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Artist protests against fees

by
16 June 2010

by Rupert Shortt

CHARGING visitors to enter Anglican cathedrals is an abuse of power, and “does little to communi­cate the Christian message”, says an artist, who is using her degree exhibition to highlight her support for free access to all churches.

Diana Thomas, a student in her final year at Hereford College of Arts, has produced a collage (above) depicting a skull superimposed on to St Paul’s Cathedral, to convey her message. Her other works include an installation showing a copy of the Bible locked up in a glass box.

“Every day, in many Anglican cathedrals,” she says, “Christian leaders condone visitors’ having to pay to enter their Heavenly Father’s house . . . in direct contradiction of the words of Jesus.” She quotes John 2.16.

She also says that she is trying to give a balanced portrayal, showing “not only the fee-charging cathedrals and the corrupt city life, but also the good being done by many churches”.

Cathedrals that have introduced charges over recent decades include Canterbury, York, Ely, Lincoln, Chester, St Paul’s, and Exeter; Westminster Abbey also charges. Supporters of the move argue that visitors wishing to pray in cathedrals are not made to pay, and that voluntary donations alone are not enough to meet maintenance costs.

Canon Giles Fraser, Chancellor of St Paul’s, said this week: “St Paul’s Cathedral never charges people who want to worship . . . [and] receives little regular funding from Church or State. We therefore rely on the income generated by tourism to allow the building to continue to function as a centre for Christian worship, as well as to cover general maintenance and repair work.

“Most of our visitors, on understanding this, are only too happy to help support a place that is not only a centre for spiritual pilgrimage but also a part of our nation’s heritage.”

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