Slaves of Fashion New Works by the Singh Twins

I first met the Singh Twins many years ago when I was studying at the University of Manchester and took a course entitled ‘Religion and the Arts’. Amongst the participants were the Singh Twins and it was clear then that they were destined for higher things. It was an excellent inter-disciplinary course that engaged very directly with art in religious contexts and covered such areas as Christian and Islamic architecture, Greek Art, Buddhist Gandhara sculpture, Russian Orthodox icons and much more. It was wide ranging and took the students out of the lecture room and into religious buildings and other places. It had a great influence on me and I suspect it must have had an influence on the Singh Twins who are now such established artists.

ST Ancient Roots cropped

Ancient Roots: The Wonder that was India

 

Details from Ancient Roots

 

I was glad, by chance, to get the chance to see this exhibition which is both beautiful and challenging at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. It is a very impressive exhibition. The painterly skills of the twins are well displayed in these new works and the display of eleven of the major pieces on digital lightboxes enhances the effect tremendously. Even these photographs snapped on my camera phone help to show something of the power of their art. Each of these works depicts an historical figure (ten of them women) who wear a different textile. Around the central figure are depicted aspects of the process of production and trade of that fabric.

ST Chintz cropped

Chintz: The Price of Luxury. Depicting Queen Catherine of Braganza who married Charles II in 1662 bringing Bombay (Mumbai) as part of her dowry

 

The exhibition explores the history of Indian textiles in the context of empire, enslavement and exploitation and the way high fashion has always been intimately bound up with unequal terms of trade between western society and the lands where most of these textiles are produced.

ST Indiennes cropped

Indiennes: The Extended Triangle. Depicting the slave trade

 

They have such an eye for detail and incorporate in each of the eleven major works vignettes from the history of the interaction between luxury consumption, trade, and imperialism. It asks so many questions about ethical trade and the history of consumerism and Liverpool is such an appropriate place for this appear. The image at the top of this page is a detail taken from their work ‘Cotton: Threads of Change’, a raw material produced originally in India and central to the economic development of Liverpool as a port as part of the ‘Atlantic Trade’.

ST Cotton cropped

Cotton: Threads of Change

 

The bottom of ‘Cotton’ shows an imagined historical skyline of Liverpool which begins symbolically in China and Egypt and ends in New York. Some of the buildings of Liverpool fly the Confederate flag, a pointed but accurate assertion for a city that was so tied to slavery for so long and which in many cases supported the South in the American Civil War. A grand ball was held by the citizenry in St George’s Hall to support the Confederacy.

ST Calico detail

Calico: Merchant Thieves (detail)

 

Some of the new paintings feature Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump and in one room is a large collection of objects from around the world from the Museum’s collection which shed further light on the history and issues bound up in this interaction between fashion, empire and trade. There are also preparatory works in the show and time-lapse films of the works being created.

ST Silks and Quilts cropped

Silks and Quilts: Exploration and Exploitation. Queen Isabella of Castile

 

It is an incredibly impressive and thought provoking exhibition which I am glad I got to see. It is in Liverpool until 20th May 2018 after which it will move to Wolverhampton Art Gallery from 21st July to 16th September.

ST Silks and Quilts detail

ST Silks and Quilts detail addition

Details from Silks and Quilts

Advertisements

Chester Cathedral Refectory

Chester Cathedral refectory ph

British Cathedrals are often good places to eat. Mindful of providing the full experience for the tourist market most large cathedrals are well-attuned to the culinary needs of visitors. Sometimes the restaurants are squeezed into the holy places in a slightly insensitive way but cathedrals do often have the ideal space for a café in the form of the refectory. The best cathedral that I have eaten in is undoubtedly St David’s in Wales, where the refectory is a very pleasant place to go. But the most interesting refectory in use as a restaurant, even if the food isn’t great, is probably that of Chester Cathedral.

Chester Cathedral refectory counter

The Early English Gothic refectory, originally part of the medieval Benedictine abbey, dates from the thirteenth century and is constructed in the red local sandstone used throughout the Cathedral and in many places in the region. It’s an impressive monastic space although the roof is entirely modern dating from 1939. For most of its recent history (from 1613 to 1876) the refectory was part of the King’s School, presumably used as the school dining room. But it has a very interesting ancient pulpit approached through a long arcaded staircase.

