An Artist Looks At Churches (1959)
15 minutes - Colour (Technicolour)

Stills from the 1954 & 1960 BTF Catalogues.

Director / Cameraman: John Taylor
Narrator: John Piper
Editor: John Legard
Music: Peter Racine Fricker
Sound: Ken Cameron
Producer: Edgar Anstey
Distributor: New Realm

On the shortest journey you pass a church or two. Out of the 20,000 churches in Britain, the artist, John Piper, whose work contributes to the glory of England's churches, selects and describes a church built in each of the last nine centuries, from Norman times to the present day. Accompanied by the music of Peter Racine Fricker, he reveals the beauty and riches of architecture, decoration, carving and sculpture aged in mellow stone and weathered glass; the art of the wood carver and the sculptor, and in doing so finds that through the centuries the portrayal of the human face and figure has been an unfailing source of inspiration to all who have brought their talents to the service of the Church.

16mm & 35mm

Additional Information: Music for this film featured direction and commentary by John Piper. Flute, oboe, trumpet, harp, 6 violins, 4 violas, 3 cellos, double bass. Recorded at Beaconsfield Studios, May 6, 1959, Sinfonia of London, conducted by the composer.

Review in Monthly Film Bulletin - April 1961 (maybe its release was delayed for two years?) (spotted by Robin Carmody)

A documentary which looks briefly at church architecture in England from the Middle Ages to the present day. A commentary, written and spoken by John Piper, points out the changes and developments which took place between each period, and gives something of the background which led to them.

This is a good subject, but unfortunately marred by having too little time to say anything significant. The rapid progression from one style of architecture to another in the film gives a good idea of development as a whole - from eighteenth century classical grace, for example, to the nineteenth century preoccupation with the Gothic as a sop to its own materialism. But there is only room for one church to represent each period, and often only for one or two features to represent each church. Consequently one comes away with an impression of certain trends (if, that is to say, so few examples can be truly representative) but also with a feeling of superficiality. John Piper's rather poetic, well-delivered commentary helps to mitigate this failing, as does some very sensitive photography of these works of art in their English settings.

The locations of the churches John Piper looked at, as far as can be ascertained, are as follows - plus weblinks where available. The 19th Century church is not mentioned - details of its location are welcomed. Note that when Piper talks of modern churches of the 20th Century, St. Matthew's Church in Northampton was actually built in 1891.

Another unmentioned church - with a local landmark known locally as Butler's Cross - shown in the opening and closing scenes is the nearest church to Chequers and is therefore adorned with big photos of various Prime Ministers.

12th Century - Built c.1140
Church of St. Mary & St. David, Kilpeck, Herefordshire

13th Century
St. Leonards Church, Grateley, Hampshire

14th Century - Built 1337
St. John the Baptist's Church, Shottesbrooke, Berkshire

14th Century (may have intended to be for 15th Century)
Blessed Virgin Mary's Church, Isle Abbotts, Somerset

16th Century
East Budleigh Church (All Saints), Devon

17th Century
St. Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire

18th Century
Parish Church of St. Peter, Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire

19th Century

20th Century - Built 1937
St. Phillips Church, Cosham, Portsmouth, Hampshire

20th Century - Built 1958
St. Bernadette's RC Church, Lancaster, Lancashire

19th Century - Built 1891
St. Matthew's Church, Northampton, Northamptonshire
Henry Moore's featured sculpture (his first large public commission) of Madonna and child is currently on display at the Tate Gallery in London :-

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