THE uneven frontage of the long Mile End Road, with its mixture of dingy, but still distinguished old houses on one side, and clean but not particularly distinguished new blocks of flats on the other, has been yet further disrupted by the appearance of a small dome — an addition to the extended buildings of London University's Queen Mary's College.
The dome covers a chapel of striking originality designed by Robert Maguire and Keith Murray—the architectural team responsible for St. Paul's Church, Bow Common, one of the earliest experiments in modern church architecture in this country.
Dedicated to St. Benet, the chapel replaces a church destroyed in the war on the same site. It now serves the Anglican students of Queen Mary's, and serves them in a very high Anglican manner in accordance with the latest liturgical requirements.
The chapel's interior is circular. It lies, in fact, inside the drum on which the dome sits. A free standing altar, just off centre, is faced by the congregation, who stand around the circumference (or sit on a low wall round the edge). At communion the priest brings the sacrament to the people—there are no altar rails to separate him from the congregation and no movement of the congregation towards the celebrant.
This description of the chapel is only an introduction, indicating
how clear is the space for showing off the distinguishing character of the building—its mural decora
tioBn.oldly and dramatically the tur
bulent. visionary events of the Apocalypse unroll before the spectator's eve as he enters the chapel. -1 he entire wall surface of the drum has been covered with a sequence of scenes from this, the strangest book of the whole Bible. The artist is the well-known ceramist and painter. Adam Kossowski. and the medium he has chosen isoone little used in this epuntry --s'graffito.
In front of this exciting panorama of St. John's vision of heaven, packed with figures in violent action, one realises, perhaps for the first time, that here is no heavenly fairy-tale; the battle between good and evil is on, is a reality, is fought in heaven as well as on earth. Indeed the force behind the fantasy has never before struck me with such a terrific impact.
This is a tour de }owe: a unique achievement in the making, no less than in the richness of the creative imagination which guided the hand. S'graffito is no medium for the timid or the uncertain. It calls. too, for physical stamina. Kossowski's explanation of the method of what he calls his "scratches" would make a weaker man quail, The whole wall surface behind each picture was first covered with plaster and then all the work had to be done while the plaster was still wet. This meant working without a break from ten o'clock in the morning until three o'clock the next morning on each of the spuicpeurrnbe. London n is lucky to have such a
example of so rare a medium.