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit stairs crop

Here a monk will have sat reading the scriptures while his colleagues enjoyed their repast. The walls contain the carved graffiti of seventeenth-century scholars and the early twentieth-century east window contains a whole selection of saints at the centre of which presides St Werburgh, to whom the original abbey was dedicated. At the other end a colourful stained glass window commemorates the millennium under which hangs a rather tired looking Mortlake tapestry which is not well displayed. But the full effect of the refectory is a good one, although the over-priced sausage rolls are probably best left un-sampled.

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit stairs 02

Stairs to the pulpit

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit

Pulpit

Chester Cathedral refectory roof crop

Refectory roof

Chester Cathedral refectory tapestry

Mortlake tapestry depicting Paul and Elymas

Chester Cathedral refectory graffiti ph crop

Seventeenth-century graffiti

Kolozsvár/Cluj monuments, inscriptions and doors

Unitarian Church door detail

Unitarian Church door

Unitarian Church inscription

Unitarian inscription

Franciscan Church

Franciscan Church plaque

Lutheran Church inscription

Lutheran Church inscription

Door to St Michael's Church

St Michael’s Church door

Catholic building door

Roman Catholic parochial house door

Obelisk

Obelisk commemorating the visit of the emperor. Built in 1831.

Obelisk detail

Obelisk detail by Austrian sculptor Josef Klieber. The emperor and his wife visit the city hospital. Note the gas lamp.

Original city arms

The  original arms of the city

Plaque commemorating visit of emperor

Plaque commemorating the visit of Emperor Francis I and Princess Caroline Augusta to ‘Claudiopolis’ in 1817

Downpatrick First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church

Downpatrick 1 Oct 2016

Downpatrick is one of the finest 18th-century T-shaped meeting-houses in Ireland. Built in 1711 at the start of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin, a pioneer Non-Subscribing Presbyterian minister who became a founder member of the Presbytery of Antrim, the church is one of the most notable buildings in this part of county Down.

It is not a new thing but it is worth flagging up the 360 degree virtual tour of the interior which was put online courtesy of VirtualVisitTours. The panoramic view can be explored here:

http://www.virtualvisittours.com/downpatrick-first-presbyterian-non-subscribing-church/

 

 

Gyulafehérvár

Citadel

The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Cathedrals

Cathedral

Roman Catholic Cathedral

Diocesan notice

Diocesan noticeboard in four languages

Archbishop

The Archbishop greets us

Staircase

Staircase

Cathedral altar

High altar

John Sigusmund tomb

Tomb of King John II Sigismund

Queen Isabella tomb

Tomb of Queen Isabella Jagiellon

Roman inscription

Roman inscription

Habsburg Arch

Habsburg arch

The Edict of Torda

I was privileged to be present at the special celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda held in Torda, Romania, on Saturday, 13th January. It was a remarkable occasion with three churches filled in the town, the service relayed to a screen in the town square and the event broadcast live on Hungarian television.

 

The Edict of Torda was the first promulgation of religious toleration in Europe. From the point of view of Western Europe it came at the surprisingly early date of 1568 and took place in Transylvania under the rule of King John II Sigismund, the only Unitarian king in history.

 

Here I will post some images from the service held in the Catholic Church in Torda, traditionally regarded as the location for the meeting of the Diet of 1568.

Assembing in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Assembling in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Inside the Church before the service

Inside the Church before the service

Rev Marton Csesc and Rev Imola Molnar who introduced the 16 speakers in the Church

Rev Márton Csésc and Rev Imola Molnár who introduced the 16 speakers at the service

Laszlo Kover President of the Hungarian Parliament

Lászlo Kövér, President of the Hungarian Parliament

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Some of the congregation outslde

Some of the congregation outside

Bishop Ferenc Balint Benczedi of the HUC and Archbishop Gyorgy Jakubinyi

Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, Archbishop György Jakubinyi of the Roman Catholic Church and other dignitaries

Rev David Gyero deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Dávid Gyerő, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Istvan Kovacs Director of Public Affairs HUC

