Press Release 19 October 2016
St George’s Chapel, Westminster Cathedral
Completion of Decorative Scheme by Tom Phillips CBE RA
The recently completed decorative scheme by Tom Phillips CBE RA in the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs at Westminster Cathedral will be dedicated by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster on 28 October.
The Chapel contains the Cathedral’s War Memorial and the completion of its marble and mosaic decoration marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Tom Phillips’ scheme links this event with another chapter in the nation’s suffering, that of the English martyrs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The names of the forty catholic martyrs are emblazoned in mosaic across a dark sky in the chapel vault and their suffering is recalled by a depiction of the Tyburn gallows in marble intarsia on the west wall. On the east wall Phillips’ radiating marble design focuses the chapel’s decoration on the relief by Eric Gill that stands over the altar.
“I thought the martyrs should be given their names” says Phillips “and be in heaven in the vault, the flames of their burning faith still bright. The west wall shows the gibbet at Tyburn as traditionally represented, with the ladders which served it now depicted as ascending above, into the vault. As you face it you are pointing directly towards the site of Tyburn, two miles away at Marble Arch.”
Photo copyright Mazur/Catholicnews.org.uk 2016
The ladders also echo Phillips’ earlier marble work relating to Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in the adjacent Chapel of the Holy Souls. The artist recalls how the St George’s Chapel project started over a dozen years ago when Monsignor Mark Langham, then the Cathedral Administrator suggested the texts over the arches, from St Luke and the Nunc dimittis, now realised in contrasting overlaid mosaic in Latin and English.
The mosaics were executed by Trevor Caley Associates and the Tyburn intarsia by Taylor Pearce Ltd. New marble work at the east end, radiating from Eric Gill’s last work, his reredos of 1946 was made by Paye Stonework Ltd to Tom Phillips’ design. Under the direction of the Cathedral Architect, Michael Drury, Nimbus Conservation were responsible for the carved marble that completed the architectural framework within which the decorative scheme is contained. Drury also directed the decorative work on behalf of the artist and the Cathedral.
Tom Phillips selecting marble for his Tyburn design.
Photo copyright St Ann’s Gate Architects 2016
Canon Christopher Tuckwell, the present Cathedral Administrator expressed his gratitude to all concerned and in particular to the Friends of Westminster Cathedral who funded the project.He especially wanted to thank Barry Lock who administered the appeal.
The Chapel will be available for press photographers by appointment with the Cathedral Press office: firstname.lastname@example.org in the week preceding the dedication.