability in the region. In which case, Wallinger’s referral elsewhere to the Christ of Ecce Homo as a political prisoner, one accused of allegedly seditious, religiously motivated anti-imperialism, is truer to the mark than one might initially have thought. At the same time, it is the contrast Ecce Homo sets to the military-political might paraded in the square that is



so important to the figure and its locale. As such, the work raises many interesting Christological questions, but in a way by foregrounding a pre-theological moment in history. Where the modern viewer benefits from hindsight, fully aware of what would follow this pivotal juncture, the sculpture’s constellation of past and present condenses two millennia of Christian history to place that same viewer, imaginatively speaking, in the midst of the first-century crowd, ignorant of the religious and political consequences to come. Turning from the work’s political to its religious register, it is curious to note the lack of theological response to Ecce Homo. Rare is the critic willing to acknowledge its theological import. Almost alone among secular critics of Wallinger’s art, the late Tom Lubbock did not shy from the seriousness of Ecce Homo’s religious engagement, consistently defending it against its inevitable secularisation by the art press; nor, from an explicitly Christian viewpoint, did Rowan Williams. Lubbock approaches this question of a modern religious imaginary by drawing attention to the media debate surrounding Ecce Homo on the right way to portray Jesus today. This debate centred upon those aforementioned issues of scale, form and material. But, says Lubbock, this was the wrong debate, since it assumed some fundamental agreement about who Jesus is and what he means today. In a dramatic conjunction of Christian and secular perspectives, this anomalous presence of Christ was something, he suggests, that both Christian and non-Christian could acknowledge, since it prompts the thought that we are ‘a society that doesn’t quite know what to think about Christianity’.21 In the catalogue for Presence, a series of exhibitions of images of Christ in cathedrals around the country, Rowan Williams tackles this ‘wrong debate’ head on. He asks, ‘What are people doing when they try to make images of Christ?’22 Contemporary depictions present the artist with a complex task. Should they go for allusion, concept or the directly figurative? Can or should traditional views be rejected? Can familiarity be overturned? How do artists deal with the representation of divine agency in the world? In his appreciation of Wallinger’s approach to the problem Williams makes a crucial point that supports Lubbock’s argument: ‘here is an extraordinary representation that clearly has extraordinary significance, but a significance that does not show itself as an element in the actual physical composition’.23 Where then does this significance reside? Williams is



clear: it is in the particular place where the sculpture appears. The challenge for the modern artist, something he implies Wallinger has achieved, is to create a frame of visual reference that prompts the question of how and why a whole landscape is altered by the presence of the single provoking figure. [. . .] Any artist is going to be in the business of showing the world differently. [. . .] The question is always how that showing creates an environment, a continuous world, in such a way that it makes still more difference possible in the world it started from. Or, in plainer English, how it communicates sufficiently to enlarge the world.24

For the Christian tradition, says Williams, the event of Christ initiates ‘the unsurpassable enlargement of the world’.25 And just as Wallinger’s diminutive figure is almost lost amidst the bustling crowds of the square so that realisation has been lost, yet appears at times through fractures in symbolic reality, moments of the real glimpsed through the clutter of our overcrowded lives. Perhaps a sense of the sacramental can be reinvoked by unexpected encounters like those provoked by Ecce Homo in Trafalgar Square, unsettling and disorientating the tourist location with its incongruous presence. Acutely aware of this possibility, Wallinger had smuggled in to a very public arena a compelling theological message that undermined any safe recourse to Everyman. Camouflaged within the safely secular notion of a representative of the persecuted everywhere, an image of Christ had taken root, at least for a time, in the heart of the capital. BLIND FAITH IN THE CITY Wallinger’s engagement with ‘the apparatus of the Christian faith’, as Yve-Alain Bois puts it,26 plays upon certain themes conspicuously present throughout his oeuvre: the relationship between seeing and believing, the disjunction of illusion and reality, and the notion of blind faith as both a trope and a persona. His ideas are frequently conveyed through the mediation of a pseudonymous character called Blind Faith, an emissary of the artist who appears in the Speaking in Tongues trilogy of video works and a series of photographs collectively called The Word in the Desert. This soberly dressed but faintly sinister character has been described in suitably religious terms as a proselytiser, false prophet or unseeing preacher and is a proxy,



perhaps even a doppelga¨nger, for the artist. He makes his debut in Angel, the first and most substantial of the three films that comprise the Speaking in Tongues trilogy, which includes Hymn (1997) and Prometheus (1999). In each of these videos Blind Faith either speaks or sings, but always mediated through technical forms of distortion. In each case he seems a very unreliable narrator, communicating through deliberate artifice or under duress. In Angel, Blind Faith appears as a prophetic messenger reciting, in somewhat garbled diction, the first verses of John’s Gospel (‘In the beginning was the Word . . .’) to a camera placed at the foot of an escalator in London’s Angel underground station. Coded as blind, he is dressed in a white shirt, black tie and dark glasses, and holds a white cane, which he sweeps from side to side as he walks on the spot against the upward motion of the escalator. To his right and left Blind Faith is flanked by other travellers going up or down, but oddly those going up are facing us while those going down have their backs to us. It soon becomes clear that the film is running backwards, which accounts for Wallinger’s barely comprehensible elocution. He has learned the text phonetically backwards, so it is only when the film is played in reverse that it makes any sense. Blind Faith seems possessed by the scripture, only finding release from its formulaic litany when, after several repetitions of the text, he ceases striving, steps backwards and, in a theatrical denouement, ascends into glory to the triumphal strains of Handel’s Zadok the Priest. Except, of course, that this ending is really its beginning. In his engagement with questions of faith and belief Wallinger’s visual strategies are based on the trickery of illusions like this, typically employing reversals and inversions, mirror-imaging, turning things upside down and back to front. Through such deceptions he is frequently praised for his ability to transform the quotidian into the transcendent, as in Angel, where the underground becomes the underworld, a scene of final judgement with the saved and the damned on either side of this hieratic servant of the word. Their arrival into or banishment from the heavenly kingdom prefigures a later video, Threshold to the Kingdom, which also relies upon the efficacy of such transfigurations, turning the banalities of modern travel into a transportive entrance into an otherworldly realm. Filmed in slow motion, we see the door of international arrivals opening and closing as passengers emerge into the arrivals hall of London City Airport,



