Mansfield Traquair Catholic Apostolic Church
Mansfield Traquair Catholic Apostolic Church is situated in Edinburgh and is renowned for it murals painted and designed by the internationally renowned artist Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852-1936). Because of her artwork, it has been called the Edinburgh Cistine Chapel.
Born in Dublin, Phoebe Anna Moss married Scots palaeontologist Dr Ramsay Traquair in 1873, and moved to Edinburgh the following year.
What was interesting for us as Carruthers was that the murals depict both Cherabim and Seraphim. Both follow the religious norm, which again was adopted in heraldic depictions of the same. These again show the destinct difference between Cherub and Seraphim and underline the Carruthers depiction as being accurate of its time and to this day.
Examples of Phoebe’s work in other media are to be found in the National Galleries of Scotland: her four embrioderies The Progress of a Soul (1893-1900, contemporary with her work at the Catholic Apostolic Church) at the National Gallery on the Mound and her self-portrait at the Portrait Gallery in Queen Street.
Above is the Cherubim, clearly noted on the inside mural below the feet of Christ. This sits above an entry way into the church and is depicted in the classsical style, as a child like angel with two wings. But who was Phoebe Traquair?
Taken from this site Phoebe was recognised as an inspired and visionary woman of her time, spending eight years of her life creating the herculean works which earned Mansfield Traquair the title of “Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel”. Her vivid, striking and truly beautiful murals interpret religious scenes, inspired by Blake and Renaissance, and reflect her status as an eminent figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.
Well-educated for a woman of her time, she was trained in art and her style reflected the influence of Celtic illuminated manuscripts and Pre-Raphaelitism. She was inspired by the Romantic poet, artist and religious visionary William Blake, and by Italian Renaissance art – an influence her visits to Italy in 1889 and 1894 would have encouraged further.
Traquair became an eminent figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. She was known for her embroidery, enamelling and illumination – amongst other crafts – but it was to be her murals that would bring her fame.
It was in 1892 that she was commissioned to decorate the interior of the then Catholic Apostolic church with figurative, religious scenes. The Church provided scaffolding, met the cost of her tools and materials, and also paid her an unknown fee – the first time Traquair had received payment for her work.
She began work on the murals in 1893, and completed the work in 1901. Phoebe Anna Traquair is now forever indelibly linked with Mansfield through the transformation of the interior with her vivid and striking interpretations of religious scenes and imagery.
What highlighted the work of Mrs Traquair was on a visit to the church, her depiction of the seraphim in one of her murals. This depicted, as we would have suspected, a six winged figure with a face, painted on the left side of front wall.
The seraphim, frst mentioned in the bible in Isaiah, has been used as a crest by our chiefs for over 400 years and follows the accepted religious and heraldic depiction of the same.
The seraphim as an artwork in this depiction is widespread in both Catholic and Orthodox churches world wide and is again depicted as is our crest, as six having wings with the face of an Angel in the centre. This has been well reserched and covered in depth here and here.
As such our chief’s blazon (heraldic description) which states: a seraphim volant proper – a seraphim in flight depicted in its ‘natural form and colours‘ is accurate as is its depiction. This follows the classical religious and heraldic artwork as being : six wings , the two uppermost and the two lowermost crossed in saltire and the middle pair spread as in flight, and in the centre sits an angelic face.
This follows the process as drawn by medieval heralds who, taking their lead from religious iconography produced the Chiefs crest. As such it is indentified, highly respected and recognised throughout, not only Scotland, but worldwide as being ‘of’ Carruthers.
Being something individual and historically valid from our past, we can do nothing else but remain remain very proud of what we have.