Bishop Michael Consecrates A New Altar And Dedicates Furniture For The Venerable Chapel
The Cathedral’s own masons and maintenance team worked on the installation of Rachel Schwalm’s Altar.
The Altar in place
Bishop Michael consecrated the new altar and furniture on Easter Day
Easter Day saw the completion of another major creative project at the Cathedral, when the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, consecrated a new altar and dedicated furniture for its Venerable Chapel, located in the South Transept.
The Venerable Chapel is a beautiful and tranquil part of the Cathedral. Ever since it became the intimate location for daily Morning Prayer, the need to beautify the space has been all too apparent. The furniture was unmatched and cluttered; the altar merely an oversized wooden box covered by a damask cloth.
The story of the refurbishment of the Venerable Chapel began over three years ago. The main inspiration grew from the fortuitous discovery of the artist Rachel Schwalm, a sculptor working in stone, marble dust and pigment (colour in its purest form), and trained in classical design. The Cathedral’s Arts and Exhibitions Consultant, Sophie Hacker, realised that the two dimensional stone ‘panel’ pieces that Schwalm made would translate beautifully into an altar. The mystical and serene qualities of her artwork had strong resonances with Chapter’s emerging vision to ‘discover and live out the beauty of holiness’.
The resulting frontal is a multi-toned panel of blue pigment, evoking the mysteries of creation and cosmos, while discreet LED lighting, inserted in a small window in the panel, gives the panel a glistening heart. Two vertical chalk lines in the panel echo the proportions of the chapel window’s stone mullions immediately above the altar. The chalk lines are then continued above and below, by v-cuts in the stone. This provides a direct yet subtle link between the sky and the panel.
The altar itself was designed by Luke Hughes & Co, in consultation with Sophie Hacker. Though cut at the famous workshops at Carrara in Italy, the stone comes from a warm, honeyed seam of Jerusalem Limestone. Its origins in the Holy Land add further to the interpretation of the chapel.
Luke Hughes & Co also designed the new benches and desks in the Chapel, which emphasise the clean lines of the altar and blend with the classical memorials which fill the walls. The blue sycamore inlay on the facing of the benches connects with the blues of Schwalm’s panel. The furniture makes a pleasing contrast to the more organic forms of the adjacent Fisherman’s Chapel, while continuing the theme of the glories of creation.
Both furniture and altar have been made possible by the generous contributions of two private donors, as well as by charitable grants. Candleholders will be designed and added in due course, once the altar has revealed more of its character.
The Dean of Winchester is also delighted and inspired by the result. ‘The altar in the Venerable Chapel is a stunning addition to the beauty of the Cathedral. It is important that we can celebrate contemporary excellence in a living and thriving Cathedral. This commission sustains the lively partnership between the arts and faith, so evident in our magnificent building, as a present reality.’
With the completion of the Fleury Building as well as the refurbishment of the Venerable Chapel, this year has seen two important projects come to fruition. The Fleury Building has provided significant practical facilities and its provision for storage has released the North Transept from being a holding area to reveal its architectural glory once more. The Venerable Chapel has now been transformed as a place for worship and prayer. Both are testaments to donations which have made these developments possible.
Regular services take place in the Venerable Chapel most mornings, and it is available for prayer and meditation during Cathedral opening hours – please see the Cathedral website www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk for details or call 01962 857 200. It is advisable to check before making a special visit as services and events can sometimes restrict opening times.
Cathedral Press Office
Telephone: 01962 857 217 / 07968 549 628