some in groups, some solo. Allegri’s sublime Miserere, based upon the 51st Psalm’s plea of contrition, provides the soundtrack to this scene, signalling the conflation of two kingdoms – heavenly and terrestrial – and the idea of transport as both vehicular and spiritual.27 According to the artist, Threshold was inspired by a feeling common to many a modern traveller that, whatever the advantages of flying, airports are a kind of purgatory, but also the site of an intense statecontrolled surveillance, deciding who has sanction to enter and who is to be barred. Thus, says Wallinger, the neutral space between disembarking and passing through passport control and customs provides ‘the nearest equivalent to the confession and absolution necessary before entering the promised land’.28 The Christian overtones of Threshold, its intimations of immortality and judgement, are therefore underpinned by debates concerning the state’s authority over immigration to the United Kingdom. What appears at one level as an allegory of redemption, conceals at another all those who remain screened from view. Throughout his career Wallinger has tackled issues of belief in their relation to symbolic constructions of meaning, but, as Lubbock argues, the religious works go much further than this, ‘never given simply to seeing through religious illusions’.29 The Speaking in Tongues trilogy, for example, is described in Herbert’s monograph on the artist as a ‘conflation of the mystical and the metropolitan’ that responds to a ‘fundamental desire for transcendent meaning’;30 or perhaps, in Wallinger’s words, for ‘spiritual unity’. But of course the trilogy’s title suggests a particular form of mystical or religious expression pertinent to this series: the gift of tongues. On a rational level tongues are unintelligible, requiring interpretation into more normative discourse, or else treated as the believer’s direct, if noncognitive, conduit to the spiritual realm. For Wallinger, speaking in tongues signifies an outpouring of religious fervour, an ecstatic language sometimes though not always subject to interpretation, provided in Angel by the transformation of gnomic speech into a familiar, if somewhat distorted text through the reversal of the film. In this respect, perhaps the lesson to be learned from Angel, says Lubbock, is the lack of material difference ‘between a film projected forwards or backwards, all the frames being the same, and only the understanding of them changed’. So it is ‘between life taken religiously and unreligiously, there is no difference of fact, but only



of understanding’.31 Material reality is the same, but no one person perceives it in the same way as another, or rather, there are those so blinded by faith that they misread reality. The choice of John’s Gospel as one of the central creeds of revealed religion is therefore highly judicious, producing a perceptive resonance of word and image: ‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it’. One thinks of creeds spoken and believed without comprehension, scriptures recited by rote. In Wallinger’s oddly inflected pronunciation the message is clear: you can know a text back to front without in the least understanding it. Similarly, knowing a text backwards will not make you a believer. A leap of faith is always required. Blind Faith’s blindness, tastelessly feigned, may be a metaphor for blind belief or confirmation that faith is to be certain of what we do not see. It may imply the unwillingness of the faithful to register anything that fails to fit their worldview, or the insight attributed to blind seers like old Tiresius in the Oedipus myth. Against the common conviction that ‘seeing is believing’ Blind Faith confirms religious convictions that true faith is never limited to the evidence of the senses, but equally that uncritical belief leads to a form of fanatical blindness. On the cover of Credo, the catalogue for Wallinger’s exhibition in 2000 at Tate Liverpool, this antithetical pairing of vision and blindness seems most marked. We see Blind Faith standing on a kind of soapbox at the foot of the plinth on which Ecce Homo stands aloft. Here he appears as the persona of the artist, as much a work of fabrication as the sculpture, but as he stands stiffly facing the camera he seems oblivious to the presence and proximity of the visionary figure above his head. The relationship of the prophetic and the messianic is underlined by the fact that the statue’s eyes are closed, as though at that moment drawing on inner resources of strength that requires him to shut out the world. Such mute introspection in the face of adversity contrasts starkly with Blind Faith’s spurious sightlessness, his inability or unwillingness to see. The pairing of these two creations invites us to see the contradictions and complexities of Wallinger’s Christological gesture: its irony and sincerity, its politics and pathos, its nonconformity and bona fide religious intent. Ultimately, it is a forceful reminder that the religious image retains a density of meaning in the modern world that belies its assumed desuetude.



NOTES 1. R. Strong, ‘Wonder Horse’, Daily Mail, 12 February 2009, p. 15. Strong was the former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. 2. R. Strong, ‘Is this a Fitting Site for a Statue of Jesus Christ?’, Daily Mail, 22 July 1999, p. 27. 3. S. Malvern, ‘The Fourth Plinth or the Vicissitudes of Public Sculpture’, in A. Gerstein (ed.), Display and Displacement: Sculpture and the Pedestal from Renaissance to Post-Modern (London: Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2007), pp. 130–50, on pp. 131–2. 4. A. Mason, ‘Ecce “Oxymoron”’, The Art Newspaper, 120 (2001), p. 24. 5. Strong, ‘Is this a Fitting Site for a Statue of Jesus Christ?’, p. 27. 6. L. Barber, ‘For Christ’s Sake’, The Observer, 9 January 2000, Review p. 5. 7. A. Searle, ‘The Day I Met the Son of God’, The Guardian, 22 July 1999, pp. G2 12 –13, on p. 13. 8. D. Burrows, ‘Beyond Belief: Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo’, in M. Wallinger, Credo (London: Tate Gallery Publishing Limited, 2000), pp. 34 –6, on p. 36. 9. A. Moszynska, ‘Ecce Homo: Mark Wallinger’s Plinth Project for Trafalgar Square’, Art and Christianity, 21 (2000), pp. 6–7, on p. 7; Malvern, ‘The Fourth Plinth or the Vicissitudes of Public Sculpture’, p. 143. 10. S. Bergmann, ‘Theology in its Spatial Turn: Space, Place and Built Environments Challenging and Changing the Images of God’, Religion Compass, 1:3 (2007), pp. 353–79, on p. 369. 11. A. Searle, ‘A Figure Apart’, in Mark Wallinger: Ecce Homo (Vienna: Wiener Secession, 2000), pp. 14– 16, on p. 14. 12. R. Harries, The Image of Christ in Modern Art (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), p. 117. 13. K. Rhomberg, ‘Situations: Mark Wallinger in Conversation with Kristin Rhomberg’, in K. Mey (ed.), Sculpsit: Contemporary Artists on Sculpture and Beyond (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2001), pp. 39 –50, on p. 47. 14. R. Wells, Scale in Contemporary Sculpture: Enlargement, Miniaturisation and the Life-Size (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), p. 87. 15. Wells, Scale in Contemporary Sculpture, p. 86. 16. Grayson, ‘A Number of Disappearances’, in M. Schuppli and J. de Vries (eds), Mark Wallinger (Zurich: Kunstverein Braunschweig, 2007), pp. 7–21, on p. 18. 17. R. Cork, ‘Moments of Intimation’, in T. Devonshire Jones (ed.), Presence: Images of Christ for the Third Millennium (High Wycombe: BibleLands, 2004), pp. 9– 13, on p. 9. 18. M. Herbert, Mark Wallinger (London: Thames & Hudson, 2011), p. 116. 19. Malvern, ‘The Fourth Plinth or the Vicissitudes of Public Sculpture’, p. 145.



