On display from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday

In mediaeval times, there was a common practice called ‘Measuring to the Saint’.

If you needed spiritual or physical help or healing, your body was measured from head to toe with a length of string or thread, which was then sent to the nearest Cathedral or Abbey, where the monks would make a candle from it, light it and pray for your eternal soul. 

Inspired by this simple act of connection and illumination, artist Michelle Rumney is using this medieval practice of ‘Measuring to the Saint’ to create the Lent Art Installation for Southwark Cathedral in 2020.

Reflecting on the ritual of pilgrimage and the fragile but powerful strength of our connections with each other through time and space, this year's artwork traces Thomas Becket's last journey from Southwark to Canterbury 850 years ago. Twelve wax candles representing people with a connection to pilgrimage, including Thomas Becket and Marion Marples, who led many pilgrimages from Southwark will line the altar rail. These candles are as tall as the person they represent and will be lit in their memory every day throughout Lent. Lengths of string representing the 850 people ‘Measured to the Saint’ by Michelle are formed into a veil which will mask the altar itself.

Michelle Rumney is a Fine Arts graduate and works in mixed media including string, books and maps to create large scale paintings, paperworks and installations on the themes of repetition and transformation.

Her work touches on religion, psychology, history, geography and our attempts to make sense of the world around us and have been described as “other worldly”, "blissful" and "meditative". Her textured surfaces and delicate spaces challenge our ideas of perception and perfection.

Michelle says “The candles that form the installation are all in memory of special people who are no longer with us. They are all connected with myself in some way - we are all connected in any case. Some died last year while this project was being created, some are connected through the St Thomas Way heritage trail project - which is where I discovered the Measuring to the Saint practice and some are connected through London and Southwark.”

It's 850 years since Becket gave his last sermon at Southwark and there are 850 strings veiling the altar, who represent people/animals – all still alive! The youngest was a newborn grandchild for a member of the Southwark congregation, the oldest was a lady who turned 103 in December 2019. The shortest was the baby, the tallest so far was a visitor to the Cathedral who was over 6'5". They also include the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Wales.

Her website can be found at: https://michellerumney.com/