Carlisle Cathedral

Project dates: 
Summer 2016

Carlisle cathedral is home to a beautiful Flemish triptych which dates from the late 16th century. Purchased for Brougham church in the mid-19th century, the triptych was originally made for a church probably in Cologne. The richly-painted carvings depict the birth and Passion of Jesus and are a good example of the Antwerp school of carvers. The triptych was moved to the cathedral by the parish of St Wilfrid's, Brougham for safekeeping and the cathedral was anxious to provide visitors with a way of engaging with this beautiful but difficult piece. The intricacy of the carving and complexity of the artistic arrangement makes it hard for people to make out the scenes or to reflect on the events they depict.

We were approached by Carlisle to explore how we could open up this work for people and aid its use as an object of contemplation and reflection within the cathedral. We devised a touch-screen display for use just outside the small side-chapel in which the triptych lives which would enable visitors to explore the various scenes and follow the story of Christ's Passion from beginning to end. The touch-screen also presents the history of the triptych, explaining its inclusions, omissions and rearranged panels within the framework of its somewhat chequered history. These are presented as a series of 'stories' told from different viewpoints (the carver, the soldier charged with the job of crucifying Jesus, the triptych itself), allowing various layers of history and spiritual engagement to be interwoven and presented in a light-touch and intriguing way. The Canon Missioner, Michael Manley, also provided some short prayers and reflections for people to use based on the scenes portrayed. This combination of history and spiritual content is a feature of our projects and a key driver for many of our clients.