All Hail Sir George Gilbert Scott

All Hail Sir George Gilbert Scott who would have been 200 years old today had he lasted. Sir George was the architect of St Mary’s Cathedral and many other buildings including some of those at the University of Glasgow, the Albert Memorial in London, St Pancras Station and a couple of dozen other cathedrals and big churches.

His vision is one of those which have given a lasting gothic sensibility to cityscapes across the Empire and liturgy across the Communion.

I’ve thought quite a lot about him recently one way or another. I stood in front of the magnificent St Pancras Station the other week in wonderment, delighted that the hotel is now functioning again and is not simply a space for the Spice Girls to film their videos.

(m’Lud – I believe the Spice Girls were a popular music beat-combo band of some kind).

Similarly I thought of Sir George on the recent evening that we had an orchestral evensong at St Mary’s. There was something about the sound that made me look at the building again. It is an extraordinarily simple idea to enclose physical space using stone and yet that enclosure makes it possible to do the extraordinary again and again.

That’s not to say that I’d quite like a word or two with Sir George about the building. I suspect that he may not be entirely to blame for the lack of ancilliary space and the problems of pews are not something that can really be laid at his door. All the same, I’d like to talk about sight lines and liturgy and processions and cupboards. And I’d like to know what he would have admired and what he would have been sketching out to build today.

All Hail Sir George!

Christchurch, New Zealand

Turned on the radio an hour ago to hear about the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Immediately began to think about New Zealanders whom I know and immediately realise who we will be praying for today in church in addition to those whom we have been thinking about in North Africa and the Middle East.

The the news that the quake has toppled the spire of Christchurch Cathedral itself. People describe the dust cloud rising from the debris.

Christchurch Cathedral, hmm.

I realise a connection. Soon after St Mary’s, Glasgow was built, the architect , Sir George Gilbert Scott began work on Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand.

I manage to find some pictures on Flickr. Apart from the apse at the East End, its essentially the same building as St Mary’s.

I gaze at the space that I know so well yet seemingly constructed from stone a world away. I think of the congregation there. Those who sat at worship in those seats but two days ago and shared Eucharist with us and with all God’s people.

O God,
be with the people of Christchurch this day.
In your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

[Pictures from Edwin Lee. jgraham and ken mccown]