Mosaics under the dome

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Mosaics under the dome

Eight mosaics were made for the v-shaped spandrels between the arches of the cathedral crossing. They depict the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the four Major Prophets: Isaiah, Ezechiel, Daniel and Joshua. These were the first monumental mosaics to be added to the cathedral. A long and very public debate around the decoration of St Paul’s Cathedral preceded and accompanied their installation, which explains the long interval between the installation of the first in 1864 and the last in the 1890s. It was not until 1892 that the Cathedral’s surveyor, F. C. Penrose, could report that “The eighth and last mosaic picture for the pendentives of the Dome is on the Eve of completion.” (Annual Report 1892) The final spandrel mosiacs were put into place in 1893.

Several artists were involved in creating the cartoons for the mosaics, all of which take close inspiration from Roman art, in particular from work created for St Peter’s Basilica. Alfred Stevens took the lead on the prophets, while George Frederick Watts produced drawings for the evangelists which can be found on the east side of the crossing. Some of Watts designs were completed by W.E.F. Britten. 

Several cartoons (designs for the mosaics) are presereved in the Cathedral collections alongside the mosaics, among them, wooden models for two of the spandrels, giving an insight into the practice of designing these monumental works. The final cartoons were drawn up to actual size, sent to Venice and used to create the mosaics at the workshop of Salviati &  Co. The complete work was shipped and could be installed fairly easily in the Cathedral. Some of these spandrels underwent extensive conservation work during the internal cleaning of the cathedral (1995-2011).

Mosaics under the Dome:

Isaiah (inv.8448)

Jeremiah (inv.8449)

Ezekiel (inv.8450)

Daniel (inv.8451)

Saint Matthew (inv.8452)

Saint Mark (Inv.8453)

Saint Luke (Inv.8454)

Saint John (Inv.8455)