Sunday, October 31, 2010

The High Altar

A painting of the high altar by Karel Verschaeren (1881-1928) in 1915 or early 1916 before the installation of the sanctuary gates and the murals of Walter Starmer, and before the organ was moved from the west end (1934).

The sanctuary lamp was given by the first vicar in February 1912 replacing the earlier lamp (consecrated by the Bishop of London in May 1911) which is now in the Lady Chapel. It is of silver-gilt and (he said) "was fashioned more than 350 years ago, and both in style and size . . . is admirably adapted for our Byzantine building". If this date is correct, it is the oldest item in the possession of the church.

The sanctuary chairs (together with a bishop's chair) were given in September 1912. The large brass candlesticks were given in March 1918 (probably by the same donor). These all remain to this day, unlike the hanging illuminated cross. This was originally in St Olave's, Hanbury Street and was brought to St Jude's in May 1913 after that church had been demolished.

The ambo - or "Lectern in keeping with the Byzantine character of the building" - was designed by H. A. Welch and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Winchester in April of that year in memory of the Rt Hon. Alfred Lyttelton.

This picture (from a postcard) shows the High altar and choir stalls in their original form. The altar is against the original flat east wall. Behind and above it is a fabric baldachino. The altar has a very high rear-table on which stands short candlesticks and a very high cross (not a crucifix) mounted on a twisted wood pillar (this is now the paschal candle holder). The choir stalls are of a simple design and are positioned further back into the space later occupied by the organ. There are no altar rails and the congregational chairs extend much further east.

Below, two paintings of the high altar in February 1960 by J. P. Offley who was sacristan at St Jude's for many years.

The credence table (to the right) was designed by Lutyens, and was an anonymous gift to the church. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Willesden on 30 May 1912 together with the choir stalls.

The stalls (shown in the first picture) (and later the repositioned organ) actually subvert the 'Byzantine' layout of the church by artificially creating a 'chancel' where there is none. In theory the congregational space comes right up to the sanctuary steps, but has now been pushed (too far) back beyond the 'crossing', presumably because of the pressure to make the church conform to Anglican expectations (see plan).
The brass sanctuary gates were unveiled in July 1916 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, as a memorial to Mrs Cockroft (the probable donor of all the other items mentioned here). These were also designed by H. A. Welch.


The celebrant in this painting is presumably Father William Mansfield Masters (Vicar 1955-1962). He is assisted by a deacon and sub-deacon. The altar frontal and vestments are all still in use (and were indeed used on the day of posting, being All Saints' Sunday).

The high altar from the History of S. Jude-on-the-Hill (1923). Starmer's murals are complete in the Lady Chapel, but his paint brush has yet to reach the sanctuary. All items (and several more) present and correct. The large, brass alms-dish on the credence table was the gift of Mr A. S. Maynard of Montreal, and was dedicated in February 1912. Between 1916 and 1923 the long green curtains behind the altar have been removed, but not yet replaced with the shorter blue ones (themselves removed in about 1998). The altar still has a high back panel.

In recent weeks we have been using the high altar, rather than the new free standing altar. This is in order to accustom the servers (and the Vicar) to celebrating in the 'traditional' manner for the centenary of the consecration next year.