Norwich Cathedral reveals animated Madonna and Child

Madonna and child animation at Norwich Cathedral
Image caption "If we don’t get some negativity to this I shall be rather disappointed," said the Very Rev Graham Smith

A 25ft animation of the Madonna and Child has been unveiled at Norwich's Anglican Cathedral as a high-tech alternative to the traditional crib.

The projected watercolour is based on a painting by Italian medieval artist Duccio di Buoninsegna.

"This image, reworked on such a scale, will release its power to astonish and engage the viewer," said the Dean of Norwich, the Very Reverend Graham Smith.

Created by Professor Suzie Hanna, of Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA), it can be seen until the end of January 2012.

"Developing this projection to be in keeping with the Cathedral has been one of the biggest challenges," said Prof Hanna.

"One of the things I've done is to keep the colour scheme very limited so it didn't jar against the warm stone of the cathedral and because it's on gauze it gives the illusion of being illuminated from behind so turns the arch into an animated window.

"The Virgin Mary and child don't actually move so you can rest your eye on them as icons, but the landscape around them all moves very slowly - against the pace of modern life."

Commissioned by the Dean and Chapter, the project has been developed in collaboration with Canon Phillip McFadyen, the Bishop of Norwich's officer for the visual arts and NUCA.

It is thought to be the first time a Cathedral has used animation to reflect the Christmas story.

NUCA principal, Prof John Last said: "Being commissioned to create a visual projection for the 2011 crib by the Cathedral is a great honour.

"We hope it will help those visiting the Cathedral over Christmas to take a moment to pause and reflect and that it will inspire them to think in a fresh way about the Madonna and Child."

Norfolk landscape

Prof Hanna's work also reflects the Norfolk landscape in abstract.

"The Cathedral actually lies in the Norwich parish of St Mary in the Marsh. I like the idea of setting the Madonna in a local landscape as I hope visitors will think of Norfolk when they're looking at it," she said.

Although visually based on a Buoninsegna London triptych painting which hangs in the National Gallery, inspiration has also be drawn from poet Richard Crashaw's In the Holy Nativity of our Lord.

Image caption Visitors can see the projection until the end of January 2012

"It is intended both for liturgical use in our Christmas services, but also as a proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation to the large number of Cathedral visitors during Advent and Christmas," said Dean Smith.

"Every year at the Cathedral we have a crib but the Chapter felt it was time to experiment and to look at the story of the nativity and the true meaning of Christmas through new eyes. We wanted to break some new ground, to think a bit more about what the story means."

The Dean said he is not afraid to challenge traditionalists with their cutting edge approach.

"There will be people who will miss the familiar tableau - but my view is that it's no bad thing to get people thinking and if we don't get some negativity to this I shall be rather disappointed.

"We want people to react to it. We're saying, 'If you find it difficult for any reason don't walk away from it - sit there for while, ask yourself why it's having this affect on you' - and if you get into that mind-set it's doing its job."

While the interpretation and projection are unconventional, a more traditional crib scene can also be found in the South Ambulatory.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites