Sir Ninian Comper by fjzhangxiaoquan


									                         Sir Ninian Comper

                                               The Rearados above the altar
                                               at   St   John’s   Church   was
                                               designed by Sir John Ninian
                                               Comper who was born in
                                               Aberdeen on 10 June 1864,
                                               the eldest of the five children
                                               of the Reverend John Comper,
                                               Rector of St John's Episcopal
                                               Church. His father was one of
the most advanced priests in the Anglo-Catholic revival in Scotland.

                           His father's greatest work was accomplished while
                           he was in Aberdeen when, in 1867 when he "took
                           a step down" to become Rector of the new
                           congregation of St Margaret of Scotland, in
                           Aberdeen's Gallowgate, the poorest part of the
                           city. There he devoted his ministry to the care of
                           his people, serving the congregation for 31 years.
                           He persuaded the Sisters of the Society of St
Margaret at East Grinstead - founded by his friend Fr John Mason Neale - to
establish a Community in Aberdeen. This they did, becoming the Society of St
Margaret of Scotland working along side him in caring for the poor.

The lively and advanced Anglo-Catholicism amongst which the young Ninian
Comper was raised, naturally had a dominant influence on his life. In later
years the 'Anglo-' came to mean less and less to him, and he would often
appear not to recognize any difference between the Anglican and Roman
Churches, maintaining that through the work of St Pius X, to whom he had a
special devotion, the two communions were already, if secretly, united.
After rather unhappy school-days at Glenalmond in Perthshire, Comper spent
a year at Ruskin's Art School in Oxford, before going to London where he was
articled to C E Kempe, and later to G F Bodley and T Garner. Bodley he
always regarded as his master, and like him always steadfastly opposed the
system of qualifying examinations for architects and architectural schools: in
Who's Who he described himself as "architect (not registered)".

With the exception of the Welsh War Memorial in Cardiff (1928), all Comper's
work was ecclesiastical. His first independent building was a chapel added to
his father's church of St Margaret of Scotland, Aberdeen in 1889. The chapel,
known today as "the Comper Aisle" was built in memory of Ninian's father, the
Reverend John Comper. The figure of Fr John Comper, keeling at a prie-dieu,
is shown in the magnificent east window in the Comper Aisle.

Comper's unique signature can also be seen in this window (if you stand on
your tiptoes). It's in its customary place at the bottom right of the window. His
                         rather unusual signature of the strawberry is linked
                         with his high regard for his father who demonstrated
                         his great devotion to the poor in so many practical
                         ways. Fr John Comper died suddenly in the Duthie
                         Park in Aberdeen, on the banks of the River Dee,
while giving strawberries to poor children. What better memorial to his father
.... the strawberry which can be seen in churches throughout the world!

The St Margaret's chapel was followed two years later by the new St
Margaret's Convent Chapel in Aberdeen. This set the fashion, destined to
become the norm for many successful Anglican convents ... a Comper chapel.
One of his last works was the great window in Westminster Hall in London in

 In the course of seventy years Sir Ninian Comper was the architect
responsible for fifteen churches; he restored and decorated scores of others;
and he designed vestments, banners and windows in places as far apart as
China, North America, France, India, and South Africa. There can hardly be a
rural deanery in England or a Diocese in Scotland without some example of
his sensitive and unmistakable workmanship which is also to be found in
churches of the Roman Communion, among them Downside Abbey.

Comper's liturgical understanding of the purpose of a church was far in
advance of any other architect of his time. It has been claimed that Ninian
Comper was the greatest church furnisher since Wren. However, if he was
primarily a decorator rather than an architect, his decorative art was never
simply for art's sake, but for the sake of the function for which he firmly
believed a church exists, namely "as a roof over an altar".

Believing this, he built from the altar outwards, personally designing every
detail of the furnishings, even down to the candle sticks, which had to fit in
with his design. While bitterly opposed to 'modernism', he nevertheless
anticipated by many years the changes that were to come: for example, his
use of free-standing altars, of pure white interiors and strong clear colours,
especially the typical Comper rose and green, and the combination of gilding,
blue, and white. Sir John Betjeman said of him (in 1948): "His ecclesiastical
tastes are rococo as well as his architectural ones; he is perfectly satisfied so
long as gold leaf is heaped on everywhere."