Rev István Kovács Public Affairs Director of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

Rev Jozsef Kaszoni

Rev József Kászoni-Kövendi, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

UNveiling the memorial

Unveiling the memorial

The new memorial to religious freedom at Torda

The new memorial to religious freedom, Ad Astra, by Liviu Mocan

Martin Luther: Postage Stamps

As part of the commemoration last year of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses, our churches in county Down put together an illustrated exhibition on the history of the Reformation from 1517. One part of this was a collection of stamps from around the world all related to Luther. It is surprising how many countries have seen Martin Luther as a suitable subject for a postage stamp. I don’t imagine this is an exhaustive collection of Martin Luther related stamps but it is interesting to compare the variety of images and styles utilised. Some are very artistic, others less so.

Stamps 01

Top row, left to right:

USA 1983 20c, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth; French Polynesia 1983 90F, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth; Bulgaria 1996 300 lev, 450th anniversary of Luther’s death; Germany 2017 .70 euro, 500th anniversary of reformation.

Second row, left to right:

Lithuania 2017 .39 euros, 500th anniversary of reformation; West Germany 1971 30c, 450th anniversary of the diet of Worms; Estonia 2017 .65 Euro, 500th anniversary of reformation; France 1983 3.30F, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth.

Stamps 02

Left to right:

South Africa 1967 12.5 c, 450th anniversary of reformation; South Africa 1967 2.5 c, 450th anniversary of reformation; West Germany 1979 50 pf, 450th anniversary of Luther’s Catechism; Germany 1995 100 pf, 450th anniversary of the Worms Reichstag.

Stamps 03

Left to right:

Germany 2002 56 pf, 500th anniversary Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg; West Germany 1983 80 pf, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth; West Germany 1961 15 pf, 415th anniversary of Luther’s death; Germany 1996 100pf, 450th anniversary of Luther’s death.

Stamps 04

Left to right:

East Germany 1983 85 pf, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth; East Germany 1983 20 pf, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth; East Germany 1983 10 pf, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth; East Germany 1983 35 pf, 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth.

 

 

 

 

Faith and Freedom Calendar 2018

The 2018 Faith and Freedom Calendar is now available. A complimentary copy has been sent to every subscriber to the journal and additional copies can be ordered.

Faith and Freedom Calendar Cover 2018

If you would like to order additional copies please contact Nigel Clarke (faithandfreedom@btinternet.com). For any extra copies we suggest you consider making a donation of £5. All proceeds will be donated to the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund, to help further its work in enabling disadvantaged children to enjoy a much-needed holiday in the Peak District.

We have some magnificent images – and receive far more than we could ever use, although we try to include as many as possible in the cover. The image at the top of this page is taken from the cover – it is a detail of a mosaic at the monastery of Sumela, Trebizond, taken by Anne Wild, who contributes a number of spectacular images to the Calendar.

Here are some more images from the 2018 Calendar:

Chester Calendar

West Window, Chester Cathedral (Photo: Alison Steers)

Cows Calendar

Evening in Lissagally (Photo: Paul Eliasberg)

The back page of the Calendar lists some of the thanks owed to those involved in the production. Thanks also go to Trimprint, our printers, and to Nigel Clarke who directs the whole project. Order your copy while stocks last!

Faith and Freedom Calendar Back Cover 2018

Edinburgh in November

Princes Street in Edinburgh must have one of the most dramatic backdrops of any shopping street in Europe. At this time of year the dour presbyterian cityscape seems to glower at the frivolity of the market below.

20171120_153527

20171120_15500220171120_155035

20171120_155335

20171120_155159

20171120_155243

20171120_155136

20171120_155106

 

Todmorden Unitarian Church

I last visited Todmorden Church decades ago and it was in a pretty sorry state then, heavily vandalised and with no electricity, it had an air of dilapidation about it. So it was good to return in the company of some colleagues to see the church now.

