Ravenna in the United Kingdom: Mosaics of the Church of the Sacred Heart and St Catherine of Alexandria

The Church of the Sacred Heart and Saint Catherine of Alexandria is located in Droitwich, Worcestershire. Construction on the church began in 1919 and was 'completed' by 1921. The church is renowned for its mosaics which are considered perhaps the finest in all of the United Kingdom. These mosaics were executed between 1921-1933, designed by the Englishman Gabriel Pippet (d. 1962) and involved the importation of more than eight tonnes of coloured Venetian glass ("tesserae") from which the mosaics are constructed. Pippet had spent time in Rome and Ravenna studying mosaics, and that design influence can certainly be seen in his own work here at this church -- which was itself designed and constructed in classic basilica style by its architect, Frank Barry Peacock.

Perhaps the most striking of the mosaics -- fittingly -- is that of Christ the King, located in the apse. Here we see Christ, his arms opened wide, surrounded by eight palm trees, greenery and flowers -- representing Paradise. Beneath we see eight deer, or harts, drinking from a stream, coming with reference to the River/Fountain of Life.

Above the apse, on the triumphal arch, is a second depiction of Christ, showing Him resurrected and coming forth from out from the tomb.

If one were to turn immediately around and look back toward the narthex, we would see another striking mosaic, apparently considered Pippet's masterpiece, which depicts the Holy Trinity along with archangels and choirs of angels. 


Proceeding down along the length of the nave can be found various scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Roundels portraying each of the twelve apostles are also found down each side of the nave. Added to all of this, located on the arcades, are beautiful, colourful, patterned geometric designs made up of flowers, vines and other symbols. Romanesque styled capitals feature on the columns that line the nave.

As part of the church's classic basilica plan, we see an open-trussed, timber ceiling as well as clear glass windows emulating a Romanesque or even Venetian style.

This particular view perhaps also presents us with a good opportunity to compare how the church looked prior to the installation of its mosaics.  The difference, not unexpectedly, is nothing short of dramatic. Here is the church as it stood in 1921:

Outside of the nave itself, the ceilings and chapels also feature mosaic work that is worthy of your consideration. 

The entire building is nothing short of inspiring and demonstrative of the fact that beautiful, noble, timeless works such as these remain firmly possible in our own times. It is merely a matter of having the will and determination to see them funded and pursued. 

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