20. M. Wallinger, quoted in N. MacGregor with E. Langmuir, Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art (London: BBC Worldwide Limited, 2000), p. 115. 21. T. Lubbock, ‘Wallinger and Religion’, Modern Painters, 14:3 (2001), pp. 74– 7, on p. 76. 22. R. Williams, ‘Presence’, in T. Devonshire Jones (ed.), Presence: Images of Christ for the Third Millennium (High Wycombe: BibleLands, 2004), pp. 5 – 8, on p. 5. 23. Williams, ‘Presence’, p. 7. 24. Ibid., pp. 7–8. 25. Ibid., p. 8. 26. Y-A. Bois, ‘To Sing Beside’, October, 129 (2009), pp. 133–42, on p. 137. 27. Herbert, Mark Wallinger, p. 105. 28. Searle, ‘A Figure Apart’, p. 16. 29. Lubbock, ‘Wallinger and Religion’, p. 76. 30. Herbert, Mark Wallinger, p. 104. 31. Lubbock, ‘Wallinger and Religion’, p. 77.


Adler, Jenkel 283 adventus 68 Afghanistan 234, 235 Alexander, Mark 251 altarpiece 8, 96, 153, 175, 184 Amiens 74, 75 Anderson, Lindsay 130, 131, 136, 137, 138 Every Day Except Christmas (film) 131 Anglicanism 142, 145, 146 Anglo-Catholicism 146, 148 Aqsa Mosque, The 45 Archbishop of Canterbury, the 48 Arts and Crafts Movement, the 147 Auden, W. H. 125 Augustine, Saint 14, 117, 118 City of God 117 Babylon 8, 90, 106, 117, 120, 219 Bangladesh 207 immigrants from 213 bankruptcy 181– 2, 184 baptism 41, 93–4 Barbauld, Anna Letitia 91 Hymns in Prose 91 Barthes, Roland 135 Baudelaire, Charles 120 Fleurs du mal, Les 120 Baudrillard, Jean 221 Ben Uri, Bezalel 273 Ben Uri Gallery 274– 94; see also exhibitions archives 275

centenary 289, 292 collection 274, 277, 279, 284, 287 images of Christ in, 279, 286 images of crucifixion in 279, 286, 287 Benedict, Saint 219, 220 Benjamin, Walter 133, 134, 135, 173, 177– 8, 180 –1, 184 Bergman, Ingmar 128 Bergmann, Sigurd 298 Bergson, Lazar 275, 276, 277 Bernard of Clairvaux 41–2 Bhupinder Singh, Maharajah 230, 231 Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala, Maharajah 231, 232, 233, 236 Bible, New Testament 92, 219, 220 1 Corinthians 43, 49 Colossians 93 Galatians 93 Hebrews, the Epistle to the 43 John, Gospel of 48–9, 77, 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, 296, 304, 306 Luke, Gospel of 11, 44, 70, 92, 93, 115, 301 Matthew, Gospel of 75, 92, 93, 144, 301 Romans, the Epistle to the 42, 93 Blake, William 8, 89– 101, 120, 156, 158, 168 Christ Baptizing 93–4, Plate 5.1

Christ Blessing the Little Children 92 Everlasting Gospel, The 94, 98 Gates of Paradise, The 96 God Writing Upon the Tables of the Covenant 96, 97 ‘Jerusalem’ (poem) 120 Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (book) 89–90, 94, 98, 99 Laocoo¨n 90, 94 Newton 97 Ordeal of Queen Emma, The 95–6 Penance of Jane Shore, The 95–6 Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience 89, 91, 92, 98 Woman Taken in Adultery, The 95–8, Plate 5.2 Bodley, George Frederick 150, 151, 154 Book of the Dead 259 Booth, William 117 Brisou, Marie 246 British Nationality Act 1948, The 192 Brown, Frank Burch 255 Buddhists, Buddhism 221 Bunyan, John 158 –60, 165–6 Cameron, David 198 –9 Camp, Sokari Douglas 252 Canaletto 7 capitalism 173– 4, 176– 85 capitalist city 176–80



financial 173–4, 176, 185 as a religion 176– 8, 183 Cary, Henry 116, 117 Catholicism 103, 107, 110–12, 173, 175, 182 cemeteries/memorials/parks (London) Abney Park 159, 163 Bunhill Fields 7, 11, 158–69 Deadman’s Place 161 Highgate Cemetary 163 Lower Lea Valley 130 Regent’s Park 206 Spa Fields 162 St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury 162 Streatham Cemetary 169 Chagall, Marc 286, 287 Chakwal, Sarwan Singh 233 Chambers, Sir William 205, 206, 207 Chassidim/Chassidic (Jewish) subjects 284, 287 Chaucer, Geoffrey 9 Canterbury Tales 9 Chepik, Sergei 250 children 91 –4, 98–9 Christ, see Jesus Christ Christians, Christianity 3, 20, 43, 53, 59, 67, 73, 75, 77–8, 80 n.10, 90, 93, 123, 124, 125, 137, 150, 164, 177, 178–9, 211, 219, 220, 221, 249, 255, 257, 259– 62, 265, 270, 300 –1 and British national identity 113, 192 and higher education 219, 220 and morality 178, 150, 154, 181 –2 recent decline, 5, 297– 304 churches (London) Old St Pancras 162 Old Temple Church (Holborn) 52, 53–5, 56, 58, 61 n.4, n.8, n.9, 63 n.18, n.23 Quaker Meeting House (Barking) 6 St Bartholomew, Smithfield 57, 58, 64 n. 29, n. 32, n. 33 St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens (Earl’s Court) 7, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150 St Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate 145, 151, 153

