Friday, 23 March 2007

Re-imagining the Cathedral

Our wonderful archivist, Miriam, passed me details this week of a fascinating book, published anonymously in 1907 as a ‘free criticism’ of Westminster Cathedral by ‘an architect’.

Miriam writes: "This picture is one of the fold-out illustrations (it wasn’t a cheap production by any means!). Among a host of items which the author dislikes (well, it’s pretty much the whole thing, actually) are the saucer domes, which he thinks are out of keeping with the (misguided) choice of Byzantine style – this is what he thinks they should look like! It shows also his idea of what the tower should have looked like, i.e. without the pathetic pointy top to it and cut off to a more robust, solid Gothic outline – quite unlike the ‘factory chimney’ he claims people compared it to ... and so it goes on!"

In fact, we have a long letter sent to the then Archbishop Bourne, together with some other postcards/pictures doctored in the same style, in our correspondence. Miriam believes them to be the work of the same man, but, sadly, we have no replies extant.

Miriam cheeklily adds: "What an opportunity was missed – you could now be in a position to install gas holders and be the first truly ‘green’ Administrator of Westminster Cathedral!"

In fact, the doctored drawing reminds me of the more eliptical domes of the Cathedral of Perigueux (above) or a Sacre' Coeur at Paris (below), both of which would have been completed not long before.


Fr Nicholas said...

Glad you're enjoying the items we recently sent Miriam from the Diocesan Archives - I thought it would be more appropriate for them to be with you!

Mark Langham said...

Many thanks indeed, Fr Nicholas - we are very grateful for these items. I would never have felt that we could provide an adequate environment for them, but since Miriam has been with us, the Archive is really working well.