Group 03

Ministers: Jo James, Bob Janis-Dillon, Jim Corrigall, David Steers, Phil Waldron in front of the chancel

One of the things you can’t miss about the church is its dominance on the landscape, it is a big church, an impressive feature of the local topography. But what I had forgotten and what in some ways it is easy to miss is the attention to detail within the building – the marble inlays, the subtle little carvings, the attractive stained glass windows, even the colours of the massive marble pillars. Partly this is because it is actually quite dark inside. The Unitarian Heritage An Architectural Heritage says it has an “under-lit interior” and blames this on the stained glass by “M. Capronnier of Brussels”. An excellent new book Chapels of England Buildings of Protestant Nonconformity by Christopher Wakeling (Historic England, 2017) describes it as the “one unmissable place of worship in Todmorden” and says “despite the clerestory windows – externally unseen – and tiny openings higher in the roof, the light levels foster a sense of religious mystery, augmented by the stained and coloured glass.” I tend to agree with the Unitarian Heritage assessment, I do find the interior a bit too dark but that is a minor quibble. It is a fine building designed by John Gibson of Westminster who also built the local town hall and the Fielden family residence.

20171102_133937

The church tower

Since 1994 the church has been in the care of the Historic Chapels Trust and they seem to be doing a good job, with the church being looked after by local volunteers. They have a varied programme of activities in the church including regular services plus weddings and even some recent christenings. When we visited, Joanna and Richard kindly took time out to show us round.

Verger

Richard Butterworth (verger) and Joanna Drake (volunteer)

The church now has kitchens and toilets sensitively added to the interior which perhaps underlies what a valued resource for local people this church building is. Its history is fascinating, coming, as it did, out of the Methodist Unitarian movement founded by Joseph Cooke and building a new chapel, which still survives, in 1824. The congregation was taken under the wing of enlightened mill owner John Fielden who extinguished their debt and whose three sons built the new church as a memorial to their father, built, it was said at the time, “for the public worship of the one God the Father, and for the instruction in the simple teachings of Jesus Christ, as opposed to such traditional doctrines as those of original sin and eternal punishment”. It opened for worship in 1869 and cost around £35,000. It is the only Unitarian church that I know that has a porte cochère where the wealthy benefactors could dismount and enter the church by a side door protected from the elements. Two of the sons are buried close to the church and matching memorials to all three of them are found on the walls of the interior.

20171102_133709

Porte cochère

The church has what must be one of the earliest and most elaborate church fonts of any Unitarian church, it is probably in need of restoration but it still in better condition than when I last saw it.

Detail on the font

One feature of Todmorden is the repeated motif of the pelican, I am not sure why this is such a popular image here but there is a pelican in the chancel window, and two carved in the choir stalls. There is possibly also another one carved in the end of a pew (almost all the pew ends feature flowers except for this one which houses an angel and what may be another pelican).

Phoenix carving

Choir stall pelican (see note below)

It is heartening to see the clock working and to know that the peal of eight bells are still rung by local bell ringers. Todmorden was a really flourishing congregation for most of its existence and it is interesting that this large building and its congregation left such an imprint in the locality that even now worship continues within it and it provides the home for much activity. It’s good to see the gradual recovery of Todmorden Unitarian Church.

side view up

The view up the carriage drive

Pulpit eagle 03

Pulpit eagle

window round

Rose Window

A 360 degree view of the interior can be seen on the church’s website:

http://360.tuc-congregation.org.uk/

Note:

A couple of people have pointed out to me that the carving in the choir stalls which I originally named as a phoenix is in fact what is known as a ‘pelican in her piety’. It is the mother pelican who – in the ancient story – feeds its own chicks (or revives them after they die) with its own blood. I had confused this story with that of the phoenix which, of course, is famous for its ability to resurrect itself. Both the phoenix and the pelican became popular within Christian iconography from early times to represent Christ, for obvious reasons. But I am happy to make that correction and rename the image in the choir stalls. The carving on the pew end looks a good deal more phoenix like, although, to be honest, the photograph I took is not as clear as it might be and I am not able to make a certain identification. It is quite plausible that there are both phoenixes and pelicans in the church, but nevertheless I have removed the references to the phoenix and given credit to the pelican. Both are actually slightly surprising images to be found in a Unitarian church of 1869. The presence of a ‘pelican in her piety’ in Todmorden is probably a unique occurrence in a Unitarian church – unless anyone else knows differently!