The light of the church
- Posted on 01 February 2017 in The Architecture Blog by
This weekend I discovered that my local church, St Luke’s in Battersea, not only gives some stellar concerts – international renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida played on Saturday – but it is something of a pioneer in the world of lighting.
Completed in the 1890s, the handsome brick basilica was gifted with electric light in 1903, apparently making it the first church in London to enjoy this privilege. And there was nothing modest about the design.
The electroliers in the nave were designed from a pendant jewel by Bevenuto Cellini in the Pitti Palace, Florence; while those in the chancel are after paintings by Fra Angelico. The bronze candelabra in the sanctuary, standing upon green Florentine marble, are cast from an original by Giovanni da Bologna. The electric lamp in the Lady Chapel is a reproduction of one hanging before the shrine of St. Charles Borromea in the crypt of Milan Cathedral.
The magnificent light switches, set in marble, are also still present, although no longer operational. Electric light was new enough then that it was celebrated with great ornateness rather than the far more serviceable but less visually exciting switches and dimmers that we use today.