There is something within the work of George Pace which speaks directly to my eyes and heart – and feet. His Modernism is tempered by the Mediaeval – along with Arts and Crafts references and a nod to Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp
Here in Sheffield is a church built in 1868 – 1871 to a standard neo-Gothic design by William Henry Crossland. Bombed in the Blitz restored, redesigned and built by Pace 1958 – 1963, accommodating the original spire and porch.
On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.
The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.
Her Majesty the Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.
Ralph Beyer carving the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral.
The new Cathedral was itself an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others – most still to reach the peak of their artistic careers.
St. Michael and the Devil on the southern end of the east wall. It was sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, who, sadly, died in 1959, and therefore didn’t live to see his masterpiece mounted on the cathedral wall a year later.
Entrance to the cathedral is through the Screen of Saints and Angels – it is seventy feet high and forty five feet wide and is supported by a bronze framework hung by wires from the roof for added strength.
This unique screen formed part of Sir Basil Spence’s first vision for the new cathedral. As he stared out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, he saw the shape for the new church through a screen of saints. This transparent wall would link the old and new – making each mutually visible from within each other. Provost Howard set out to draw up a scheme consisting of all the saints who were responsible for the bringing of Christianity to Britain. As John Hutton began to make initial designs, he soon realised that row upon row of saints would need to be broken up in some way, and suggested that angels be inserted between the saints.
The eighty one foot high Baptistery Window containing a total of one hundred and ninety five lights of stained glass in bright primary colours designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, with the Stone of Bethlehem for a font just in front. Each individual window contains an abstract design, but the overall effect is breathtaking. Basil Spence himself designed the stone containing the glass.
The great tapestry was another example of a re-think in design. Basil Spence’s original intention was to depict the Crucifixion but Provost Howard suggested that the subject be Christ in Majesty and from there on, this idea prevailed
The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane is approached by following the aisle from the Baptistery window towards the altar which is at the north end. The mosaic depicts the Angel of Agony by Steven Sykes and becomes more impressive when seen from a distance through the wrought iron crown of thorns designed by Basil Spence.
A short passageway takes you through to the Chapel of Christ the Servant – also known as the Chapel of Industry due to the view of Coventry workplaces from its narrow windows.
Monumental inscriptions to walls and floor by Ralph Beyer
At the far end of the aisle, opposite the Baptistery Window is the Chapel of Unity, with its detailed mosaic floor, donated by the people of Sweden, representing the nations of the world and lit by shafts of light from the narrow stained glass windows around the circumference of the star shaped chapel.
This design was Basil Spence’s vision of a chapel representing the star which began the story of Christ – from the outside it appears shaped similarly to a Crusader’s tent.
The chapel is intended for prayer by all denominations, not just Anglican, and for this reason was purposely built with no view of the great altar.
The church was originally built in 1868–1871 to a standard neo-Gothic design by William Henry Crossland. This building was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the “Sheffield Blitz” of 12 December 1940, only the spire and a porch survived (they are now Grade II listed structures). The remnants of the bombed church were used as the basis for a new church designed by George Pace and constructed 1958–1963. This new building is of a Modernist design but is also sympathetic to the Gothic spire and porch. It is a rubble-faced concrete building with striking slit windows of varying numbers and locations around the building. There are also two notable stained glass windows: the Te Deum window by Harry Stammers and the west window by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens.
Wikipedia told me so.
Welcome to St Mark’s – an open, welcoming church for people from all walks of life who wish to learn more about Jesus and Christian faith and seek the freedom to ask the big questions. We have strong engagement with Christian communities and other faith traditions. People come from all over the country to participate in our Centre for Radical Christianity, where a lively climate of debate and learning can be found.
This a remarkable building staffed by remarkably welcoming people, it’s exterior betraying little of the wonders within. Divine stained glass, brut concrete structures, pale limed wood, sculptural forms – full of light and warmth.
Further delights unfold in this most remarkable of buildings.
Firstly into the Banqueting Hall – beneath your feet Arabescato Marble, inset with a sprung dance floor and on the vaulted ceiling hand carved African walnut. The slightly sloping walls are of Clapham Stone, with the only double glazed arrow slit windows in the country.
The chandeliers are hand cut crystal from Westphalia and have the Newcastle castles on the top part of the fitting.
The seahorse carpet was recently replaced, digitally designed and woven to perfectly match the original.
The facing wall is graced by a John Piper tapestry, which represents the mineral resources of the area.
Grilles by Geoffrey Clarke cover the alcoves and have an orange backlight to simulate a medieval fireplace.
The room can seat up to six hundred people and is available for hire, in regular use for a wide variety of functions.
The Model Room houses a magnificent architectural replica of the city.
It is also blessed with a living, walking talking spiral staircase, cast in one single piece of steel, it moves with you as you ascend and descend.
This ante room dressed with Arne Vodder furniture, walls clad in raw silk and hand carved wood, is a place green oasis, a sea of calm.