Canterbury Cathedral Is Falling Down; (1) National Treasure: The Building (above) Stands on the Site of St Augustine's Cathedral, the First in England (2) Appealing: Abbaye De Saint Riquier by John Ward Is One of the Be on Sale to Raise Funds for the Restoration (3) Work in Progress: Conservation of the Crumbling Exterior Stonework and Stained Glass of the Cathedral Began Earlier This Year. It Will Take until at Least

The Evening Standard (London, England), May 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Canterbury Cathedral Is Falling Down; (1) National Treasure: The Building (above) Stands on the Site of St Augustine's Cathedral, the First in England (2) Appealing: Abbaye De Saint Riquier by John Ward Is One of the Be on Sale to Raise Funds for the Restoration (3) Work in Progress: Conservation of the Crumbling Exterior Stonework and Stained Glass of the Cathedral Began Earlier This Year. It Will Take until at Least


Byline: BRIAN SEWELL

IN THE first four months of this year Christie's sold an unremarkableMonet for more than [pounds sterling]21 million, three quite ordinary paintings by Matisse,Miro and Richter for a total beyond [pounds sterling]27 million and a triptych by Francis Baconfor more than [pounds sterling]26 million. This week, Sotheby's trumped that Bacon with anotherfor [pounds sterling]43 million. For the art market these were reassuring prices at a time whenthe values of stocks, shares, houses, the dollar and the pound are far fromstable, but, sceptic that I am in art market matters, I wonder if in any ofthese examples the money of rich men was wisely spent. In terms of currentfashion and immoderate display no doubt it was, for those who cultivate envy onthe cocktail circuit, in terms, too, of the private collector boastfully makinghis collection visible to the hoi polloi in yet another privately fundedmuseum; but in the longer terms of posterity, the century, even the millennium,will Bacon, Monet and Matisse still matter? Will there not be too many of theirworks for these ever to have the distinction of one by Leonardo? I cannotimagine, in 2107, 10,000 visitors a day flocking to see anything by Bacon, asthey did to see Leonardo's Annunciation when the Uffizi lent it to Tokyo lastyear.

If posterity matters to the richand the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, the Ondaatje Wing of theNational Portrait Gallery and the Madejski Rooms of the Royal Academy areevidence that it doesthen I can think of no finer object for their charitable impulses thanCanterbury Cathedral. It is not yet quite as broken down as London Bridge, notyet the subject of a nursery rhyme, but the roof is leaking, the masonrycrumbling and, to put it in the human terms of an old man with a prostateproblem and an arthritic spine, it needs more than a strategic bucket and azimmer frame to keep it going. "Build it up with silver and gold, silver andgold ..." goes the ancient rhymeand that is indeed the answer, as much silver and gold as was paid for theBacon this past February or for the Monet, Matisse, Miro and Richter.

The trouble is, of course, that rich men have vanities that demand a quid proquo. The Sacklers and Annenbergs of this world, in paying for extensions,replacements and refurbishments, expect to be honoured by having their namesattached to them. The Royal Academy is topped and tailed by a Sackler Galleryand an Annenberg Courtyard, but for how long will these names have meaning forthe passing passenger on the Piccadilly bus? The National Gallery took LudwigMond's money for a room some 80 years ago, and his name is still there, aereperennius so to speak, but the visitor must be at least as old as me to knowthe why and who of it, and twice as old to care. Were Sainsbury to fall intothe oblivion of Tesco ownership, none afterward would ever know why the hideousbit of the National Gallery is called the Sainsbury Wing.

Could Canterbury Cathedral ever entertain such secular arrangements? Couldthere be a Sainsbury Transept, Nave or Aisle, a Sainsbury West Front, aSainsbury Bell Harry Tower? Could the grocer's name be attached to St Anselm'sancient chapel, the Black

Prince's tomb or the site of Thomas Becket's martyrdom? With any and all thesethe attachment of a layman's name would be an embarrassing impertinence.

Donors in the case of Canterbury Cathedral must expect nothing in return. Theymust give simply and solely because the cause is good. The building is a greatcorporate work of art, of architecture, sculptural monuments and stained glass.Its foundation reaches back all but a thousand years, to the Norman Conquest,and it is part of the "and all that" of 1066, when plans were laid to replacethe much smaller and simpler cathedral buildings that had stood and fallensince the seventh century. The first stage of the current building took acentury or so to complete; a second stage began two centuries later, in 1376;the great central tower, Bell Harry, was undertaken in c. …

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Canterbury Cathedral Is Falling Down; (1) National Treasure: The Building (above) Stands on the Site of St Augustine's Cathedral, the First in England (2) Appealing: Abbaye De Saint Riquier by John Ward Is One of the Be on Sale to Raise Funds for the Restoration (3) Work in Progress: Conservation of the Crumbling Exterior Stonework and Stained Glass of the Cathedral Began Earlier This Year. It Will Take until at Least
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