St John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell 52, 53, 58– 9, 61 n. 4, 64 n. 34, n. 37, plate 3.4 St Michael’s, Camden 123, 145, 150, 151 St Martin-in-the-Fields 5 St Mary Woolnoth 10 St Paul’s Cathedral 7, 8, 66, 69, 125, 159, 171– 4, 245 St Sepulchre-withoutNewgate 52, 53, 56– 8, 61 n.4, 64 n. 29, n. 32 Temple Church (Fleet Street) 39–51, 52, 53, 54, 55–6, 57, 58, 59, 61 n.4, 63 n.23, Plate 3.2, Plate 3.3 Southwark Cathedral 19, 27 Westminster Abbey 5, 66, 69, 73– 4, 167 churches, round 40, 42, 52–6, 58–60, 60 n. 1, n. 3, 61 n. 5, 64 n. 31, 65 n. 39 Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem) 41–2, 45 cities, United Kingdom (excluding London) Birmingham 233, 237 Bristol 44 Cardiff 207 Coventry 237 Edinburgh 233 Glasgow 233 Leeds 237 Leicester 237 Lincoln 54, 55, 59, 63 n.18 Liverpool 205 Manchester 233 Woking 205, 210 Wolverhampton 237 City of London Corporation, the 158, 159 –60, 161, 163 Cohen, Norman 130, 137, 138 London Nobody Knows, The (film) 137, 138 Cologne 210 Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962, The 193 Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968, The 194 Comper, John Ninian 151, 152, 153, 154 Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur 4

Congregationalists, Congregationalism 160 Conrad, Joseph 132 Cork, Richard 300 Cornhill Magazine 143, 144 creation 48–9 crusade 52, 53, 55, 60 damnatio memoriae 26– 7 Dante Alighieri 115–26 Divine Comedy 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125 debt 178– 84 debt religion 178 moral economy of 179, 181 Decalogue, the 96 – 7; see also Ten Commandments, the Defoe, Daniel 158, 160, 165–6 desert 9, 219– 23 Desert Fathers and Mothers 219 Jesus’s temptation in 219 Dickens, Charles 7, 119 Bleak House 119 Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, the 161 Dome of the Rock 45 Donne, John 124 Dore´, Gustave 117– 19 Vision: or Hell, Purgatory and Paradise of Dante Alighieri, The 118, Plate 7.2 London, A Pilgrimage 118, Plate 7.3 East Africa 234, 237 Easter 48–9 Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the 159– 61 Eden 48–9 education 91–2 Edward the Confessor, Saint 72–3 Egypt 259 Eliot, T.S. 7, 10, 11, 119 –20 Waste Land, The 10, 119–20 Elkan, Benno 283 Emma, Queen of England 95–6 English Channel 6 Equality Act of 2010, The 223 Eucharist, the 43 Evangelii Gaudium 172 Evans, Alan 247

INDEX exhibitions (London) Ben Uri Gallery, at the 276, 281, 282, 283, 284 Devotion by Design (National Gallery) 4 Hajj (British Museum) 9– 10, 257, 262– 9 Jewish Art and Antiquities (Whitechapel) 278 Sacred Made Real (National Gallery) 3 –4 Seeing Salvation (National Gallery) 3 Treasures of Heaven (British Museum) 257, 265, 267, 270 Farnham, Nicholas 69 Festival of Britain 284 Firrell, Martin 251 Fletcher, Geoffrey 130 London Nobody Knows, The (book) 130 Florence 115 Foster, Doug 122 –3 Heretics’ Gate, The 122, Plate 7.6 Fox, George 161 Fraenkel, Else 284 Francesca, Pierro della 175–6, 182, 184 Madonna della Misericordia 175; see also Virgin of Mercy Francis, Pope 172, 185 Frenkel-Frenel, Yitzak 287 Gabriel, angel 45 Gaiman, Neil 11 Gandhi, Indira 197 Garner, Thomas 150, 151 Gaster, Moses 278, 280 Geldart, Ernest 147, 148, 150, 154 George V, King of England 230 Gertler, Mark 285, 289 Geryon 122; see also Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy Gibberd, Sir Frederick 212 Gill, Gurbachan Singh 237 Glasmalerei Peters 224–5 Glasser, David 288, 289– 90 Gobind Singh, Guru 229 Godwin, William 165 Golden Temple, see Harmandir Sahib Good, Edward 278, 279, 292 Gormley, Anthony 251

Gothic Revival, the 143, 145, 146, 147, 150 Gough, Hugh Romieu 147 Graves, Robert 123 gravestones 162–3 Grayson, Richard 300 Great Fire, The 4, 172 Grosseteste, Robert 71, 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 84 n.50 guilt 177– 82, 184 Gujarat 207, 208 Gurdwara 6, 229– 39 design of 236, 237–9 Guru 229 –30 Guru Granth Sahib 231, 233, 234, 236 Guru Nanak 219, 229, 235, 237 Hajj (pilgrimage) 257, 264, 265, 269 Hall, Michael 151 harlot 89, 90– 1, 92, 94– 5, 98–9; see also Magdalen (prostitute) Harmandir Sahib 236 Harries, Richard 299 Harrison, Ted 251 Hassidic/Hassidim, see Chassidim/Chassidic Hawksmoor, Nicholas 10 Heaven 115, 125; see also Paradise Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Daniel, Book of (apocryphal edition) 106, 107, 111 Exodus, Book of 104 Genesis 48–9, 104, 175 Leviticus, Book of 106 Numbers, Book of 113 n.10 Proverbs, Book of 106 Psalms, Book of 48, 305 Heelas, Paul 258 hell 115, 116, 117, 118, 124, 125 Henry III, King of England 6, 46–7, 66, 67– 9, 72, 73, 76, 78, 80 n.9 Heraclius, Emperor of Rome 68, 81 n.18 Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem 39, 44–5 Herbert, John Rogers 7, 9, 102–12 Judgement of Daniel, The 104, 106, Plate 6.4 Judgement of Solomon, The 104

