St Paul's Cathedral

Bill Viola

St Paul's Cathedral is delighted to host Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), the first of two large-scale permanent video installations created by internationally acclaimed artist Bill Viola.

The installation is the first moving-image artwork to be installed in a British cathedral or church on a long-term basis.

Created by Bill Viola and Kira Perov and opened in May 2014, Martyrs shows four individuals, across four colour vertical plasma screens, being martyred by the four classical elements.

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 martyrís resolve remains unchanged. In their most violent assault, the elements represent the darkest hour of the martyrís passage through death into the light.

The work has no sound. It lasts for seven minutes.

Martyrs will be joined in 2015 by a second piece entitled Mary, which the artist has conceived as a companion work. The installations have been gifted to Tate, and are on long-term loan to St Paulís Cathedral.

These special web pages will provide you with information about Martyrs, as well as how and when you are able to visit it at St Paul's.

Full details of the work including artist's statement and information about the collaboration with Tate

Martyrs in Context
What this work means for St Paul's, including a video interview with Bill Viola and commentary by Canon Mark Oakley

Art and St Paul's
Experiences engaging with contemporary art in St Paul's

St Paul's Art Programme
Details of the varied Arts Programme run by the Cathedral

Viewing Martyrs
How you can see Martyrs whilst visiting St Paul's, and details of discounted and free entry opportunities

Answers to a number of questions raised by the installation

Including biographies of the main creators

Tiny Deaths at Tate Modern
Information about Bill Viola's Tiny Deaths, currently on display at the Tate Modern

Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)

Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) - Image, Peter Mallet   Enlarge

Earth Martyr (panel 1 of 4)

Earth Martyr (panel 1 of 4)   Enlarge

Water Martyr (panel 4 of 4)

Water Martyr (panel 4 of 4)   Enlarge