Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Martin Earle of the Chichester Liturgical Art Workshop Wins Major Award in US

I was delighted to learn recently that Martin Earle, of the Chichester Workshop of Liturgical Art in the UK (which I have been energetically promoting in this blog), has been awarded first prize in the annual competition of the Catholic Art Institute.

The award was given for this Franciscan-style cross commissioned by the Rev. Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen in Scotland. Martin was keen to emphasize the important part that his colleague at the workshop, Jim Blackstone, had to play in the creation of this monumental piece of work. There were also many highly skilled apprentices who contributed, all under Martin’s expert direction, and many of whom I was privileged to meet on a recent visit to the studio in Chichester.

Bishop Hugh, incidentally, has a great love for the San Damiano Crucifix at the church of St Clara in Assisi, which inspired both this commission and one another done about 20 years ago for Pluscarden Abbey, where he was formerly a Benedictine monk and served as abbot. The diocese is currently raising the money for the project, so I encourage readers contribute at the gofundme here.
It is especially gratifying to see work in the iconographic and Gothic style featuring so prominently in the awards and mentions made by the Catholic Art Institute. It is my conviction that Catholic traditions from the pre-Renaissance period are the most likely springboard for a new flourishing of contemporary styles of sacred arts in the Church, and the Catholic Art Institute is doing sterling work, in my opinion, in showcasing projects that are simultaneously traditional and of the 21st century.
Second prize went to an icon by Orthodox monk, Fr. Silouan Justiniano, whom I met at the Scala Foundation Conference in Princeton last spring.
Juror comments from the Institute were as follows: The San Damiano Crucifix is a new, beautiful and highly-skilled contribution to a centuries-long Franciscan tradition of depicting Christ’s Sacrifice, while expounding on its deeper meanings in the adjacent, appended panels. This work combines the fine and allied arts to achieve a radiant, magnificent, unified whole. 
St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Cathedral in Aberdeen is currently fundraising to be able to install this crucifix as part of a project to re-order the sanctuary. If you are able to help, please visit:
This crucifix was painted at the Chichester Workshop of Liturgical Art. Alongside providing a space for artists to undertake commissions across a broad range of traditional media, the Chichester Workshop offers an education programme that includes both practical artistic training and theological engagement with the principles of Christian iconography. Find out more at

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