Opaque glass mosaic, designed by William Blake Richmond, executed by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars, reported nearly complete in 1893
This mosaic is the focal point of the cycle of mosaics developed by William Blake Richmond. The imagery is taken from the Book of Revelation, also referred to as The Apocalypse, but also includes elements not described in the biblical source, such as the wings emerging from the throne. The first guide to the mosaics of St Paul’s, published in 1896, emphasises how clearly visible the striking image of Christ in majesty was when first revealed. Today, as a result of the changes in the quire after the destructions of the Second World War, the mosaic is less prominent. Christ in Majesty was a subject for mosaics from early Christian times, with examples still extant in Ravenna and Istanbul.
Brief description: Christ depicted as young bearded and crowned man in white robes and golden-red drape, seated on rainbow wheel and both hands raised in blessing, angels’ wings are emerging from behind the rainbow, below the rainbow clouds; in the lower spandrel corners a black sun and the moon; against gold background
Revelation 4:3: “And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.” (RSV)
Browne 1896, 6: “The effect is that of majestic dignity. The light colours of the robe, set out by the dark colours of the neighbouring designs, make this panel clearly visible to the extreme west of the Church, especially in the early morning. The background is a whirl of wings, suggesting the idea ‘He came flying upon the wings of the wind.’ Below are the sun and the moon, their light paled in presence of the greater Glory. The details of the crown are extremely rich. The Face has received special care, having been more than once re-laid, first to introduce strength, and then to remove some of the sternness which the strengthening of the lines had caused. It was the question whether there was really room in this panel for a subject of sufficient grandeur; but the skill of the artist has made the space large enough.”
Literature and references: Browne 1896, p. 6; Sladen 2004, p. 256-257, ill; Reynolds 1995, p. 259; Zech 2015, ill. back cover.