Opaque glass mosaic, designed by William Blake Richmond, executed by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars, completed by 1904
The Passion and Resurrection of Christ are the theme of the four mosaics filling the surfaces of the lower squinches supporting the dome above. This is a rather unusual depiction of the Entombment, which in Christian art is more commonly shown as a narrative scene based on the Gospel. Here, the subject matter is treated as a devotional image, known as Pietà (Italian for Mercy): the dead Christ supported by an angel was first introduced in late medieval times, and was particularly popular in Renaissance Italy and France. The most famous example is, of course, Michelangelo’s marble Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Such devotional images move away from the biblical narration to show the emotional impact, in this case the suffering of Christ and the mercy of those burying him.
The identification of the figures surrounding the central group solely based on their attributes is difficult, since more than one saint could be intended. The group is likely to have been developed together with eight figures surrounding Christ on The Ascension (mosaic no. 8552) on the other side of the crossing.
Brief description: at the centre of the composition the dead Christ’s body, knees on the floor, the upper body held up with open arms, and supported by a male angel with blue wings; the angel seated on the grey and flower-decorated tomb; four figures on either side: to his right two kneeling figures without halo, possibly Saint John of Jerusalem and possibly St Augustin, next to the St Peter with the key and St John, both represented with a halo; to his left the Marys, both with a halo, next to two kneeling figures, representing the St George and a barefoot male figure with a book, possibly James Wycliffe.
Literature and references: Zech 2015, pp. 44-45.