Coventry Cathedral – Broken Angel

02nd November 2022

Coventry Cathedral has unveiled the third artist commissioned for its Broken Angel project launched after the Angel of the Eternal Gospel,  a figure in John Hutton’s great glass West Screen, was destroyed by vandalism in 2020.

Latest piece in Broken Angel Project unveiled at Coventry Cathedral

Abigail Reynolds’s piece Between will go on display until February 2023.

Her work often uses glass and explores the way windows exist in architectural space as ‘in-between’ moments, both inside and outside, as bearers of light, as vehicles for imagery and new perspectives.

She said:

“Firstly, I thought about the angel that originally held the now-empty space. An angel, really, is a portal that flickers for a moment between our time-bound existence and whatever is beyond; the ineffable, the eternal. Angels move between these two states, connecting them. For me, that’s a very powerful idea – that we are not limited to the everyday business of living. There can be chinks, openings; glimpses of other states of being. 

“Secondly, I was struck by the thought that somebody among us broke the glass wall because they wanted to get into the sacred space of the Cathedral. Imagining somebody feeling excluded, I have created an illusory door. It is left ajar waiting to be entered imaginatively.” 

Coventry Cathedral - Broken Angel

Coventry Young Carers shared in the curation of this third project. In a series of workshops, a small group of young carers considered the role of curators as carers for history and exhibitions, along with the care needed within the Broken Angel installation.

Coventry Young Carers suggested that using vibrant colours in Between could encourage passers-by to explore inside the Cathedral. It was agreed that Abigail would also show some recent related works at different locations in the Cathedral to continue this invitation to explore; the group wanted to enable visitors to have a deeper understanding of the piece and the inspiration behind it.

Mary Gregory, Coventry Cathedral’s Canon for Art and Reconciliation said:

“One of the great gifts of the arts is that they make the familiar unfamiliar and so open to us new insights, new ways of seeing. Abigail Reynold’s ‘Between’ does just this, taking elements of our Cathedral, and re-presenting them so that we see them differently and, through them, the suggestion of other worlds. “Wonder” is becoming an increasingly important value here at the Cathedral. We hope that ‘Between’ will enable everyone who sees it to wonder, and to wander into new territory, however transitory or elusive. “ 

 The Angel of the Eternal Gospel,  the panel of the West Screen adjacent to the ‘south’ door, was shattered beyond repair in an act of vandalism in January 2020. The Cathedral decided that, as the original was impossible to restore, the best immediate response would be to invite new work by artists. The artists might be familiar with Cathedral or completely new to it, but excited by the idea of offering a fresh response to the story of the ‘ Broken Angel’. The project has been  supported using public funding by Arts Council England.  Anne Petters’ was the first artist to make new work in the series and Barbara Walker, the second.

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said:

“Creativity can be a powerful way for people to express themselves and to explore the world around them from a different perspective, so we’re pleased to be supporting the Broken Angel project and look forward to seeing these creative responses to an act of vandalism.” 

 Broken Angel has been commissioned by Coventry Cathedral, working with advisory curator Michael Tooby, Professor of Art and Design at Bath School of Art & Design, Bath Spa University.

The West Screen’s original engravings were created over a decade by John Hutton, who created entirely new glass-engraving technique in the process.

Commissioned by the Cathedral’s architect Sir Basil Spence, they were set in the 21.5m x 18.85m screen according to a design by Ove Arup.

Marking the work’s importance to Hutton, when he died in 1978 his ashes were buried at the foot of the window, beneath the position of where the ‘Angel of the Eternal Gospel’ stood.

The West Screen is one of the many masterpieces created for the new Cathedral, which include works by John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Jacob Esptein, Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clark and Hans Coper.

Find out more here.