“My hope is that the images that have ‘made their appearance’ in the mosaic contain some truth as ‘presences’ in the experience of the onlooker.”
Charles Lutyens was commissioned in 1963 to create a mosaic mural of “Angels of the Heavenly Host” in St. Paul’s Church, Bow Common. The mural was integral to the design and structure of the building.
While the purpose and intent of the mural was conceptualised at the time of the church’s design and formulated within the directive of the convention of Angels being haloed, winged, and clothed in white and in an open attitude of worship, underlining the universality of faith, the work started without its final appearance being known or drawn.
The difficulty of creating ‘Angels’ on the walls of the church was resolved by what seemed to be a characteristic of ‘Angels’ that according to the stories it was not known what they would look like before they ‘appeared’. The application of the tesserae was approached in this light.
That the Angels would be “meaningful as a statement of faith today” Lutyens chose not to derive his image of angels from representations by artists in the past.
St. Paul’s Church, Bow Common, E3, which is a Grade II* listed building was designed by architects Robert Maguire and Keith Murray, was consecrated in 1960 and is the first church in this country built with the altar in its central space. The mural, which was made single-handedly by Lutyens from coloured Murano glass tesserae, comprises ten ‘Angels’ and representations of the four elements of earth, fire, air, and water. Taking five years to make, the mosaic covers 800 sq.ft. with continuous unbroken images around the walls of the church and is the largest artist created contemporary mosaic mural in the British Isles. It was completed in 1968.