Coventry Cathedral – contemporary sacred art

Coventry Cathedral, a 14th-century gothic church, was bombed during the Blitz in the Second World War.  For me, it was an unusual experience to stand in those ruins which they have preserved.  I can’t express the many emotions I experienced, from anger to sadness, from wonder to inspiration.  The modern cathedral abuts these ruins, almost as if the new has grown out of the old and the building began from 1950.  Amongst the engineers was a team of young Germans.  

                          Cathedral ruins

 

      Cathedral ruins with reconstructed cross

The modern cathedral, remarkable architecture, is a treasury of contemporary sacred art.  Everything has been carefully considered.  The baptism font is a hollow rock from the hills near Bethlehem.  One chapel is approached through a crown of thorns.  A moving likeness of Christ was made from the torn metal of a car accident.

                               Baptism font

                                      Chapel

Above the nave is the tapestry Christ in Majesty by Graham Sutherland, one of the largest of its kind in the world.  In every aspect there is majesty, except, for me, in one, which has left me uneasy over the years.  It is the expression on the face of the Christ visage.  Perhaps it is my Rorschach, but for me there is a creeping cynicism in the faint smile.

               The Cathedral nave with tapestry

                              Detail of tapestry

Amongst these art works in the cathedral there is a figure of Christ by Jacob Epstein in the ruins of the old cathedral, sculpture of the 1950s. (Observe to the far right against the wall in the photograph of the ruins.)  This work is a radical departure from the usual portrayal of Christ as a wrung out, vulnerable figure on the cross.

    The Epstein Christ figure

What came up for me was the word primitive, with exclusively positive connotations.  This mode, it seemed to me, takes its cue from the jungle cultures – the Congo, the Amazon, Indonesia and even Easter Island.  I grapple for words to contain this – winter clouds over night mountain ranges; the deep voice of a coming volcano … This prehistoric figure, I feel, will burst through his bonds and stride the curve of the earth in thunder.  It is sacred art that stirs much in me.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July , 2016

 

Source

Wikipedia

 

Images

Cathedral ruins – mapio.net

Altar with nail cross – cathedrallicking.wordpress.com

Baptism font – tripadvisor.co.uk

Chapel with crown of thorns  –  stopprocrastinatingandjustdoit.blogspot.com

Cathedral nave – lovelyoldtree.wordpress.com

Detail of tapestry  –  blog.arthistoryabroad.com

Epstein Christ figure  –  source lost

 

Dedicated to my niece Dawn Denton for the support she has given me. 

 

  

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2 Responses to Coventry Cathedral – contemporary sacred art

  1. td.sayer says:

    Thanks for refreshing of my Coventry memories. I loved your blog! A comment about the Epstein Christ. I think he has depicted Christ the prisoner as a stubborn, rock-like force standing against earthly pretensions.  The great tapestry, I suspect, owes something to the Piero masterpiece — the fixed, all-knowing gaze, perhaps.

    Sent from my Samsung device

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