Bill Viola - Martyrs

History
Today at the Cathedral View More
Temporary closure of Stone and Golden Galleries
7:30am Morning Prayer
8:00am Eucharist
8:30am Doors open for sightseeing
12:30pm Eucharist
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Choral Evensong
6:30pm St Paul's Institute: 'Water or Life?' Cathedral floor event

Bill Viola - Martyrs

Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) - the first of two large-scale permanent video installations created by internationally acclaimed artist Bill Viola.

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

Martyrs was joined in 2016 by a second piece entitled Mary. The installations have been gifted to Tate, and are on long-term loan to St Paul’s Cathedral.


Bill Viola's commission for St Paul’s Cathedral follows the great historical tradition of commissions for spiritual centres that has resulted in a priceless heritage of art around the world. 

The result of this commission sees St Paul’s Cathedral, which has always spearheaded the engagement of great artists, house a resonant work of art for our times. Martyrs (and later Mary), will play an important role in connecting contemporary issues with the timeless themes embodied in the cathedral.

Through the relationship between St Paul’s and Tate Modern, visitors to both sites will become aware of the possibilities available on either site and it is hoped that this will lead to new audiences for both. With the symbolic link of the Millennium Bridge, two great institutions will be connected through art.

Bill Viola says:
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.