Saturday, 17 May 2008

Evening Standard: Canterbury Cathedral is falling down

[...] I can hear the roars of dissent and dis-approval. This is no longer a Christian country. In a multicultural nation all religions should be equal and we wouldn't dream of giving £50 million to Islam, Jewry, Hindus or Roman Catholics. Let the Church look after its own — its commissioners, the most incompetent of landlords and property developers, are reaping what they've sown. Let the Church of England be disestablished (a view with which I agree). And so on. But I must argue that the cathedral is a building embodying our heritage of political development as well as theological dispute: that this nation's history is witnessed in every single stone from the Norman Conquest to the high Victorian confidence of the British Empire at its apogee and that it is thus a great deal more than just a church of the Church of England. I must also argue that in its beauty it is as much the heritage of the wider world as Angkor Wat, the temples of ancient Greece and Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt and the remains of the Aztec and Inca civilisations, against the religious significance of which there has been no argument. Contempt for the Church of England, the congregations of which it is now estimated will number fewer than 100,000 souls by the middle of this century, must be set aside — the conservation of the building is entirely a matter of its inestimable value, to the world as well as England, as a work of art and a monument of history.

In 1974 the V&A mounted an exhibition, The Destruction of the Country House. This clearly demonstrated the extent to which our architectural heritage had been ravaged by the demolition of hundreds of beautiful domestic buildings when the world about them was changed by fiscal depression, the effects of war, taxation and political manipulation. It seemed to me then, the National Gallery just having paid some £1.7 million for Titian's Death of Actaeon, that we had lost our sense of proportion, for that sum then was enough to buy and restore a dozen substantial country houses. I draw the same parallel now — the £50 million required to save Canterbury Cathedral now that the world about it, too, has changed, is the price of Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull, a couple of Bacons, or one signfiicant Picasso. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

1 comment:

Peter Kirk said...


the congregations of which it is now estimated will number fewer than 100,000 souls by the middle of this century

No, that is not what the estimates say! They may say this about the numbers on electoral rolls, but not about attendance which is estimated to stay in the millions.