A young seminarian recently mentioned to me that he had been following with interest the discussions on the proposal that the School of St Albans might be an appropriate style to develop in today’s churches for the Roman Rite. I was pleased that he should say this, of course, and was excited further when he mentioned another 15th-century Welsh church that has wall paintings on a grand scale in this Gothic style.
What makes this an even better example to study is that it has been renovated to look exactly as it would have in the 1400s, and I think this shows more than ever that this might be a style which is appropriate for the liturgy and would be feasible to create today. It would be simple enough to execute, and naturally lend itself to an adapted form of expression that would connect with people today. You can see many more examples online here.
I would look for a better quality of draughtsmanship than we see in these drawings. (Remember that it was the artist Matthew Paris who first inspired this idea, and his drawing skill is far higher than that demonstrated by the artist who did these paintings). Nevertheless, I would look for the essential qualities to translate into modern form, with the right balance of naturalism and stylization/partial abstraction. These are, once again: form described by a line drawing; a simple color palette and simple washes for coloration, with minimal modelling and tonal work; the incorporation of geometric patterned work. For a canon of imagery and iconography, I would use that of the feasts and mysteries of the Faith as found in the Eastern Church as a core repertoire, with additions and subtractions appropriate to the West when necessary.
So, at the risk of inducing “St-Alban’s fatigue” dear reader, I am going to show these paintings but it will be last for while…I promise!
This church was relocated from its original site to one near Cardiff in the 1980s and so is preserved as a museum piece in this form.
By National Museum Wales – National Museum Wales, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26470228
By dw_ross from Springfield, VA, USA – 20140913_124921, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42804960
By Lesbardd – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Dylan Moore, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13597489
Looking at the squint above, I wonder if this was made as a way to view the Blessed Sacarament from the main body of the church. The only other place I have seen something like this was in Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland, where the Blessed Sacrament was kept in chapel to the right of the main abbey, built in the 12th century; people in one of the transcepts who were not one of the cloister monks could look at the Blessed Sacrament, or if it was not exposed, the tabernacle.
By Archangel12 – St Fagans National History Museum, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31861880
By Archangel12 – St Fagans National History Museum, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31861881
By John Cummings – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,