Monday, January 07, 2008

Pugin reredos restored at Leeds Cathedral

A year after St Anne's Cathedral in Leeds re-opened following a £2.5 million restoration project overseen by Bishop Arthur Roche, I was able to visit and photograph it. As someone who had sung in the cathedral choir for four years, I was keen to see the work that had been done. The initial impression one gets is that the cathedral is now much brighter, thanks to a superb new lighting scheme and cleaned masonry.

Leeds Cathedral interior

The re-ordering of the sanctuary, which has a very prominent cathedra, has had mixed reviews although the main sanctuary reredos which features a relief of the Coronation of the Virgin and with figures of saints from Yorkshire has been wonderfully restored and re-gilt.

Leeds Cathedral main reredos

However, even more splendid is the restoration of the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Here, as this BBC article explains, stands an early Pugin reredos dating to 1842. After 3 months' work, the reredos was unveiled just before Christmas 2007. This was a revelation for me, as the reredos had been re-painted previously in rather washed out pastels! Now, Our Lady stands in glorious medieval colours and shining with gold:

Virgo Mater gloriosa!

Restored Reredos in Leeds Cathedral

The restorers have also uncovered the original wall paintings that covered every surface of the chapel. As such, the white-washing of the walls that was undertaken after Vatican II is being reversed, so that the images of saints and angels may once more surround those who gather here to worship and pray. At the moment, as you can see in the photo above, the walls flanking the reredos have a delightfully medieval feel to them, but I understand that plans are afoot to properly re-paint the saints on these walls.

The Lord now dwells in a house of gold (below), and although it is now unveiled, one might recall that the great tabernacles in Roman basilicas are similarly unveiled as the Sanctissimum is housed in marble and gold.

Domus Aurea

As the Church recommends that cathedrals have the tabernacle in a separate chapel (see Ceremonial of Bishops, 49), this beautifully restored Blessed Sacrament chapel is surely a dignified and fitting place of reservation for Our Lord, and a model of tradition and restoration which I hope other cathedrals will emulate.

There are more photos in this Flickr set, which I shall be adding to in the next few days.

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