Buckfast Abbey, the Benedictine monastic community at Buckfastleigh, Devon, will next week formally unveil a large mural depicting the reconstruction of its Abbey Church that took place about a century ago by a team led by four monks.
The mural measures 26ft by 18ft and it shows the monks rebuilding the Abbey Church on its original foundation between 1907 and 1939. The painting was commissioned in preparation for the Abbey’s millennium year of 2018 and is situated in the 360-seat Grange Restaurant at Buckfast Abbey.
Mother Joanna Jamieson, 79, spent three years designing, drawing and painting each of its 20 panels. Mother Joanna, who comes from Glasgow, trained as a mural painter at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1950s before she entered Stanbrook Abbey, where she would later serve two 12-year terms as Abbess. She undertook the commission for Buckfast Abbey following a one-year refresher course at the Prince’s Drawing School in Hoxton, London.
“I am very grateful to Buckfast for asking me to do it because it has been a tremendous responsibility. It has pushed me to the limit both physically and mentally but there has been a lot of enjoyment in it as well … it really has got to be the project of my life,” said Mother Jamieson.
The mural will be unveiled on behalf of Buckfast Abbey by Catherine Goodman, the artistic director of the Prince’s Drawing School. Mother Joanna was assisted in her work by Sister Mary Stephen CRSS.
The Rt Rev. Dom David Charlesworth, the Abbot of Buckfast, said: “It is a monumental effort by Mother Joanna depicting the extraordinary work of a handful of monks who built the present church on the 12th century foundations in only 32 years.
“It is an interesting mixture of styles that is designed to appear as if a window looking towards the rebuilding in progress. It has been the subject of much positive interest by those who come to use the Grange Restaurant.”
Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, described the mural as a “stupendous work: accomplished, confident, beautifully planned and executed”.
“Working within a great tradition, the artist cleverly adopts from the modern movement just what is required. And so this remarkable mural is just what such a work ought to be: truly timeless,” he added.
The mural will be unveiled at a lunchtime reception on April 2. Mother Jamieson, Sister Stephen and the Rt Rev Dom David Charlesworth will be in attendance, as well as actress Patricia Routledge and artist Siobhan Coppinger.
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