Start of the new Cloister Construction is underway
Form of the new construction taking shape
Church Doorway prior to construction of the Cloister
The windows are fitted and the Cloister is weather tight
Church Entrance prior to construction of the Cloister
The new Cloister and entrance to the Church -Building work complete
The new glass doors fitted into the existing entrance
The new construction is well underway
Early progress of the new construction
A Cloister is a sacred space, a place within a place, it is a place of meeting and encounter. The Cloister at St Martins was created to serve two purposes that overlap each other.
The first of these purposes was to re create the external image of the house of the Church – the church building. Previously the place now occupied by the Cloister was an external space fenced by iron railings and really only ever used as a litter bin on Albany Road. To its side there was the main Entrance into the Church. This large Porch was again fended by locked iron gates and inside by a large wooden door studded with iron blots. Entrance into the Church was gained by a 'secret' inner door that only the initiated were aware of.
This was not good enough for a congregation that sought to welcome new people. If its original purpose was to welcome people, the old Entrance failed.
All along Albany Road there are commercial businesses which are clearly identified by the use of imagery, almost secular icons which capture peoples attention and invite the passer by to come in. The Church building was failing to do this.
Now we have created a new more welcoming Entrance Porch with the use of glass. Alongside the old Entrance Porch and linked via an internal doorway we created the Cloister. This has completely changed the outward appearance of the building. The Cloister itself has six large glass windows along its front. These look directly onto Albany Road.
Internally, the space is large, open and uncluttered making use of very good materials, Italian polished stone for the floors and we painted the red bricks of the Church wall white. It is very well lit and heated. The only objects in the Cloister are a very large Icon of the Christ and at one end looking onto Albany Rd and through the sixth window a figure of Our Lady presenting her Child to all who pass by. This space then is spacious, well lit and open. It leads the way into the Church. There are two doorways, the first leads from the Entrance Porch into Cloister and the second from the interior of the Cloister directly into the Holy Cross Chapel.
It is easier to say what its not going to be used for than then list its uses.
Primarily, it is a way in to Church – a place to pause. It’s a widow on the Street and from the Street a window into the Church. Its welcoming and engaging to the point that passers by on Albany Road have said since its completion that they thought the church had been closed years ago or that they never knew it was a church before!
We leave the Church open every day and people come in via the Cloister, to sit, to pray, to light a candle, to leave names on the Intercession request sheets.
The second purpose of the Cloister is more practical.
We have used the Cloister space for gatherings of people after Mass or Concerts. Its been a bar and cafe and a place to meet and chat. It may be used as a Gallery both by the Church and for example by some local artists who have asked if they may use its space. This gives it a link between the Church community and the local community – a sacred space between the sacred and secular in the widest sense of that much much misunderstood expression – for all that God has created is good. It is a point of meeting however.
We shall develop its uses as we live with it and see how best we can use this space.
However, like all those other buildings along Albany Road St Martins is now speaking clearly and directly to all who pass by about what goes on here. At the same time because people are able to look into the space even before they enter is is inviting and encouraging and hopefully it engages them to think about God, the Church, faith, life …. whatever, even if they never enter.