If we follow what lies behind both [uses], no ecclesiastical authority will quarrel with us, and no Catholic authority will wish to make us all of one pattern.
Sir J. Ninian Comper
Sir J. Ninian Comper was born to an Anglican vicar and his wife in 1864. He first studied under the stained glass artist C. E. Kempe, who favored a late medieval/early Renaissance style. He then studied under the Gothic revival architect G. F. Bodley, one of the designers of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
One of the last of the Gothic revival architects, he both designed and restored churches. His first original design was Saint Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, in London. It featured an altar separated from the nave by a gilded rood screen topped with a large crucifix. Later churches incorporated classical elements as well. He defined his style as “unity by inclusion.”
Among other works, he designed eight stained glass windows on the north side of the nave of Westminster Abbey. When he died in 1960, his ashes were interred beneath those windows.
This essay by architect Sir J. Ninian Comper (1864-1960), originally titled “Of the Atmosphere of a Church,” was published as a book by Sheldon Press in 1947. Part I appeared in Issue 39.
Articles by Sir J. Ninian Comper
The Doyen of Fécamp Abbey, in Normandy, years ago said to me of his church that it “prays of itself.”