311 Moses bringing down the tablets of the Law 9, 103–4, Plate 6.3 New Palace of Westminster, murals for 103–7, 108, 109, 111, 112 Our Saviour Subject to his Parents at Nazareth 103; Plate 6.2 Portrait of A.W.N. Pugin 103, Plate 6.1 Sermon on the Mount, The 112 travels to the East 104 Herbert, Martin 301, 305 Heron, Patrick 224 Hicks, Nicola 252 Higher Education, consideration of religion within 222–4 Hindus, Hinduism 221 Hindu nationalism 222 Hirszenberg, Samuel 278 Historic England 171 Hogarth, George 116 Hogarth, William 93–4 Harlot’s Progress, The 95 Holman Hunt, William 109 Shadow of Death, The 109 Holmes, Isabella 161, 168 Holy Blood 6, 66– 85 cult of the 66, 67, 74, 78 Relic of the 6, 66, 67, 71 Holy of Holies, the 48–9 Holy Land 6, 41–2; see also Jerusalem; Mecca Holy Sepulchre, the 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 64 n. 31, 65 n. 39, 68, 79 n.6 Horn, Rebecca 250 Hospitallers 44, 70 Howson, Peter 121, 124 Harrowing of Hell, The 124 Icarus 15–16 n.11 icon 265, 270 iconoclasm 26, 67, 249, 299 pagan Roman deities and 26–7 Ignatius of Loyola, Saint 108 Spiritual Exercises 108 imagination 90, 91, 92, 98, 99 Incarnation, the 110 –11 India 230, 232, 234, 236 Indian Civil Servants 231 Industrial Revolution 220 interfaith 226 dialogue 223 leadership 228



Islam 47, 219, 221, 262, 263, 265, 267, 269 adhan (call to prayer) 265 Islamic prayer rooms 223 ISIS (Islamic State/Daesh) 222 Israel, State of 222, 223, 284 Israe¨ls, Josef 282 James I, King of England 39 Jandiala, Charan Singh 233 Jenkins, Timothy 16 n.16 Jerrold, Blanchard 118 –19 Jerusalem 10, 41–2, 45, 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 70, 72; see also New Jerusalem Temple Mount 44–5 Temple of 44– 5 Jesus Christ 5, 40, 48–9, 89, 90, 91, 92– 93, 94, 95, 96, 97–8 Jewish Chronicle 275, 277, 281, 288 Jews/Judaism 224, 288, 232, 233, 238, 285 John, King of England 46 John the Baptist, Saint 44 Johnson, Samuel 15 n.8 Judah, Gerry 253 Ka’aba 263, 267 Keiller, Patrick 133, 135 London (film) 133, 135 Kelly, Paul 128, 129, 131, 136, 137 Finisterre (film) 128, 129, 130, 136 This is Tomorrow (film) 136 What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (film) 129, 136 Kelly, Rod 246 Kelmscott Press 144 Khalsa 229 Khalsa Jatha British Isles 230, 231, 232, 233, 235 Knights Hospitaller 52, 58–59, 60, 64 n.37; see also Hospitaller Knights Templar 6, 39– 46, 53–58, 60, 63 n.19 Kramer, Jacob 277, 282, 284 Krautheimer, Richard 40 landmarks (London) 30 St Mary Axe (Gherkin) 171–2 Austerity Tower 184 –5 Bank of England 172 Bishopgate Tower 174

Exmouth Market 162 Fourth Plinth (Trafalgar Square) 5, 295– 6, 299, 300 Hampton Court Palace 231 London Bridge 10, 119 London stone (monument) 133, 134 Magdalen Hospital, the 94–5 Palaces of Westminster 103–12 Peers’ Robing Room 103, 108, 112 Parliament, Houses of 123 Piccadilly Circus 123 Royal Festival Hall 136 skyline 171 Somerset House 289 Trafalgar Square 5, 295, 296, 297, 303 Wembley Stadium 129 Le Brun, Christopher 12, 219, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228 Desert Window 219, 224, 228 Leftwich, Joseph 274, 291 Leitner, Gottlieb 206 Lewis, C.S. 10 Chronicles of Narnia, The 10 Lieberman, Chenoch 283 –4 Liebermann, Max 282 Light, Alfred 158, 168 Lincoln Cathedral 44 Londinium, civic and religious administration of 21 London boroughs/districts Barking 238 Bethnal Green 233 Bow 26 Brent Cross 133, 135 Camden 136 City of London 2, 159– 60, 171–175, 179, 183– 5 Clerkenwell 44, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57 Covent Garden 5, 131 Deptford 161 East End 2, 232, 233, 234, 236, 238 Jewish community 232– 3 Sikh community 232 –3, 234 Hampstead 280 Holborn 52, 53– 5, 58 Ilford 238

Kensal Green 163 Kew 205 Mile End 233 Newgate 52, 53, 56– 8; see also Newgate Prison Primrose Hill 129, 130 Putney 231 Shepherd’s Bush 231, 233 Smithfield 58– 9 Southall 237, 239; see also migration Gurdwara 234, 235, 238, 239 Southfields 207 Southwark 9, 161 Spitalfields 2, 13 Stepney 233 Westminster 5 Whitechapel 273, 275, 277, 278, 291, 292 London City Airport 299, 304 London County Council 212 Louis IX, King and Saint 68 Lubbock, Tom 302, 305– 6 Lullingstone villa 22, 23, 25, 27, Plate 1.1 MacGregor, Neil 259, 262, 263, 270 Madness (band) 1, 2, 13, 14 Liberty of Norton Folgate, The (song) 1– 2, 4, 13, 14 Magdalen (prostitute) 91, 94–5, see also harlot; prostitute Magna Carta 39, 46 –8 Makkah, see Mecca Malaysia 234, 237 Marshal, William 41, 46–7 Martianus Pulcher, Roman governor 22 Marx, Karl 183 Mary Magdalene, Saint (biblical figure) 48–9, 90, 91, 94– 9 Mastuana, Sant Attar Singh 229, 230 Matthews, Sir Robert 212 Mecca 10, 209, 219, 263, 264, 265 Meidner, Else 283 Meidner, Ludwig 282, 283 Metropolitan Public Gardens Association 162– 3 Micallef, Antony 121 Game Boy 121–2 Idol Kids of Today 121– 2 Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni 118

INDEX Michelino, Domenico di 115, 119 Dante and his poem 115, 119, Plate 7.1 migration/immigration 2, 9, 207, 233, 274, 280 Mithraeum, Walbrook, 20, 27–31 Mithras, mysteries of 28 Modigliani, Amadeo 283 Moore, Henry 224, 245, 252, 254 morality 178– 9, 181–3; see also Christians and morality history of 178, 181 Morgan, David 258– 9, 269–70 Morris, William 144, 150 Moses (biblical figure) 105 mosques (London) Brick Lane Mosque 2 London Temporary Mosque 206 Regent’s Park Mosque 211 Shah Jahan Mosque (Woking) 206 Shahporan Mosque 213–16 Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976, The 196 Muhammad 219, 224 Muhly, Nico 47 Our Present Charter 47 museums (London) British Library, The 265 British Museum, The 9, 257, 259 –60 Jewish Museum, The 286 National Gallery, The 3 Tate Gallery, The 282, 285, 289 Muslims 9, 263, 265, 267, 268 Nairn, Ian 138 n.4, 139 n.16 Nantes, Robert de 67 Nazirite vow 105, 113 n.10 New Jerusalem 8, 90 Newgate Prison 118 –19, Plate 7.3 Newman, John Henry 110 Nichols, Vincent 260–1 Nietzsche, Friedrich 173, 178–84 Oakley, Mark 245 O’Callaghan, Regan 248 O’Donnell and Tuomey (architects) 223

