Cathedral of St George, Southwark
Architect: A.W.N. Pugin (1838)
Drawing: A.W.N. Pugin (1838)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection
Pugin was determined to revive the Medieval Church in all its glory. The scale of this ambition is best demonstrated in this drawing, one of the finest Victorian drawings in the RIBA collection.
After the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829), there was a revival of Roman Catholicism in England. The Church’s growing numbers and confidence resulted in a building programme across the land. In London, it was proposed to erect a new cathedral in Southwark, grand enough to challenge the might of the capital’s Anglican churches. The ideal man for this job was Pugin, and his proposed designs, dating from 1838, are astonishing. Funding, however, was limited. The church as built was much simplified, and ultimately lost due to bombing in 1941.
Looking from the nave towards the altar, this drawing cannot help but impress. The slender nave pillars soar up to the distant vaults, resembling an avenue of giant trees. Far below, the worshippers appear tiny as they gaze towards the high altar, framed by the leaping rood screen. This is architecture of awe and wonder.