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Hughie O'Donoghue, St Martin divides his cloak

A new commission celebrating the life and witness of St Martin of Tours has come to St Paul’s Cathedral. The new painting by artist Hughie O’Donoghue has been installed in the chapel of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor in the crypt of St Paul’s, which is dedicated to St Martin, Patron Saint of the Society. 

In consultation with St Paul’s, the Society commissioned the new work with a brief that both honoured the Society and the Cathedral’s vision and values. After an impressive competition for the commission, the Society has funded the work and is placing it in St Paul’s on a long-term loan. The painting was dedicated at the annual service of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor on 19th July 2018.

The traditional story of the soldier St Martin tells of his cutting his cloak in two for a poor man. O’Donoghue’s commission depicts Martin dividing an imperial scarlet cloak for a man who might be seen at any time in one of our streets today. Martin sees the dignity of the man as well as his urgent need. His Christian faith has taught him that what we do to the most vulnerable in our world we do to Christ. 

Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, commented: “It was said of Martin of Tours during his life that ‘he raised the banners of pity in a harsh time’. At a time when there is a frightening dehumanisation of those who seek safety or the basic requirements to survive, this striking new painting by Hughie O’Donoghue reminds us of the God-given human dignity of each and every person and of the fact that the human self is most itself when not being selfish. It will be a source of reflection and prayer for visitors and worshippers and we are grateful to the Society for their imaginative generosity.”

Throughout its history, art in St Paul's Cathedral has inspired and illuminated the Christian faith for those who visit, and provided a focus for reflection, meditation and contemplation. The Cathedral is home to a spectacular array of art; from the delicate carvings of Grinling Gibbons in the quire to Sir James Thornhill's dome murals, as well as Henry Moore's Mother and Child: Hood. The St Paul's Cathedral Visual Arts Programme seeks to explore the encounter between art and faith, offering a powerful and challenging context with which artists can engage. In recent times, a series of interventions by artists including Bill Viola and Mark Wallinger have further enriched the daily pattern of worship in the Cathedral.

A talk by Hughie about the work will be given in the Wren Suite at St Paul’s Cathedral on 4th September at 1pm. All are welcome, although places are limited. Please book free tickets here

Listen to Hughie and Canon Mark discuss the new painting and the story of St Martin. 


Born in Manchester in 1953, Hughie O'Donoghue lives and works in London and County Mayo, Ireland. He was elected member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2009 and to Aosdána (an Irish association of artists) in 2013. He has been an artist-in-residence at the National Gallery, London and St John’s College, Oxford. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the National University of Ireland in 2005. His work has been exhibited widely in Britain (including solo exhibitions at: Leighton House Museum, London, 2016;  University Gallery, Newcastle, 2013; Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, 2012; Leeds City Art Gallery, 2009; Imperial War Museum, 2003; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and touring, 2001-03; and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 1999), as well as in Ireland, Germany, France, Holland and the Czech Republic. His most recent exhibition, Scorched Earth, was in Spring 2018 at Marlborough Fine Art, London.