Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cleaning up St Paul's

St Paul's Cathedral has been in the news recently, and its administration has not emerged with very high marks - but cathedral chapters have always been good at falling out amongst themselves.

However there are other things to bother about at the cathedral - not just a few tents pitched, if not occupied, by protesters who may well have a point, but who fail to understand that publicity is not influence or carrying realistic dialogue forward.

No, this is about the fabric itself of Wren's greatest single project. I have written before that as a building St Paul's leaves me cold, and I would infinitely rather have the medieval cathedral or the Great Model design, but I recognise its importance as a work of art and that it enjoys a special place in the life and memory of the capital and the country.

A friend, I suspect inspired by my post about Issoire and its medieval decoration, has sent me a link to this post on ArtWatch UK about the recent lavish cleaning and redecoration of the cathedral, which suggests that the powers-that-be have got it wrong in respect of the colour scheme. You can read it here.

I found that this was followed by a second article about the cleaning of the stonework, which can be read here, and their latest article is a return to the same issues, and the current protests, and can be read here.

It looks as if what has been done is rather how York Minster in its restoration of 1968-72 painted the high vaults of the nave and choir vaults a brilliant white - instead of the rather depressing fawn which they were before - and picked out the bosses in gold. The effect is indeed far superior to what was there beforehand - but both building and antiquarian sources indicate that the vaults should be sky-blue, with stars, and the bosses in picked out in full colour.

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