Below are photographs of the interiors of three Cathedrals.
Take your pick.
My favourite gallery is on the first floor. A selection of some of my favourites of the regulars is below. This blog post relates to Sir John Lavery’s painting of the funeral of Terence MacSwiney. Over the years, there have been a number of different explanatory notes regarding this painting – but it is the first one that I read that kicked off this curious journey.
“The funeral of Terence MacSwiney (1879-1920) took place at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne, Cork on 31 October 1920.
“In this painted sketch Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), who later hosted the Anglo-Irish Treaty delegates at his London home in 1921, depicts the procession following MacSwiney’s requiem mass. The artist’s handling of light and shade in the cavernous cathedral space is deliberately dramatic: the shafts of sunlight emphasising the crimson vestments of the clergy and the green, white, and orange of the Irish tricolour draped over MacSwiney’s coffin. Observant viewers will notice that the artist has taken some licence by having sunlight streaming from the north windows, rather than the south. The effect, however, is both solemn and heroic.”
This had me puzzled as my memory of the North Cathedral, the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne, did not correspond with regard to high side windows; extended height over the centre arches; or size of columns. Later comparisons with photographs raised issues with ceiling detail, spacing of columns as well as detail at high altar.
One day, I mentioned this in a discussion with The Oracle who educated that the North Cathedral had been modified and extended since 1920 prompting some further checking.
‘The Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne’ by Sr. Angela Bolster was read in the Local Studies section of the City Library. I learned that George R. Pain designed restoration and remodelling following a fire in 1820 and that he ‘achieved an exotic fan-tracery in the vaulted roof springing from majestic reinforced capitals of perpendicular gothic.’
I learned that the cathedral was most recently extended in 1964 by 70 feet which included the demolition of everything east of the Communion Rail. Externally, the extension was finished in limestone, precast concrete and bee-stone – limestone and sandstone represent the original.
I was now happy that this was not the location in the Lavery painting.
Subsequent information leaflets attached to the painting at the Gallery advised that it was Southwark Cathedral.
This immediately went on my TO VISIT list on next trip to London, which took nearly two years to happen.
When I spotted a tweet by UCD Archives with a photograph of the procession of the funeral cortege, I had checked out the location of the Cathedral, near London Bridge. The desire TO VISIT was strengthened.
At 15:26 on 28th December, the itch was definitely not scratched. I was left more puzzled than ever.
Southwark Cathedral did not have any large window behind the altar; it had two rows of windows above the arches; and, the ceiling did not match what Lavery had painted.
I walked all around and spotted Goldsmith, Johnson and Shakespeare. I saw a memorial to the Marchioness. I read of a famous American Indian.
But there was no mention of Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney.
When I asked of the guide, I was told that there were two Cathedrals in Southwark. The Cathedral of St. George was a tube ride away. The battery in the camera had died and I did ‘borrow’ some charge from the Cathedral. I was already late for meeting the rest at Winter Wonderland – but I just had to scratch that itch.
But things were still not right. The left hand side faced west, but a morning departure would still mean that the sun rays through the windows would be artistic licence.
But there were windows over the arches and not in the painting.
Winter Wonderland was calling and family were phoning. The camera had died again. I left still puzzled.
But what eventually solved the riddle was learning that the Cathedral of St. George was bombed in April 1941 during World War II and so explained the difference between Lavery and now.
Peaceful, contemplative, chill-out time was had – even if I did arrive before opening time of 10.00 and initially thought that I may be out of luck.
I spotted an information plaque which explained that the centre columns and arches were retained in the rebuilt Cathedral – all fell into place.
Peace at Last
Then one from Niall Murray suggesting Minister Michael Creed read from Terence MacSwiney during his visit to St Patrick’s Day Parade in London.
Those were the final prompts to eventually put the adventure of the painting, the funeral and three cathedrals into words.
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UPDATES FROM TWITTER CONVERSATIONS
I was not alone in heading to Cathedral of St Saviour thinking it was where Terence MacSwiney lay in state.
The coffin left Cathedral of St George at 2.00p.m. – so the sun rays may actually have existed and not been artistic licence.