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THE ASSEMBLY HALL

O

N each of the thirty-two supporting vaults of the dome are sculptured reliefs with sixteen subjects each twice repeated. They may be called the Immortal Activities of Man, suggested by George Eliot's poem, "The Choir Invisible":

                              "The choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence; live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
For miserable aims that end in self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge men's search
To vaster issues.
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
So may I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world."

These symbols are folded over by Angel Wings; and below rest on Victorious Palms. They are, reading from the left facing the platform down to the back of the hall, when they return in the same order, ending with "Decision in Action" on the right of the platform:

Statesmanship  .    .    . When to bind and when to loose.
"Two massy Keyes he bore of metals twain,
The Golden opes, the Iron shuts amain."
Milton, "Lycidas."
Learning  .    .    .    . A Lamp; and a Book on which are the words
EX LIBRIS SPIRITUS (Inspiration from Books).
Charity  .    .    .    .    . The Pelican and Stars.
"The primal duties" of charity "shine aloft like stars."
-Vaughan.
Charity, The Pelican ans Stars
Law  .    .    .    .    .    . A Hand holding Winged Scales; and the words FAS JUSQUE (Divine and human law).
Knighthood  .    .    .    . A White unstained Shield and Sword.
Healing  .    .    .    .    . Aaron's Rod budded. The Serpent Rod is also the symbol of Aesculapius, the patron deity of Healing. Herbs and a Viol.
Interpreters of Nature Flowers and Birds. Suggesting St. Francis and Wordsworth and those who have seen the Divine in Nature.
Music  .    .    .    .    . A Harp; and Church Bells.
The Arts  .    .    .    . Columns and an Arch carrying a painted Vault; and Sculpture below.
Poetry  .    .    .    . A Lyre; and the Lark of Song.
Guidance  .    .    .    .    . A Lamp that lights the Way.
Quest  .    .    .    .    . The early crusading Navigator's Ship and the Cross they set up where they landed; symbols for all who sought new lands for religious liberty; and as Missionaries.
Leadership  .    .    .    . Holding the Winged Torch; and Stars.
"Take stars for money; stars not to be told
By any art, yet to be purchased."
George Herbert.
Conference  .    .    .    . A Chapter House.
Imagination  .    .    .    . The Wings that lift the Mind to the Stars of Thought.
Decision in Action  .    . Grasping the Nettle.

In the centre of these is to be a coloured window or a sculptured relief, the symbolism of which will be the Christian bond and focus of these human activities. It expresses Job's Voice of the Whirlwind, and the idea expressed in the words of Browning's poem, "An Epistle of Karshish, the Arab Physician":

"So, the All-Great, were the All-loving too-
So, through the thunder comes the human voice
Saying, 'O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself!
Thou hast no power nor mayst conceive of mine,
But love I gave thee, with myself to love,
And thou must love me who have died for thee!' "

It is hoped that Douglas Strachan will make the window.

Above the reliefs on the vaulting the base of the dome is ringed with these golden words from the old Church Service Book, The Salisbury Antiphoner:

HOLY IS THE TRUE LIGHT AND PASSING
WONDERFUL, LENDING RADIANCE TO THEM
THAT ENDURED IN THE HEAT OF THE CONFLICT;
FROM CHRIST THEY INHERIT A HOME
OF UNFADING SPLENDOUR, WHEREIN THEY
REJOICE WITH GLADNESS EVERMORE.

Robert Bridges wished to see these beautiful words restored to the Church Service.

Proposed window in Assembly Hall

On the balustrade of the Gallery above the President's chair is carved in big letters this verse from Isaiah, xi:

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD SHALL REST UPON
HIM, THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING,
THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL, AND
MIGHT, THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF
THE FEAR OF THE LORD.

On either side are two Sentinels carved by Wheeler in full relief with shield and sword; and behind their heads symbols of guardianship on land and sea.

On the coved cornice under the Gallery balustrade are fifteen symbols of component parts of the British Empire where the Anglican Church ministers. Emphasis is given to their floral emblems.

