Art & Architecture: The Chancel

Please click the thumbnail images for larger versions and descriptions:

The Chancel

The High Altar is carved oak in a neo-Norman style with grape vine decoration. The Altar top is a slab of porphyry. Above it hang seven lamps, representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The reredos (altar screens), installed in 1896, are elaborate Gothic gilded oak, designed by Hay & Henderson, decorated with 41 figures by Sebastian Zwink of Oberammergau.

Around the central panel Moses, Melchizedek, Solomon and Joshua are depicted, symbolising Christ as Prophet, Priest, King and Saviour. The bottom cornice features the 12 Apostles with their emblems.

The central panel features a copy of Benvenuto di Giovanni’s ‘Infant Saviour with Madonna Enthroned’ (National Gallery, London).

The side panels are adapted from frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli (1458) in the Riccardi Chapel, Florence; the angels have Latin texts from the Gloria around their robes.

Below the reredos are four relief medallions symbolising Christ’s Passion: the Crown of Thorns, the Lamb of God, the Pelican, and the Chalice and Wafer. The central tabernacle is inscribed with the sacred monogram IHS, from the Greek abbreviation for ‘Jesus’.

The windows above the Altar, installed in1885, feature the following illustrations:

  • centre: the crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and Saint John standing either side and Mary Magdalene kneeling;
  • left: Saint Paul, with the Sword of the Spirit (from Ephesians) and the Book representing the Epistles;
  • right: Saint Columba wearing a pectoral cross; the emblematic cockerel represents Columba being first to preach the Gospel to Scotland.

The choir stalls consist of three canopied bays with carved griffons at the sides; the canopies have been shortened to accommodate the ‘Father’ Henry Willis Organ.

Old Saint Paul's History

Samuel Seabury window in the Lady Chapel

See A History of Old Saint Paul's for more about our historical background.