ISSUE 11, October 2004
Elias Ashmole: Masonic Icon
Travel: The magical beauty of Scotland
Honoured: By the Glovers' livery company
The Theatre: Strong links between Craft and stage
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Mauritius: Fascinating Masonic history
Rochester Cathedral: Kent Masons' magnificent fresco
Clerkenwell: 25 years of Masonry
  Bravery award: One Mason's heroism is honoured
Christmas shopping: What to buy in London's West End
High flight: Helping terminally ill children
Jewels of the Craft: An essential part of Masonry
Library & Museum: John Pine exhibition and Library & Museum Trust report
Masonic education: Events for Masons; Quatuor Coronati Lodge; Mentors for new Masons
Charities: Masons provide emergency aid for flood victims; Charity news; Demelza gives voice
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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It is believed to be the first fresco painted in an English cathedral since the twelfth century. Measuring more than 30 feet by 20 feet, it was painted directly onto a special mix of wet plaster so as to become part of the wall. Because of this, it will retain the freshness of its colours and its striking beauty for centuries.
    The upper part depicts the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, while the lower part illustrates the baptism of King Ethelbert of Kent by Saint Augustine and the baptism of some two thousand of his Anglo Saxon followers on the banks of the Medway, just a stone’s throw from where the cathedral now stands on land given by King Ethelbert.
    The artist, 46-year-old Sergei Fyodorov, was born in Moscow and trained at an art college in his native Russia. He acquired his special iconographic skills from Orthodox monks, which explains the style of his work with its distinct Byzantine flavour.
    Fyodorov’s previous works are to be seen in the Danilov Monastery in Moscow, Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, though none are on the scale of his ambitious work at Rochester. This work has taken over three years to complete, and to fit in with the daily life of a busy cathedral, the artist, assisted by his wife Jelena, often worked through the evening and late into the night so as not to be disturbed.
    He said: “I am delighted with the work, it is a very detailed and precise piece but now I am very tired. I need to take a break, catch up on my sleep and meet up with my family and friends again. I will return soon to complete the final finishing touches.” He added that the fresco includes a group of Freemasons, but is leaving it to the Masons themselves to discover where!

I spy... an intriguing aspect of the fresco.

    William Bryen commented: “Freemasons in England have always been supportive of the Established Church and over the years have made very significant contributions to beautify and adorn its buildings. Any visitor with an enquiring eye will not infrequently come across dedications with a Masonic connection inscribed on a tablet, or Masonic symbols in the stained glass of a small country church or of an imposing cathedral.
    “These all bear witness to the love, faith and devotion of generations of Freemasons. The Freemasons of Kent very much hope that the beautiful fresco in our cathedral will be seen as their Millennium gift to the people of Kent. They are proud and honoured to make that gift and hope that it will be to the people of Kent a source of spiritual inspiration not only to them, but to their children and their children’s children.” John Bonomy added: “Kent Freemasons have enjoyed a long and happy association with Rochester Cathedral for over 150 years. The decision to fund the fresco was a fitting and significant way to mark that friendship. Clearly, in this beauti- ful piece of work, it can now be seen what an important and right decision that was, for the fresco is a thing of true beauty which will be enjoyed by the people of Kent, as well as visitors to our county for hundreds of years to come and well into the next millennium.”
    The fresco is the latest in a long line of Rochester projects funded by Kent Freemasons. They include the restoration of Gundulph’s Tower in 1925 to provide practice rooms for the choristers; two statues above the West Door depicting bishops Gundulph and John of Canterbury; a stained glass window in the south nave transept commemorates the Very Reverend Samuel Reynolds Hole, Grand Chaplain in 1897, and the ongoing support of a chorister at the King’s School.
    Other significant contributions made by English Freemasons may be seen in York Minster, the cathedrals of Worcester, Durham and Truro, in Malmesbury Abbey and in the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick.
    A video/DVD has been made telling the story of the fresco in far greater detail than can be given here, together with music by the cathedral choir and organ. It will shortly be available from the Provincial Office of West Kent.

Charles Marchant is Provincial Information Officer for the Masonic Province of West Kent