Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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Westminster Cathedral

The new St David mosaic designed by Ifor Davies and executed by Tessa Hunkin

The mosaic is wonderfully bright and full of gold and silver that really bring the wall outside St Paul’s Chapel alive. In the centre is a depiction of St David, the patron saint of Wales, standing on the mound at Llandewi Brefi, defending the church’s teaching against the Pelagian heresy.
In the mosaic of the mound is an actual piece of rock from Llandewy Brevie in Wales, where it was said that the ground rose beneath St David as he was preaching to allow people to hear him better. Around his head is written ‘Dewi Sant’, his name in Welsh, and just above is a small red, sixth century bishops mitre recognising that Saint David was made a bishop of the Roman province of Menevia.

The final product has been thanks to two people in particular – Ifor Davies, the Welsh artist who designed and painted the original image, and Tessa Hunkin who created the mosaic itself – both of whom had to work to a very tight deadline to have the mosaic completed.


This new mosaic of St David was designed by Ivor Davies, and was assembled and installed by Tessa Hunkin’s workshop. It is a meditation on one of David’s titles: the Waterman, or Aquaticus (“Dewi Dyfyrwr”, in Welsh). This title refers to the fact that David and his monks drank nothing but water, as a witness to the virtues of temperance and self-denial. The artist has used the theme of water, as well as elements of the so-called “Celtic Church”, in quite an adventurous and mystical way. I noticed that, in an attempt at historical accuracy, the Saint has the Celtic (or British and Irish) tonsure, as opposed to the classical Roman one*.

* The ancient British or Irish tonsure, used by monks following the now extinct British rites of the Catholic Church, involved shaving the front half of the hair on top of one’s head, and allowing the hair at the back to grow long. The Roman tonsure was a shaved circle around the head’s crown (as is familiar to those with a knowledge of Western monasticism).


A new mosaic of St David, by artist Ifor Davies, has been completed at Westminster Cathedral. The mosaic will be blessed by Pope Benedict XVI when he celebrates Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 18 September 2010.

Welsh artist, Ifor Davies said: “I have been painting all my life and this is one of the most exciting commissions and very close to my heart. I have always been interested in Welsh history and so have done lots of research around St David and the early church in Wales.”

“To start with I made a drawing, about the same size of as the mosaic on very thick paper and painted the image. Together with Tessa Hunkin from the Mosaic Workshop we traced the original image in order to be able to put it into a mosaic format.”

“St David is depicted as standing on a mound, the myth states that he was preaching to a crowd and, in order for them to be able to hear him, better the ground rose underneath him. The bit of stone at the bottom of the mosaic is from Llanddewi Brefi, the spot where the miracle is said to have happened. There are also lots of other references to stories associated with St David, the water coming from his cup represents the fact that he drank only water for example.”

The mosaic has been an important part of the Cathedral’s preparations for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. Cathedral Administrator, Canon Christopher Tuckwell said: “I am delighted with the mosaic. When I first saw the drawing I could see that there was something new, fresh and alive about it. We are looking forward to the Holy Father coming here to bless the mosaic. It is a great part of his outreach to the people of Wales.”

Tessa Hunkin from the Mosaic Workshop who put the mosaic together said: “It has been a great piece to work on, but a bit more difficult than other mosaics because there is so much gold and you have to use a slightly different technique when working with gold to ensure that it shimmers.”

At the end of the Mass on 18 September, the Pope will bless the mosaic with water from St Nonn’s well in Wales. St Nonn was the mother of St David. He will then address the people of Wales before concluding the Mass in Westminster Cathedral

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