The Venerable Chapel, Winchester Cathedral
The story of the refurbishment of the Venerable Chapel began in 2008. The main inspiration grew from the fortuitous discovery of the artist Rachel Schwalm, a sculptor working in stone, marble dust and pigment (colour in its purest form), and trained in classical design. In her role as the Cathedral’s Arts and Exhibitions Consultant, Sophie realised that the two dimensional stone ‘panel’ pieces that Schwalm made would translate beautifully into an altar. The mystical and serene qualities of her artwork had strong resonances with Chapter’s emerging vision to ‘discover and live out the beauty of holiness’.
The resulting Altar incorporates a multi-toned panel of blue pigment, evoking the mysteries of creation and cosmos, while discreet LED lighting, inserted in a small window in the panel, gives the panel a glistening heart. Two vertical chalk lines in the panel echo the proportions of the chapel window’s stone mullions immediately above the altar. The chalk lines are then continued above and below, by v-cuts in the stone. This provides a direct yet subtle link between the sky and the panel.
The altar was cut at the famous workshops at Carrara in Italy, using stone comes from a warm, honeyed seam of Jerusalem Limestone. Its origins in the Holy Land add further to the interpretation of the chapel.
Luke Hughes & Co also designed the new benches and desks, in collaboration with Sophie, which emphasise the clean lines of the altar and blend with the classical memorials which fill the walls. The blue sycamore inlay on the facing of the benches connects with the blues of Schwalm’s panel. The furniture makes a pleasing contrast to the more organic forms of the adjacent Fisherman’s Chapel, while continuing the theme of the glories of creation.