HE Altar as the focus of spiritual symbolism should, it is thought, be a thing of essential beauty in itself and eloquent in the silent space around it. The curved surface of the oak-panelled Apse with the central Picture above forms its background or reredos. The Mensa consists of a black marble slab carried on eight winged Angel-pillars; Aenigmata Divina. They are of golden bronze; four hold a Chalice and four the Sacred Flame, the Light of Life. A chaplet on their heads seems to carry the weight of the slab, though the Wings symbolise the spiritual uplifting. These golden Angel-pillars will be seen against a floor of black and white marble radiating from the Altar in the semicircle of the Sanctuary.
In the stepped paving leading to the Sanctuary are inset slabs of the English marbles familiar in our old churches: Purbeck; black Frostingley, with its long shells, well known in Durham Cathedral; Sussex from Kirdford, where St. Augustine's Chair at Canterbury is said to have been quarried; Cornish Serpentine; and the purplish black Devonshire. The black and buff coloured marble beyond the Sanctuary comes from Derbyshire.
The Altar Cross on the Altar is of silver and lapis lazuli, with four crystal discs, three engraved on the back with the symbols of the Passion, and the upper disc with Wings of Ascension and the Crown of Victory. In the centre a golden sculptured Head of Christ with the Greek words ΧΡΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ: Christ is risen. Below, on both sides, are reliefs of Angels with Lilies in their hands. The candleholders match in simpler detail.
The railings of the Sanctuary are of wrought iron with Lilies and Crown Imperials, or Fritillaries, which in the Romance of Flowers are said to have hung their heads since the Crucifixion.
The subject of the painting seen above the Altar in the centre of the Apse is a risen Christ, robed, with arms outstretched as on the Cross. His feet touch the water of the Thames. Below, a man and a woman, impersonal with faces not seen, are clutching at the Garment's Hem; they represent Humanity. Between them are two children playing amongst grass and flowers. In the background are St. Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. Above, in a sky of gold, "such as the Tuscan early art prefers," are two Cherubim, one holding a Chalice or Holy Grail, the other the Flame of Life. The subject expresses Francis Thompson's poem, "In no Strange Land"; that "our estranged faces miss the many splendoured thing"; the Kingdom of God conceived not among the "Stars in motion" or where "the wheeling systems darken," but here in our midst in London, where
"Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry - clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Genesareth, but Thames."
On the supports of the groined vaults of the concrete ceiling are winged Spirits alternately with Harp and Trumpet; and the two larger supports in the apse on either side of the painting are twin Spirits singing from a scroll in the " Heavenly Choir." These illustrate Milton's
| "Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice and Vers."
|and|| ". . . . . the bright Seraphim in burning row
Their loud, uplifted Angel trumpets blow,
And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms,
Hymns devout and holy Psalm
Above the twenty-nine recessed stalls for the Bishops in Convocation are twenty-nine shields of the Sees, movable and to be hung as they may sit, under Mitres carved in the oak of the panelling. The capitals of the oak columns of the stalls have different types of Crosses, fifteen in number, such as were common in mediæval usage. Under the base of the columns are sculptured Heads of five types: a Crusader, Knight, Monk, Nun and Cherub; each repeated about three times; and Heads of a mediæval King and Queen on either side of the Archbishop's stall. The first five are modelled by Wheeler and carved by Turner; the two latter modelled and carved by Wheeler.
A small Sacristy has been contrived above the vault of the Gateway and under the raised Sanctuary. It is entered through vestment cupboards in the walls and ends in a little apse containing a Piscina; in the apse stands a little Altar. It will be furnished throughout simply but generously by the Warham Guild.
Round the dome of the vestibule to the Chapel is this ring inscription:
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD OF HOSTS,
HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE FULL OF THY GLORY.
In the Glass of the window of the vestibule is the Cross of Edward the Confessor's Arms surrounded by joyful golden Birds. The Heralds' Martlets of his Arms have come to life and are singing.
"Little birds that sing and fly
Round thine Altars, O most High."
The idea may symbolize the new joyous life of the Church in their new House built in the precincts of the Confessor's Abbey. The same idea has been carved on some old Purbeck marble stones from the old buildings of the Abbey that were dug up in the foundations. They are built into the Ancaster stone of the landing to the staircase up to the Assembly Hall.
A roundel outside the Chapel represents the Sacrifice of Youth in the war of Nations. It embodies the Bible story of the sacrifice of Isaac with the thought expressed in the recent speech of Lord Halifax at Oxford in which, referring to Lord Grey's lament in 1914 that ''The lamps" of civilization "are going out all over Europe," he said that it was for youth to "deserve and win the rekindling of the lamps."
It embodies too a suggestion of the classical myth of Prometheus in which the Spirits of the Air and Ocean, or as our Shakespeare says "Angels trumpet-tongued,"
"And pity like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or Heaven's cherubin horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,"
cry out against the "deep damnation" of the deed.
The strong young man is bound to the altar, just aflame, and casts through the gloom of the "waste land" a look of Hope, "the oldest and wisest of Counsellors," as Lord Halifax says, up to the Messenger of Heaven carrying a lamp. Encircled are the words:
"THE LAMPS SHALL BE REKINDLED."
(This and the other eight drawings in the Ambulatory await donors before they can be made in plaster or stone.)
On the upper wall of the staircase to the Assembly Hall and its gallery a place has been designed for a picture of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Church House on the 26th June, 1937, by Her Majesty Queen Mary. The red painted steel framework of the dome of the Assembly Hall seemed on the occasion to make a picturesque symbolic Crown to the ceremony.
Coved panels of the plaster ceiling of the large Oak Hall on the first floor over the entrance are enriched with Arms. On one panel are those of the Provinces of Canterbury and York, of Westminster Abbey and of the Sees of London, Winchester and Durham; on the other of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the City of London and the London County Council.
The walls of the Entrance Hall and the staircase to the Assembly Hall and Gallery are lined with a stone that takes a marble polish, valuable for cleanliness. It comes from Ancaster in South Lincolnshire.