Friday, 25 January 2008

In the Chapel of St Paul

For the feast of his Conversion, a visit to St Paul's chapel. In the early days of the Cathedral, it was thought that decoration of this chapel might be funded as a think offering by those who, like St Paul, were converts. However, donations were slow. In 1913, Mrs Caroline Sambourne-Palmer offered to pay for the work if the chapel might be made a memorial to her parents, John and Anna-Maria Ansty. This enabled the marbles to be added in 1917. Rather movingly, the white marble of the altar steps is pentellic from Athens, recalling that St Paul preached in that great city.

Above the altar, a triptych of glit bronze shows the saint in high relief bearing a sword, his symbol. This not only recalls the manner of his death, but the power of his preaching - active like a 'two-edged sword'.

As ever, the different styles of mosaics in the Cathedral tell their own story, and signal the era in which they were created. These mosaics date from 1963. Boris Anrep, the celebrated Russian artist, had just completed the mosaics in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, but was now too old to attempt another commission. Instead, he agreed to supervise his pupil and protege, Justin Vulliamy, helping to design the figures, but leaving the final details and execution to the younger artist. In the end, Anrep felt unhappy with the work, and refused to be associated with it.

The scene of the conversion is depicted upon the back wall, with Jerusalem and Damascus depicted, in traditional form, on either side of the scene. The Latin inscription reads SURGE ET INGREDERE CIVITATEM, ET IBI DICETUR TIBI QUID TE OPORTEAT FACERE (Arise and go to the city, and you will be told what to do - Acts 6:9).

The vault of the chapel is depicted as a huge canvas awning - a reminded that Paul, in his earlier life, had been a maker of tents.

The mosaic tesserae were created in Venice, and were fixed in situ by the firm of Zanelli Ltd.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is one of my favourite parts of the cathedral; Paul is my Confirmation name, and I find it a very useful place to go before or after Reconciliation.