“I lived inside the pictures and from the inside of them looked out upon a world less real than they.”
The late afternoon sun reflected gently off the pillars of St. Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham as we headed back to our hotel after a full day of walking in Black Country – the English West Midlands just north and west of Birmingham and south and east of Wolverhampton. Against a blue sky with scattered white clouds, the Cathedral emanated both strength and serenity, in contrast to the busy streets of Birmingham revving up for Friday night celebrations.
The doors were open and we walked in, unaware that we would be seeing the artistic endeavours of the Pre-Raphaelites. Last year, I read that in 1861, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti went into partnership and transformed the way in which churches and houses were decorated. But I did not fully understand or imagine the extent of their creative genius.
The stained glass windows were breathtaking. Designed by Edward Burne-Jones in the years 1885 – 1891, and created by the firm of William Morris and Co., the windows depict the Nativity, Crucifixion, Ascension, and Last Judgment. Edward Burne-Jones envisioned the humanity of Christ in these windows. Even more touching, this was the very church in which he was baptized.
Edward Burne-Jones was born in 1833, in nearby Bennett’s Hill, in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. His creative talents developed under the tutelage of his father who was a carver, framer and gilder. He was a gifted painter but he is known for his contribution to the rejuvenation of the stained glass tradition in England.
In the silent reverence of the sanctuary, I recalled the words of William Morris, the life-long friend of Edward Burne-Jones…
“…I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few… ”
7 thoughts on “The Cathedral”
I am a huge fan of William Morris and Burne-Jones. I can imagine your delight in the beauty you found in the Cathedral. And, of course, the influence of these “greats” came here too; http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/entertainment/arts/254081/Greatness-in-glass
Thank you so much for this link, Gallivanta! I was especially intrigued by John Henry Dearle, who was able to continue the work of Edward Burne-Jones, not an easy feat, by any means. It is comforting to know that there is always someone left to carry the “creative torch.”
“While the figures in these windows are indeed largely his, credit for the overall design may be given to (the less widely known) John Henry Dearle (1860-1932), who in adapting Burne-Jones’s earlier designs, was following an established mode for the firm.”
Yes, indeed. I am wondering about the fate of some of these windows because one of the churches mentioned didn’t survive the earthquakes. Sadly, I probably looked at those windows whilst attending church there as a teenager, and thought, ho hum, another stained glass window 😦
You and me both – just another trivial matter to remember!! Perhaps that is why I so appreciate this quote –
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Anaïs Nin
I am find that writing about my experiences helps to to fully appreciate and rejoice in the moment.
I agree. I may have mentioned this before, but your quotation and also some of our writing/blogging remind me greatly of the Commonplace books, and ‘commonplacing’ which was a study technique considered important enough to be taught at major universities. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonplace_book
Gallivanta – this is something new for me and certainly another one of your marvelous suggestions for a “research project.” I am very interested in the transfer of knowledge, especially from one generation to another. Thank you once again, my dear friend! 🙂