Ono, Yoko 250 Oriental Institute, the 206 original sin 182–3 Oved, Moshe, see Good, Edward Palestine 222, 223, 278, 279, 285 Paradise 115, 120, 121, 123, 124 Paris, Matthew 67, 68, 69, 72 Chronica Majora 67, 68, 71, 72 Passover 48 Patiala 230, 231 Paul, Saint 42 Pawson, John 252 Pedlars 232 –3, 234 Pentecostalism 222 Perov, Kira 125, 253, 254 Petit, Chris 131, 132 pilgrimage 6, 9, 52, 54, 56, 60, 78, 257, 262, 264, 270; see also Hajj (Pilgrimage) Pilichowski, Leopold 277, 278, 282 Pisa 41 Plantagenet 68 political cartoons 4 – 5, 190–201 Porter, Venetia 264 post-secularism 218, 221, 222–4, 226 –8 poverty 143 Powell, Enoch 194 Presbyterians, Presbyterianism 169 Promey, Sally 146 prostitute 94–5; see also harlot; Magdalen (prostitute) Protestant, Protestantism 174, 177 Pugin, A.W.N. 102, 110 Punjab 207, 229, 230, 232, 234, 235, 236, 239 University of 233 Purgatory 115, 119, 120, 122, 123, 125 Qur’an 219, 265 rationalism 220, 221 Ravenna 7 Rawalpindi 230 Read, Herbert 281 Reed, Charles 160, 166 relics 257, 259– 60 resurrection 48–9, 52, 55, 57, 59, 64 n. 31

313 Reynolds, Bainbridge 147 Richard of Devizes 4 Rippon, John 164, 165, Plate 10.4 ritual-centred visuality 24 rivers (London) Fleet 57, 63 n.27 Thames 54, 55, 56 Walbrook 22 Rosenberg, Alfons 285 Rothenstein, William 274, 284 Rousseau, Jean Jacques 91 Rowe, Nicholas 95– 6 Rowling, J.K. 10 Harry Potter 10 Royal Society of Arts 295, 301 Ruskin, John 11, 113 n.7, 116, 126 n.1, 143, 144, 151, 154, 155 Seven Lamps of Architecture, The 146, 148, 149 Stones of Venice, The 146, 149 Unto This Last 144, 145, 146, 147, 152 sacrifice, Roman 22 St Peter’s Basilica 173 St Peter’s Stone Carving Guild 147 Sargodha, Sardar Narain Singh 230, 231 Saturday Review 144 Saudi Arabia 225 Schwitters, Kurt 282 Scott Jr, George Gilbert 150 sculptures, Roman 19, 23, 24, 26, 27– 31, Plate 1.1, Plate 1.2, Plate 1.3, Plate 1.5, Plate 1.6 figurines 22, 23, 26, 32 Searle, Adrian 297 –8 secularism 220, 222 limitations of 221, 227 myth of the secular city 219–21 reversal of 221 Seera, Nand Singh 232 Shaftesbury, Earl of 166 Shema 275, 278 Shore, Jane 95–6 Shrimoni Gurdwara Prabandak Committee (SGPC) 235 Sieff, Sir Israel 281 285 Sikhs 229, 231 Baptism 232 Bhat Sikhs 234, 235, 240 n.24



Jat Sikhs 235 Ramgarhia Sikhs 234, 235, 237, 240 n.21, 240 n.23 Sikh migration 233, 236 Sikh Cultural Society 236 – 7 sin 175, 182 –3; see also original sin Sinclair, Iain 131, 132, 133 London Orbital (film) 131, 132, 138 Singapore 234, 237 Singh, Diwan 233 Singh, Manmohan 198–9 Singh, Sant Fateh 235 Singh, Sant Teja 229– 30, 231, 232 Singh, Shaheed Udham 232, 240 n.16 snake 174 –6, 182, 184 Sodom 219 Solomon (biblical figure) 44–5 Solomon, Solomon J. 277, 278 Solomonski, Fritz 282 Southey, Robert 167 Soutine, Chaim 283, 286 stained glass 150, 151, 217, 224, 226, 237 Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn 166, 167 streets/roads/motorways (London) Brick Lane 2; see also Brick Lane Mosque Bunhill Row 158, 161 Chancery Lane 55, 56, 63 n.19 Fleet Street 52, 53, 55, 56, 57 Hackney Road 206 Oxford Street 115 M25 (orbital motorway) 131, 132, 133 Roscoe Street 161 Sinclair Road 231, 235, 236 Strong, Roy 295, 297, 298 Suffield, Walter 69–70 Superman 180– 1 Susanna (biblical figure) 106–7

synagogues 238, 285 tauroctony 28–9, Plate 1.4 Tavener, Sir John 47 Veil of the Temple, The 47 Tavenor, Robert 172–3 Taylor, William 16 n.14 This Bright Field: A Travel Book in One Place 13 Temple, Julian 135, 136 Temple (London), Inner 39, 47 Temple (London), Middle 39, 47 temples, Roman (excluding Mithraeum) Bacchus 28, 29 Gresham Street 25 Peters Hill 25 Tabard Square 22, 2 Ten Commandments, the 96–7, 104; see also Decalogue, the terrorism 197 –8, 201 n.29, 222, 263 Thatcher, Margaret 197 Thomas Beckett, Saint 73 turban 189 –200, 230 Turner, J.W.M. 7 uniforms 191, 193, 195 universities/colleges (United Kingdom) Cambridge University 229, 230, 283 London School of Economics 12, 218 chaplaincy 218, 224 Faith Centre 225, 226, 228 religious identity of student body 222 Student Centre 223, 226 University College London 238 Vhils (Alexandre Farto) 122 Bernie Madoff 122, Plate 7.5 Vincent, W. T. 162 –3 Viola, Bill 8, 125, 253, 254 Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) 8, 125, 253, 254

