With the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral approaching on 25 May the fine art auctioneers Bonhams
has announced that it is to sell a cache of Graham Sutherlands papers about the design and manufacture of his world famous tapestry, Christ in Glory, which hangs over the High Altar. The papers will be offered as a set in Bonhams Book, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs Sale in London on 12 June. They are estimated at £1,500-2,000.
The papers reveal for the first time Sutherlands problems with the Cathedral authorities.
The tapestry took 10 years to make and was woven by Piton Frères at Felletin in the Limousin region of central France. It caused Sutherland significant technical difficulties as he could never see more than 1ft in height of the tapestry at any one time during the weaving. In one of the letters to be sold he talks of the tussles he had with the Reconstruction Committee at the Cathedral as the project neared completion.
The Committee refused permission for Sutherland to hang the tapestry before it left France in order to make last minute adjustments. He writes, As I have made several "redification" while the weaving has been going on this is a blow to me. It seems that no time has been arranged or allowed for the work to be hung & there were difficulties, too, in finding a building large enough in which to hang it.
According to Sutherland, the French Culture Minister, novelist André Malraux, offered to hang the tapestry for him in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris in return for limited public access but the Committee, sensing the prospect of thunder being stolen, refused point blank.
The original medieval Coventry Cathedral was almost entirely destroyed by a devastating Luftwaffe attack on the city in 1940. The decision to build a new cathedral alongside the ruins of the old was intended and widely regarded - as a significant symbol of reconciliation. In addition to Sutherlands internationally renowned tapestry the consecration of the new cathedral also saw the premier of Benjamin Brittens specially commissioned work, War Requiem, in which the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau joined the British tenor Peter Pears in the leading roles.