           At St Wilfrid's Cantley in 1893 Comper erected an altar with riddel
           posts, the first of that succession of 'box-bed' altars whose use by
           inferior artists he came to deplore. In 1892 he installed a hanging
           pyx in St Matthew's Westminster (since removed), thus leading to
           a development in the practice of reservation in the Church. St
           Matthew's was the first of many examples of the hanging pyx of
which the most elaborate was the nine-foot silver turris at All Saints' Margaret
Street, and that in the Grosvenor Chapel.

Comper's first work in the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Inverness
was associated with the work of moving the church from one side of the River
Ness to the other. During the re-building of 1903-04 a full-sized stone altar
was erected, around which were placed four black wrought iron riddel posts,
topped by four gilded Angels, each holding a taper. These were designed by
Ninian Comper.

The following year, 1905, an impressive stone font on top of a three step
pedestal was placed by the west entrance. The steepled oak lofty cover, also
designed by Ninian Comper, was in 1905 in memory of Fr John Comper,
Ninian's father, as a thanksgiving for his ministry in Inverness, as a mission
                          The finest example of Comper's first medieval
                          manner is the church of St Cyprian in Clarence Gate
                          in London (1903). His second style dated from about
                          1904 following visits to the Mediterranean which
                          revealed to him the debt owed by all Christian art to
                          Greece. Other magnificent examples of his work are
Wimborne St Giles, where in 1910 he restored a classical church with
perpendicular decorations and distinctive Jacobean screen.

Then there is the magnificent St Mary's Wellingborough (1904-40), where a
perpendicular nave, middle-gothic side chapel, Spanish screens, and classical
baldachino, combine brilliantly in one harmonious riot of colour and gilding. In
his last period he grew more and more to see the importance of a free-
standing altar, usually covered by a ciborium, as in St Andrew's Cathedral
Aberdeen, the All Saints' chapel at London Colney (now owned by the Roman
Catholic Church), at Pusey House in Oxford, or St Philip's Cosharn, and by an
uncumbered, translucent background to his windows.

Between 1923 and 1924, St Michael and All Angels underwent extensive
alterations. Canon Lachlan Mackintosh, Rector of St Michael's, had become a
good friend of Ninian Comper. Together they had been planning to completely
rebuild St Michael's but financial constraints (the reconstruction was paid for
entirely by the Canon himself), a result of the effects of the First World War,
meant a re-construction rather than re-building should be considered. The
work was done under the guidance of Ninian Comper. The old dormer
windows were replaced by new lower, wider windows and the roof of the
church was panelled and painted. The Lady Chapel was also extended.

The magnificent stained glass Window of the Archangels on the east wall of
St Michael's, and the gilded Tester above, carved with a dove, both to designs
by Ninian Comper, were later additions, in memory of Canon Mackintosh
(depicted keeling at a prie-dieu in the third window), St Michael's great
benefactor, who died in 1926.

                      The Archangels Uriel, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
                      (left to right)) are depicted in the window in the subtle
                      colours favoured by Comper. The Gilded Tester above
                      the High Altar depicts the Holy Spirit and Pentecost,
                      with the tongues of fire radiating from the Dove, the
                      Holy Spirit, with the seven 'Gifts of the Spirit' - Love,
                      Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness and
Faithfulness - inscribed around the border.

In 1890 Ninian Comper married Grace Bucknall. They had four sons, the
eldest of whom followed in the steps of his father, and became an architect -
and two daughters. Grace died 1933.

Ninian Comper was knighted by the King in 1950.

Sir   John   Ninian    Comper     died    on    the   22nd     December      1960.
His ashes were buried beneath the windows he designed in Westminster
Abbey where he had been responsible also for the Warriors' chapel.

Sir Ninian Comper's work in St Michael and All Angels attracts many visitors
today. His clever use of the proportions of the small building are highlighted
by the light which floods into the church from the large windows. The
magnificence of the stained glass windows of the Four Archangels set behind
the simplicity of Comper's riddel posted altar with its six brass candle sticks,
not to mention the impressive gilded tester above the high altar, indeed make

                                     The Church of St Michael and All Angels
                                     the Comper Jewel in the Highlands of

                                     St Michael's well worth a visit ... so if you
                                     are ever in Inverness, come and visit us.
                                     The church is open every day during
daylight hours.

Canon Len Black
Rector of St Michael and All Angels, Inverness

To top