Virgil 24 Virgin Mary 44, 175, 177, 182 Virgin of Mercy 175, 182; see also Francesca, Pierro della votum, 22; see also sacrifice, Roman Wallinger, Mark 5, 8 – 9, 295–7, 299 –306 Angel 299, 304, 305–6 Ecce Homo 5, 295– 6, 297–303, 306 Hymn 304 Passport Control 300 Prometheus 304 Speaking in Tongues 303, 304, 305 State Britain 300 Threshold to the Kingdom 299, 304 –5 Word in the Desert, The 303 Watts, Isaac 91– 2, 167 Divine Songs 91– 2 Webb, Sidney and Beatrice 222 Weber, Max 174, 177, 220, 222 Wells, Rachel 299– 300 Wesley, John 166– 7 Wessel, Fergus 247 Whelan, Brian 120–1 London: City of the Red Bus 120–1, Plate 7.4 Wilde, Oscar 138 Williams, Rowan 132, 227, 302–3 Winsten, Samuel 277, 292 Wiseman, Cardinal Nicholas 102, 110, 111 Wolmark, Alfred 274, 278 Woodhead, Linda 258 Wordsworth, William 94 World War II 191, 206, 232, 233 Wren, Christopher 171 –3, 251, 252 Zangwill, Israel 277– 8

PLATE 1.1 Excavation of the ‘deep room’, Lullingstone villa, with the two busts (one in fragments) on the blocked-off stairs to the cellar and an offering vessel in a pit in the floor before them.

PLATE 1.2 The hunter god from Southwark, with his Phrygian cap, quiver and sword and flanking animals.

PLATE 1.3 Front and rear elevations of the arch as reconstructed by Tom Blagg from fragments found in excavation of the riverside wall, with surviving relief sculpture indicated in its likely position.

PLATE 1.4 The tauroctony of Ulpius Silvanus from the Walbrook Mithraeum. PLATE 1.5 The head of Mithras from the Walbrook Mithraeum.

PLATE 1.6 Pit excavated in the Walbrook Mithraeum, with its contents in situ: right hand of Mithras, head of Serapis, small statue of Mercury. PLATE 2.1 Temple Church, London, exterior.

PLATE 2.2 Temple Church, London, interior.

PLATE 2.3 Temple Mount, Jerusalem, aerial view.

PLATE 3.1 Reconstruction map of London, c.1270. Clockwise from the top, the arrows indicate the sites of St John’s, Clerkenwell; St Sepulchre-without-Newgate; New Temple; and Old Temple.

PLATE 3.2 Temple Church from the north-west.

PLATE 3.3 Abraham Hondius, A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs, 1684. Oil on canvas. 66.9 £ 111.9 cm. The upper portion of the Temple Church rotunda is visible in the background, to the right.

PLATE 3.4 St John’s, Clerkenwell. The outline of the Hospitallers’ round nave is marked in St John’s Square.

PLATE 4.1 King Henry III carrying the Holy Blood, Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 16 II, f.216r.

PLATE 4.2 Red chalice, Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 16 II, f. 216v.

PLATE 4.3 Last Judgment, tympanum sculpture of the south portal of Lincoln Cathedral.

PLATE 4.4 Doubting Thomas, wall painting in the south transept of Westminster Abbey, c.1270s.

PLATE 5.1 William Blake, Christ Baptizing, 1805. Pen and ink and watercolour over graphite on ivory wove paper. 31.8 £ 38.3 cm.

PLATE 5.2 William Blake, The Woman Taken in Adultery, c.1805. Pen and watercolour over graphite pencil on paper. 35.6 £ 36.8 cm.

PLATE 6.1 John Rogers Herbert, RA, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, 1845. Oil on canvas. 90 £ 70 cm.

PLATE 6.2 John Rogers Herbert, RA, The Youth of Our Lord (copy of Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth), 1856. Oil on canvas. 81.3 £ 129.5 cm.

PLATE 6.3 John Rogers Herbert, RA, Moses Bringing Down the Tables of the Law, 1858 – 64. Waterglass. 320 £ 643 cm.

PLATE 6.4 John Rogers Herbert, RA, The Judgement of Daniel, 1876–80. Oil on canvas. 320 £ 732 cm.

PLATE 7.1 Domenico di Michelino, Dante and His Poem, 1465. Fresco. 2.32 £ 2.90 m. Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore.

PLATE 7.2 Gustave Dore´, Illustration to Inferno 31, from The Vision; or Hell, Purgatory and Paradise of Dante Alighieri, trans. Henry Francis Cary, London, 1868. Wood engraving. 37.5 £ 27 cm.

PLATE 7.3 Gustave Dore´, Newgate Exercise Yard, from Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage (London: Grant and Co, 1872). Wood engraving. 23.8 £ 19 cm.

PLATE 7.4 Brian Whelan, London City of the Red Bus, 2012. Mixed media on canvas. 91.4 £ 121.92 cm.

PLATE 7.5 Alexandre Farto aka Vhils, Bernie Madoff, 2010. Etched brick. Approx. 6 £ 4 m. Created for Hell’s Acre exhibition and originally situated in the underground tunnel at Waterloo.

PLATE 7.6 Doug Foster, The Heretics’ Gate, 2010. Video installation at St Michael’s Church, Camden.

PLATE 9.1 Ernest Geldart, Reredos, St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, London, 1914.

PLATE 9.2 Ernest Geldart and the Embroidery Guild of St Margaret, Frontal, St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, London, 1898.

PLATE 9.3 G.F. Bodley, St Michael’s, Camden Town, London, 1881 – 94.

PLATE 9.4 1903.

Ninian Comper, St Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, London,

PLATE 10.1

Bunhill Fields, 17 January 2015.

PLATE 10.2 Bunhill Fields Memorial Buildings inscription, 17 January 2015.

PLATE 10.3 2015.

‘Body Tree’, Old St Pancras churchyard, 31 January

PLATE 10.4

Tomb of John Rippon, Bunhill Fields, 17 January 2015.

PLATE 10.5

Tomb of John Bunyan, Bunhill Fields, 17 January 2015.

PLATE 10.6 Tomb of John Wesley, Wesley’s Chapel Burial Ground, City Road, 17 January 2015.

PLATE 11.1 The Bishopsgate Tower, Design Statement, 2006. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF).

PLATE 11.2 Piero della Francesca, Madonna della Misericordia for the brotherhood of Sansepolcro, 1445 – 62.

PLATE 11.3

The Virgin of Mercy in the City of London, 2013.

PLATE 11.4

The Pinnacle ruin in the City of London, 2013.

PLATE 12.1

Keith Waite, The Sun, 4 July 1968.

