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The Art of Faith

Dr Rowan Williams explores the relationship between art and faith and meets sculptor Antony Gormley, who reflects on the way his own art is used in a religious context.

Dr Rowan Williams explores the relationship between art and faith.

To help him explore some of his themes, Rowan introduces excerpts from a conversation he held recently with the sculptor Antony Gormley who has worked with the possibilities afforded sculpture by the contemplative atmosphere of places of worship, despite being without faith himself.

From the outset, the association between art and faith has often been difficult, particularly in relation to depicting the divine. Rowan explains, “From the Bible itself through the writings of the great contemplatives, there has been a constant stress on the mysteriousness of a God who can never be seen or touched like the objects of this world. Turn God into an object like others and you may as well forget about any serious religious depth.”

Rowan draws upon the music of Purcell and Elgar and the poetry of George Herbert - and concludes, “Like so much we hear and see in churches, images, sculptures, words and music can all be things that get in the way of what we’re there for… But they can also be invitations, reminding us that we come to sacred places in response to something we don’t always have words for, searching for a door or window that will let us receive more fully what the mystery that surrounds us wants to give.”

Presenter: Rowan Williams
Producer: Michael Wakelin
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4

28 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Nov 2018 23:30

Music Played

  • Henry Purcell

    Come Ye Sons of Art, Away

    Performer: Michael Chance, New College Choir, Oxford, The Kings Consort & Robert King.
    • Purcell: Odes, Vol. 8 - Come Ye Sons of Art.
    • Hyperion Records.
  • Edward Elgar

    The Dream of Gerontius, Op.38 Part 2: ‘I Go Before My Judge’

    Performer: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
    • Elgar:The Dream of Gerontius - Delius: Sea Drift - Holst: Hymn of Jesus.
    • Decca Music Group.
  • Hildegard von Bingen

    O Ignis Spiritus

    Performer: Gothic Voices. Conductor: Christopher Page.
    • Hildegard of Bingen: A Feather On the Breath of God.
    • Hyperion Records.
  • William Byrd

    IV. Sanctus et Benedictus

    Performer: Tallis Scholars. Conductor: Peter Phillips.
    • The Tallis Scholars Sing William Byrd.
    • Gimell.
  • John Tavener

    Vespers Hymn: O Lux Beata Trinitas

    Performer: Anonymous 4.
    • Darkness into Light - Tavener: The Bridegroom & Other Works.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Liturgy of St John Chrysostom: Cherubikon

    Performer: Kiev Chamber Choir.
    • The Very Best of Tchaikovsky.
    • Naxos.


Title: Exodus 33:15-23, The Bible, New International Version

Publisher:  Hodder Classics


Title: Prayer, The Complete English Works

Author: George Herbert

Publisher:  Penguin Random House


Title: Psalm 139 v13 -18, The Bible, New International Version

Publisher:  Hodder Classics

Today’s programme was presented by Rowan Williams

The producer was Michael Wakelin