Angel holding the Spear of The Passion

Sir William Blake Richmond1891/1904

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

Opaque glass mosaic, designed by William Blake Richmond, executed by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars

From the fourth century AD the Instruments of Passion were shown on their own. Also referred to as the arma Christi (Latin: weapons of Christ), they are a group of objects used during the Passion of Christ as described in the Gospel, among them the Veil of Veronica, the Crown of Thorns, the cross itself as well as the nails, sponge and lance. As symbols of the Passion, at times presented by angels in a similar way to Richmond’s designs, they remained popular themes from the Late Gothic onwards. They are nonetheless a highly unusual theme in monumental church decoration in the nineteenth-century. Both north and south arch of the east bay of the quire are dedicated to this subject matter, while none of the Stations of the Cross is depicted as part of the Richmond cycle: the symbolic allusion to the Passion replaces its explicit visual representation of the brutality of the crucifixion in the quire; Christ is not shown in agony here. The text at the centre of the panel is also a celebration of Christ, they are the words used by the angels to announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds. (Richmond did eventually design a mosaic dedicated to the Crucifixion, mosaic no. 8461. This highly stylised work is part of the four pictures created for the central dome in the early 20th century.)

Brief description (incl. nos 6431 and 7794): left side of mosaic panel spanning the wall space between arches and clerestory with two distinct spandrel areas, the central part depicting the disk of the sun and rays and inscribed “GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO” (‘Glory to God in the Highest’, Luke 2:14); on either side of the arch an angel as young male in armour with pink and white wings, seated on illusionist marble architecture, the angel on the left in golden armour holding three nails of the cross against a golden disk in his right, the angel on the right in a copper-coloured armour leaning onto the lance; the background a night blue sky with a star on each side of the arch

Literature and references: Büttner p, 281 (discussion of 1836-39 arma Christi frescoes at St Ludwig’s, Munich); Schiller, 1972, pp. 189-197; Zech 2015, pp. 30-31 ill.

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  • Title: Angel holding the Spear of The Passion
  • Creator: Sir William Blake Richmond
  • Date Created: 1891/1904
  • Location: St Paul's Cathedral Quire


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