The ’Anglo-German Tapestry’, which includes references to the life of St Richard, was commissioned to mark the centenary of Bishop Bell’s birth in 1983.
The Anglo-German Tapestry
The beautiful Anglo-German tapestry, designed by Ursula Benker-Schirmer took three and a half years from conception to completion and is made using pure linen, silk and cotton. It was designed to harmonise with the architecture and colours of nearby windows in the Cathedral. The centre panel was woven in Germany and the two side panels at West Dean College, near Chichester. Benker-Schirmer assembled the forms as if they were rock crystal fragments. The tapestry was dedicated on 15th June 1985.
The principal symbols of the tapestry are:
The Chalice: symbol of St Richard of Chichester, at the centre of the tapestry with the cross above it. The red wine at the bottom of the chalice signifies the blood of Christ.
The Candle: is light and fire.
The Fig Trees: in the side panels are symbols of life and fecundity. St Richard had one in his garden and taught a priest how to graft them.
The Fish: along the lower area are traditional Christian symbols.
The Dove: above the Cross; symbol of the Holy Spirit and of peace.
The Triangle: symbol of the Holy Trinity.
The Lotus: in red, it emerges from the water. It supports the chalice and the cross. It is often used as a Christian symbol of birth and rebirth in Christ.
The Serpent: emerges from the lotus and rises below the cross. It symbolises struggle, temptation, suffering and hardship.
The Cross: the symbol of the victorious cross is at the centre. It is the cross of suffering.
The Circle: the artist suggests several interpretations – the world, the cycle of life, the symbol of infinity, God at the centre of our life. The tapestry shows it broken to “open the way to Eternity”.
Famous Anglo-German Tapestry taken down for Shrine Refurbishment…
A refurbishment of the historic Shrine of St Richard at Chichester Cathedral is taking place throughout August. This interesting project will include the temporary removal for cleaning of the large and striking Anglo-German tapestry (approx 7m x 4m), the addition of specially designed metal grilles and candle stands, and the cleaning and restoration of the marble floor.
The refurbishment has generously been made possible by the Bishop Eric Kemp Memorial Fund. Bishop Eric (Bishop of Chichester 1974 to 2001) died in 2009. He often said he wished the Shrine could be restored and made more worthy of Sussex’s own Saint, St Richard.
The Shrine of St Richard has been a site of pilgrimage throughout the ages. Nowadays, the Shrine is a focus for prayer in the Cathedral where visitors can come and leave their prayers and petitions. It is not unusual for over 200 prayers to be left at the Shrine each week. Each day, these prayers are collected by the Cathedral Clergy and offered at Holy Communion service.
The Anglo-German Tapestry was placed at the altar in 1983 and was designed by Ursula Benker-Schirmer. This vibrant work is one of the Cathedral’s modern pieces and it is dedicated to two bishops of Chichester: St Richard (1245 – 1253), and Bishop George Bell (1929 – 1958), patron of the arts and founder of the World Council of Churches. The tapestry was woven in Germany and at West Dean College, near Chichester and took 3.5 years from conception to completion.
St Richard was Bishop of Chichester from 1245 – 1253 and died at Dover on 3rd April 1253. In his eight years as a bishop, Richard had become so beloved of the people of Sussex that the Cathedral immediately became a place of pilgrimage. The people said his name Ricardus stood for ridens (laughing), carus (dear) and dulcis (sweet).
In 1930 an altar was placed at the Shrine and in 1991 a portion of the authenticated relic, probably of St Richard’s arm, which had been preserved at the abbey of La Lucerne in Normandy, was interred beneath the altar.