The High Altar at Westminster Abbey is so richly detailed and decorated that it has provided the inspiration for a varied selection of products within the shop. This part of the church, like much of the Abbey, has changed a lot over the centuries and was still evolving up until the late 1960s.
Present Day High Altar
The High Altar and the detailed screen which sits there form one side of the sanctuary, or sacrarium as it is known at Westminster Abbey, which is the holiest part of the church because the Eucharist is performed there. In Westminster Abbey this part of the church also holds special significance as this is where the monarch is crowned during the Coronation ceremony.
Whitehall Palace Altar 1812
There have been various other altarpieces prior to the one seen today; in the Middle Ages the sacrarium was hung with cloth of arras which was adorned with legends of Edward the Confessor, followed by an altar which featured a rood (a Crucifixion scene) at the top. A large Classical altar was given to the Abbey by Queen Anne, which had originally been designed by Christopher Wren for the Chapel Royal at Whitehall Palace. This was later replaced by a plainer plaster altar which remained in place until the present High Altar was erected between 1867 and 1873.
Plaster High Altar 1860
The present altar was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and includes a mosaic representing the Last Supper, designed by J.R. Clayton and made by an Italian craftsman called Antonio Salviati. Below the figures at the Last Supper are medallions of various female saints including Ruth, Mary Magdalene and Martha. Around the border are panels of enamels and precious stones such as topaz, onyx and amethyst. The screen which surrounds the mosaic was not originally fully gilded; however, during a series of work undertaken in the 1960s it was gilded completely.
The range of products we have created focuses on the beautiful details found within the central mosaic, for example our mini candle depicting the Last Supper scene. We have also created some beautiful jewellery and scarves based on the ornate enamel decoration found on the borders of the mosaic featuring vivid blues and golds.
If you would like to see more of our range of products inspired by the High Altar, please click here.