After over 800 years of construction, Salisbury Cathedral continues to undergo improvements and alterations. This weekend, two new altars were officially revealed and blessed.
Created by the sculptor William Pye in collaboration with the furniture maker Luke Hughes, the altars have been placed at two of the building’s key spots – the Spire Crossing and Trinity Chapel.
This marks the first instance in 500 years that a new altar has been sanctified within the nave, the central part of the church.
Pye was in charge of designing the altars, while Hughes was responsible for planning the layout and constructing the daises. The altars were meant to match the form and materials used in the William Pye font, which was installed at the Wiltshire church in 2008.
Pye expressed his desire for the altars to evoke a sense of intimacy through the incorporation of meaningful words and symbols inscribed at their base. He aimed to capture both the personal experience of faith and the communal experience. The lettering was intended to resemble a Roman tablet and blend seamlessly with the space while also making a statement. Similar to how the font has become integral to the visitor’s experience and worship, Pye hopes that these new altars will also enhance the overall experience.
Hughes’s oak daises, crafted to replicate the shape of every altar, have been intricately planned and built so that their seemingly solid appearance is actually composed of interconnected components resting on wheels. This clever design allows for easy maneuverability by a single person, despite the significant weight of several tonnes for each dais and altar.
The Revd Anna Macham, the canon precentor of Salisbury Cathedral with responsibility for liturgy and music, said: “For a long time we have made good with various arrangements of carpeted staging blocks and temporary altars, so to see the new altars in place is inspiring. In both cases the space in which each new altar stands is significant. The Trinity Chapel is where prayer is offered every morning of the year, and the Spire Crossing is where the principal Sunday services and great seasonal liturgies are celebrated.”
The altar at Spire Crossing is shaped like an octagon, just like the area underneath the cathedral’s tower and spire. On the stone base, there is a passage from St Matthew’s Gospel that reads, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The altar in Trinity Chapel features verses from poet George Herbert, who attended services at the cathedral and is honored with a statue in a niche on the West Front.