New museum on religion in England hopes to purchase Henry VIII tapestry from Spain

A marketing campaign has been launched to convey a exceptional Sixteenth-century tapestry commissioned by Henry VIII from Spain to be the centrepiece of a brand new UK museum devoted to religion opening in October.


Saint Paul Directing the Burning of Heathen Books is “successfully the start certificates of the Church of England”, based on Jonathan Ruffer, the founding father of the Auckland Undertaking in County Durham, the location of the Religion Museum.

For 200 years the tapestry, which is about 6 metres (nearly 20ft) lengthy, was thought to have been destroyed. However in 2014 conservators found it unrecognised in a Spanish assortment.

The Spanish authorities imposed an export ban on the work however stated if it could possibly be purchased by appropriate UK establishment it will be allowed to return to Britain. It’s being bought for £3.55m with an extra £1m wanted for export taxes and different prices.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has backed the marketing campaign to return it to the UK, saying: “This glorious, distinctive tapestry is a key a part of the Church of England’s historical past and that of the entire nation,” he stated.


In addition to crowdfunding, the Religion Museum is making use of for grants from UK our bodies in its efforts to safe the tapestry. “It might be a massively vital addition – the star piece” of the brand new museum, which has been 10 years within the making, stated its curator, Amina Wright.

The museum covers 6,000 years of religion in Britain via objects, private testimonies and up to date artwork commissions. About 50 nationwide and native establishments and personal people have loaned objects for show.

The Binchester ring, uncommon early proof of Christianity in Britain. {Photograph}: Jeff Veitch

It’s housed in a 14th-century wing of Auckland Fort, the traditional seat of the prince bishops of Durham, and a brand new up to date constructing containing gallery areas. The north-east was the birthplace of Christianity in England.

A part of the museum is a journey via the historical past of religion, beginning with the Gainford stone, courting to 4,000-2,500BC, with some objects organized thematically.

Among the many objects on show is the Binchester ring, excavated in 2014 on the Vinovium Roman fort. The silver ring with carved carnelian stone that includes photos of an anchor and fish gives uncommon early proof of Christianity in Britain.

One other is the Thirteenth-century Bodleian bowl, lent by the Ashmolean in Oxford, is inscribed in Hebrew with the identify of Joseph, son of Rabbi Yechiel, a well-known scripture scholar in Paris. Joseph could have given the bronze bowl to the Jewish congregation in Colchester, Essex.

There’s a set of Twentieth-century prayer beads beforehand owned by Lord Headley, who transformed to Islam in 1913 and is believed to be the primary Briton to legitimately full the hajj pilgrimage.

A duplicate of William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testomony from 1536 is one in all solely a small quantity to have survived. Tyndale’s Bible helped unfold the concepts of the Reformation.

The museum additionally has the Morton frontal, a patchwork created from Fifteenth-century silk velvet church vestments that have been superbly embroidered to depict imagery such because the lily crucifix. The items have been later clumsily stitched collectively to type an oblong piece, assumed to be a wall hanging.

Element from the Morton frontal. {Photograph}: Religion Museum, Bishop Auckland

The higher galleries are devoted exhibition areas housing short-term exhibitions and installations. They function a show by 10 up to date British artists – together with Khadija Saye, the British-Gambian photographer who died within the Grenfell Tower fireplace – providing views on religion immediately; a large-scale set up specifically created by the artist Mat Collishaw; and a group of work by Roger Wagner depicting biblical scenes in trendy landscapes.

“Religion is a tough topic to handle in a museum as a result of it’s intangible,” stated Wright. “It’s not one thing you possibly can simply put in a show case.”

The museum was not geared toward individuals who “know the whole lot there’s to learn about faith. That is designed for everybody. It’s in regards to the expertise of religion, a few energy larger than ourselves.”