PLATE 12.2

Keith Waite, Daily Mirror, 11 September 1973.

PLATE 13.1

Woking Mosque, built in 1889.

PLATE 13.2 Masjid-e-Noorul Islam, Bolton, 1983. Minarets and dome added in 1995. The building typifies the wave of mosques built from the late 1970s where Islamic historical symbols were literally adapted. PLATE 13.3 View of Shahporan Mosque, Hackney Road, London, 2014.

PLATE 13.4 View through a window inside the Shahporan Mosque showing the fretwork metal screen.

PLATE 13.5 Front elevation of the Shahporan Mosque showing the new building alongside the existing listed terraced house.

PLATE 14.1 2014.

Christopher Le Brun, Desert Window, LSE Faith Centre,

PLATE 15.1 The Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala, established by the Khalsa Jatha British Isles, 79 Sinclair Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London, c.1930s.

PLATE 15.2 Sikh women preparing food for the free kitchen, known as ‘Langar’ at 79 Sinclair Road, London, c.1960s.

PLATE 15.3 Members of the early Khalsa Jatha British Isles, seated in the garden of The Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala in the 1934. Seated in the centre is Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.

PLATE 15.4 Opening of the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat at 1a Campbell Road, East London, 1959.

PLATE 15.5 Central Gurdwara London, Queensdale Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London, 2008.

PLATE 16.1 Yoko Ono, Morning Beams / River of Life / Wish Tree, 2006.

PLATE 16.2

Gerry Judah, Commemorative Crosses, 2014.

PLATE 16.3 The Eucharist celebrated on the feast day of the Ugandan martyr, Janani Luwum, in 2015 in front of Bill Viola, Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), 2014.

PLATE 18.1 Lazar Berson, Portfolio of Hebrew Text Works, 6 of 8, c.1916, pen and ink on paper, 32 £ 26 cm.

PLATE 18.2 Samuel Hirszenberg, Sabbath Rest, 1894, oil on canvas, 149.5 £ 206.5 cm.

PLATE 18.3 Jacob Kramer, The Day of Atonement, 1919, pencil, brush and ink on paper, 63.5 £ 93 cm.

PLATE 18.4 Natan Dvir, Homesh Evacuation # 01 (Taken Down), 2005, Digital C-Type lambda print mounted on aluminium, 105 £ 70 cm, edition of 6.

PLATE 18.5 Marc Chagall, Apocalypse en Lilas: Capriccio, 1945, Gouache on paper, 51 £ 35.5 cm.

PLATE 19.1 Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo, 1999 – 2000. White marbleised resin, gold-plated barbed wire. Life size. Installation view in Trafalgar Square, London.

PLATE 19.2 Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo, 1999 – 2000. White marbleised resin, gold-plated barbed wire. Life size. Installation view in Trafalgar Square, London.

Aaron Rosen is Professor of Religious Thought at Rocky Mountain College and Visiting Professor at King’s College London. His publications include Art and Religion in the 21st Century (2015), Religion and Art in the Heart of Modern Manhattan (2015) and Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters in Chagall, Guston and Kitaj (2009). Chloë Reddaway is Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery, London, and author of Transformations in Persons and Paint: Visual Theology, Historical Images, and the Modern Viewer (2016).

‘A city with London’s antiquity, pivotal importance, and layer upon layer of material and artistic history richly deserves the scrutiny this book provides. Its chapters demonstrate, in a treatment that is as readable as it is learned and insightful, the central importance of religion and its material culture from London’s ancient past to the present day.’ Dav i d M o r g a n , Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University, author of The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity (2015)

‘This is that publishing rarity: a genuinely ground-breaking collection of cross-disciplinary contributions. Each one explores, in detail and depth, the long-standing, persistent and dynamic interconnections between art (including architecture), religion (embracing the major faith communities) and a London where political, social, class and ethnic identities have long generated both religious conf lict and creativity. At a time when the capital’s immediate futures, like those of “Art and Religion” itself, remain increasingly difficult to discern with any real clarity, Visualising a Sacred City will surely provide a rich and unique template for further public – and private – discussion and ref lection.’

Jacket image: Mark Wallinger, Ecce Homo, 1999–2000, white marbleised resin, gold-plated barbed wire, life size. Installation view in Trafalgar Square, London (photograph John Riddy, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth) Jacket design: Alice Marwick

Visualising a Sacred City AW.indd 1-7

V i s ua l i si ng a

SacRed City London, Art and Religion

London, Art and Religion e d i t e d b y Ben Quash, A aron Rosen a n d Chloë R eddaway

GRA H A M H OW E S , Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Trustee of Art and Christianity Enquiry (ACE), London, and author of The Art of the Sacred: An Introduction to the Aesthetics of Art and Belief (2007)

V i s ua l i si ng a Sac R e d C ity

Ben Quash is Professor of Christianity and the Arts and Director of the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College London. His many books include Theology and the Drama of History (2009) and Found Theology: History, Imagination and the Holy Spirit (2013).

e di t e d by

Ben Quash, A aron Rosen a n d Chloë R eddaway


illiam Blake famously imagined ‘Jerusalem builded here’ in London. But Blake was not the first or the last to visualise a shimmering new metropolis on the banks of the River Thames. For example, the Romans erected a temple to Mithras in their ancient city of Londinium; medieval Londoners created Temple Church in memory of the Holy Sepulchre in which Jesus was buried; and Christopher Wren reshaped the skyline of the entire city with his visionary dome and spires after the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the modern period, the fabric of London has been rewoven in the image of its many immigrants from the Caribbean, South Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. While previous books have examined literary depictions of the city, Visualising a Sacred City is the first major examination of the religious imaginary of this great metropolis through the prism of the visual arts.

Contributors to the volume address a wide range of subjects and themes: from ancient archaeological remains and Victorian murals and cemeteries to contemporary documentaries and political cartoons. In so doing they draw on insights from disciplines which include archaeology, art history, theology, philosophy and cultural studies. Not only does the volume feature contributions from leading academics in these fields, it also highlights the voices of practitioners – including reflections from curators, architects and clergy. In a welcome departure from many histories of London, and indeed other global cities, the book adopts a truly multicultural and multi-faith perspective. It explores London’s famous churches and cathedrals alongside mosques and gurdwaras, and situates works by modern Jewish artists in the company of Christian Old Masters. Visualising a Sacred City at last gives London – the site and subject of some of the world’s most inspiring religious creativity – the nuanced, wide-ranging study it deserves.

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