On the left facing the platform are:

England, one on either side of the Chair. Three Lions passant gardant and the Rose. Richard Coeur de Lion, in the Crusades, first bore the Lion on the English Shield.
Scotland  .    .    .    . Lion rampant, dating from the Crusades, and the Thistle.
Canada  .    .    .    . Polar Star; Leaves and Winged Seeds of the Maple; Rose, Thistle and Lily for the English, Scotch and French races.
West Indian Islands and Newfoundland. Full-rigged 18th-century Ship and Fishes.
Australia  .    .    .    . Southern Cross and Wattle Leaves and Flowers.
Dependencies and Islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Palm Tree of tropical lands; two Sailing Boats in which the Natives of old navigated the Southern Seas; Shells symbolizing the countless Isles of the Pacific.
New Zealand  .    .    .    . Southern Cross and Fern.
South Africa  .    .    .    . Southern Cross; Protea Flower and Mimosa Thorn entwined. (When the Protea was being considered as the floral emblem, General Smuts preferred the thorned Mimosa. It is here entwined with the Protea in his honour.)

On the right facing the platform are:

England  .    .    .    . Lions and Rose repeated.
Ireland  .    .    .    . The Harp and the Leaves and Flowers of the Shamrock.
Wales  .    .    .    . The Red Dragon and Leek with its umbels of flowers.
Mediterranean  .    .    . Rock-Fortress of Gibraltar; Maltese Cross; the Cyprus Lion (from the Arms of the Crusader Governor of Cyprus); and Cross of Jerusalem.
India  .    .    .    . The Star of India combined with the Indian symbol of the Lotus Sun-disc.
Ceylon and Burmah  .    . Two Elephants; a Pagoda-Temple and a Palm Tree.
West African Group  .    . Palm Trees for the Tropics; a pure Negro and a turbaned northern type of African Native.
East African Group  .    .

Mountains of the Moon and the Source of the Nile; Zimbabwe Birds for the two Rhodesias. These, carved like the Egyptian Hawk, were adopted by Cecil Rhodes as suggestive of a remote link with ancient civilizations. Herodotus records that the source of the Nile was in the mountains of Central Africa, which Ptolemy later called the Mountains of the Moon. The snow caps of these three high mountains might seem moon-like to the natives who had never seen snow; cf. the later Elizabethan conceit of Donne in "An Anatomie of the 'World":

                      "Doth not a Tenarif or higher Hill
Rise so high like a Rocke, that one might thinke
The floating Moone would shipwrack there."

On this cornice, in the centre over the Chair, is a relief representing in symbols verses 1 and 2 of the last chapter of Revelation:- "Pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the THRONE OF GOD, . . . on either side of the river was there the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits . . and the leaves of the tree were for the Healing of the Nations." The Throne of God is symbolised by the Firmament of Heaven, the Polar Star and the Southern Cross surrounded by the Stars in their Courses. The symbolism, as in "Dedication" over the entrance door, is expressed in Meredith's poem, how Prince Lucifer uprises through the clouds and

                                                                "At the Stars
Which are the brain of Heaven, he looked, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law."

Below the stars, out of the clouds

                           "the congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst"

the Dove of the Holy Spirit descends to the Waters of Life with the Trees of Life on either side. The main leaf-growth has no species; the art here does not imitate nature but follows the process of nature's growth; as, it is thought, the early Greek, Byzantine and Gothic carvers unconsciously did. But out of this elemental leaf-growth on each tree are six Fruits or seeds - not flowers - with their own proper Leaves, of eight plants of the Empire's floral emblems and four plants with Biblical significance. Thus on the right facing them, the Tree bears these six Fruits with their own Leaves : - the Rose, Thistle, Shamrock, Leek, Lily and Apple; on the left, the Maple, Wattle, Fern, Protea, Lotus and Pomegranate. Some of the seeds appear microscopic to us in nature; but as symbols they have no scale. These twelve Fruits and Leaves of the four British Races and the four Dominions, together with those familiar to us in the Bible and common to India and our Tropical Dependencies, may symbolise the Healing Power of the Church of the Empire amongst "the Nations,"

From the Book "The Church House - Its Art and Symbolism"
Published for the Corporation of the Church House June 1940.
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