The Light of the World, an extremely famous painting by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), came to be the most travelled artwork in history before being dedicated by Charles Booth to St Paul’s Cathedral in 1908. The painting, known as a sermon in a frame, undertook a tour of the British colonies including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa across two years. It illustrates Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” The figure of Christ depicted in the painting is knocking on a door with no handle that can only be opened from the inside which suggests that God can only enter our lives if we invite Him in.

After the paintings tour of the colonies, The Light of the World became a religious icon. It was imitated and adapted widely in the stained glass medium, as well as being reproduced in cards and photographs across the world. After Hunt’s death in 1910 the artist was laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral, despite his struggles with faith he faced later on in life. The work remains so important that it was evacuated during World War Two, and today sits within a fire-proof box that can be closed in the event of a fire. The first, much smaller, version can be found in Keble College, Oxford, and the other is in Manchester Art Gallery.


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