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Saturday, 6 May 2017

Art of Faith: A City Walk

Together with fellow commission4mission member Mark Lewis, I have been involved in researching the Art of Faith walk, recently produced by the Corporation of London with the support of the Diocese of London. This walk enables walkers to discover contemporary works of art in the City’s historic churches, including work by Henry Moore, Damien Hirst and Jacob Epstein.

The City of London has the greatest concentration of historic church buildings anywhere in the country. In the 16th century there were 111 churches in the City. 80 were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 with 51 subsequently rebuilt under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren. Today there are no fewer than 42 historic churches situated within the Square Mile, all of which are either Grade I or Grade II listed, and together they illustrate an extraordinary breadth of architectural history.

Less well known is the extent to which they contain significant examples of art commissioned from the 20th century onwards. Many of the churches in the City were damaged by bombing during World War II, providing opportunities in the post-war reconstruction to engage with contemporary art. These artworks are by prominent modern artists such as Jacob Epstein, Patrick Heron, Damien Hirst, Henry Moore, John Skeaping and Bill Viola, as well as work by other reputable artists such as Thetis Blacker, John Hayward and Keith New.

The Art of Faith walk is the second Art Trail created through the work of commission4mission. The first was for the Barking Episcopal Area and was researched and developed by commission4mission member, artist and Fine Arts lecturer, Mark Lewis. Again, a leaflet (Barking_Art_trail) publicises the Trail and provides information about the featured artists and churches. The leaflet includes a map showing the churches featured on the Trail together with contact details, so that visits to one or more churches can be planned in advance.

Mark Lewis’ brief was to research commissioned art and craft in the Episcopal Area from the past 100 years. While stained glass is the dominant Ecclesiastical art form, he was also concerned to show a diversity and variety of media and styles within the selections made. He highlighted works such as the significant mosaic by John Piper at St Paul’s Harlow and the striking ‘Spencer-esque’ mural by Fyffe Christie at St Margaret’s Standford Rivers. Churches with particularly fine collections of artworks included: St Albans, Romford; St Andrew’s Leytonstone; St Barnabas Walthamstow; St Margaret’s Barking; St Mary’s South Woodford; and St Paul’s Goodmayes.

The Art Trail for the Barking Episcopal Area also inspired Revd David New from Worcester to put together his own informative Art Trail leaflet about Thomas Denny‘s stained glass work focusing on churches in the Three Choirs area – Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.


Van Morrison - Contemplation Rose.

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