|8:30am||Doors open for sightseeing|
|4:00pm||Last entry for sightseeing|
Mosaics in the quire
This is the largest group of mosaics in St Paul’s Cathedral. It is breathtaking in its ambition as well as its visual impact. There are more than seventy individual, figurative mosaic panels in this area, accompanied by spandrels and ceiling decoration of purely ornamental mosaic work. The artistic mastermind behind these mosaics was the British painter William Blake Richmond (1842-1921).
Richmond was the son of the painter George Richmond and was named after his father's close friend, the poet, William Blake. He studied painting in England and Italy from an early age and became a successful portrait painter. He pursued an interest in large-scale allegorical works and produced designs for stained glass and mosaic work.
In 1882, nine years before he began work at St Paul's, William Blake Richmond gave a lecture on monumental painting in which he criticised the state of decoration in many British churches at the time:
“Hence for the most part our churches are caves of white-washed sepulchres, uncoloured, or if coloured at all, only in parts, patchily, and with little general idea of design.” (Richmond, 1882, pp. 30-31)
With this statement in mind it is not surprising that Richmond produced designs for daring, colourful mosaics to fill the quire and apse of St Paul’s. The commission was an extraordinary opportunity to put his theories in to practice, and the mosaics were only one aspect of his vision: he created a fundamental transformation of the quire with patterns painted onto the existing architectural ornaments and stained-glass windows, populated with angels, which were sadly lost in the second world war.
Several factors came together to provide Richmond with a license to radically alter the fabric of the cathedral. A movement within the Church of England towards greater use of ornament and more elaborate ceremonial; the leadership of the formidable Dean Gregory; the enthusiasm of Canon Liddon and the removal of the quire screen so that the whole of the cathedral could be used for services.
The scheme was produced by British workmen, using material produced in Britain, by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars. The so-called direct method used for most of them was entirely different from the prefabricated mosaics applied for the mosaics in the dome. Richmond wanted to reconstruct the methods used by mosaicists working on Byzantine churches, such as the famous churches in Ravenna: therefore Richmond’s mosaics were, on the whole, set using the direct method that is by mosaicists working on scaffoldings and platforms installed in the Cathedral for this purpose. Controversially, the walls of Christopher Wren’s building were cut back to ensure that the finished mosaics were level with the original surface.
Thanks to the first guide to Richmond’s scheme, which was published in 1896 (before the entire scheme was executed) the names of the workmen are known (Browne, 1896, p. 23). Richmond is described as workman rather than designer or artist, thus proclaiming a hands-on approach to the realisation of his vision.
W. B. Richmond, R. A.
T. J. Gaul G. Meo
Messrs Powell’s Staff
General Superintendent James C. Powell
Glass Maker Harry Powell
R. Gregory T. Josey J. Carley
F. Oates J.W. Williams E. Afford
C. Porter R. Reaves E. Glen
M. Josey J. Cooper J. Sapstead
H. Inskip W. Webb T. Long
W. Anstead W. Butcher F. W. Davies
W. L. James
The Mosaics of the Quire Scheme
The mosaics were created in just over ten years, with the mosaics in the quarter-domes of the crossing among the last to be set. In terms of iconography the cycle starts with the Creation of the Firmament (Genesis 1). Three creation scenes are given the saucer-domes: the Creation of the Beasts, the Fish and the Birds. The smaller panels set into the walls of the entablature explore these themes further and in a more ornamental fashion. The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise continue the Old Testament narratives, and are juxtaposed to the Annunciation.
Some of these scenes were only completed after the first guide to the cycle was published and the mosaics revealed to the public in 1896. The Passion of Christ is only alluded to through the Angels with the Instruments of the Passion who are depicted on the arches closest to the Apse. There, the Risen Christ in Glory resides among the Recording Angels. That this scene refers to the Revelation of St John is also evident in the two unusual depictions of a passage in this book: And the Sea Gave Up the Dead.
Above the narrative scenes of the arches, the clerestory offered twelve spaces in total which Richmond dedicated to biblical figures. According to the first guidebook (Browne, 1896, p. 13) the “spaces on the north sides of the Choir represent the ancient world looking dimly forward into the future, with no limitation to Old Testament revelation. […] The figures in the spaces at the sides of the clerestory windows on the south represent the builders and decorators of the Temple and the Tabernacle, and the earliest visions of a house or tabernacle of God.”
The mosaics in both aisles and the four scenes depicted in the quarter-domes under the crossing were among the last to be completed. The date 1904 can be found in cartouches next to several of these depictions.
The Mosaics of the American Memorial Chapel (Apse)
Saucer-Domes and Pendentives
|Angel of the Passion: 7794||Angel of the Passion: 6431||Angel of the Annunciation: 6014|
|Creation of the Firmament: 8556|
|Angel of the Passion: 8565||Angel of the Passion: 7793||The Temptation:6392|
|The Expulsion: 8644|
|The Delpic Sibyl: 8679||The Persian Sibyl: 8676||Alexander the Great: 8680|
|Cyrus King of Babylon: 8681||Abraham: 8682||Job: 8683|
|David: 8462||Solomon: 7552||Aholiab: 8671|
|Bezaleel: 8673||Moses: 8674||Jacob: 8675|
|Peacocks: 8566||Fishes: 7212||Ibex, lionesses and goats: 8484||Adam naming the Beasts: 9198|
|Peacocks: 8459||Fishes: 6003||Ibex, lionesses and goats: 8555||Eve among the Beasts: 9199|
The Minor Canons’ Aisle
|Orpheus and his Lyre: 8463||Angels with Wheat Sheaves: 7796||Angels with Trumpets: 7801|
|Angels with Boats: 7800||Christ with Wheat Sheaves: 8467|
The Dean’s Aisle
|Demeter and the Vines: 7806||Angels with Staves: 7805||Angels with Violins: 7804|
|Angels with Ramparts: 7803||Christ the Good Shepherd: 7802|
|The Resurrection: 9518||The Ascension: 8552|
|The Crucifixion: 8461||The Entombment: 6098|