2. Picture of faith
Graham Sutherland's great tapestry, which covers the entire wall behind the altar of Coventry Cathedral, was designed to focus meditation on Christianity's answers to the big questions of life. It was hung in 1962, the year the new building was consecrated. Although the tapestry has received much critical attention as a major work of art, it was only in 1995 that it was presented in book form as a focus for meditation. The text was written by a Christian believer, Michael Sadgrove, a member of the cathedral's clergy. His text, 'A Picture of Faith', was conceived as being a meditation on the tapestry as a process of Christian self-discovery; "of knowing God and knowing myself"
Seated before the tapestry, he set the scene as follows;
".... the tapestry has much to do with what I experience as I sit quietly in the nave and try to be open to truth, and to God. It is that elusive quality I can only call presence that I am meaning."
This presence he identified first with the tapestry's "restful, all pervasive, green that seems to want to flood into my being, with all that it promises of healing, renewal and growth".
Then, he considered the figure of 'Christ in Glory', 'at once strong, and gentle, noble yet tender' which through the human face tells of an eternal love, and a glory that is accessible, and within reach.
Other images then follow into focus:-
"the swirling energies of the four living creatures as they gyrate, it seems, around the still centre of Christ haloed at the heart of the tapestry"
"the 'high window' above Him, through which pours light from some far-off place, with its Dove descending as if on a sunbeam"
"the human figure dwarfed at the feet of Christ"
"the mysterious chalice with its serpent rising out of its depths"
"the archangel Michael wrestling with Satan"
Underneath all this, at the very bottom of the tapestry there is the partly hidden crucifixion panel, "ashen-hued, the tragic antipole to the glory above it"
Overall, he was aware of the tapestry's 'transparency' as an invitation to a new way of 'seeing'; the way to himself and to God.
His journey proceeded through contemplation, one by one, of the tapestry's eight major visual features. Each prompted the author to set out to explore particular notional highways and byways via digressions into personal experiences, and his past responses to other works of art. He finally took his leave of the tapestry after contemplating the signatures of the tapestry's artist/creator and its weavers. He was metaphysically signing up to a new cosmic understanding. It is the love that flows out of Christ in Glory which empowers him, as man and priest, to be a bridge to communicate that love. He has become a "point of connection to enable heaven and earth to touch"