Westminster Cathedral
Patrick Rogers writes, ‘Knowing from Garnier’s 1878 book about the Opera House, that he had failed to obtain Greek cipollino (he used Swiss instead) Brindley went out to the island of Evia to find it. For 1,300 years the old quarries lay forgotten. But in the 1860s Charles Garnier wrote to Greece for cipollino for the new Grand Opera House in Paris (opened in 1875). He was told that the quarries were abandoned and the cost would be prohibitive. So Garnier was the first to use the recently discovered Swiss cipollino instead. He described the incident in his book on the Opera House in 1878 and it appears to have been this which motivated Brindley to travel to Evia to search out and reopen the ancient quarries there’. 3


After previously listing themselves in the Trades Directory simply as sculptors, in 1881 Farmer and Brindley advertised as “sole agents for Cipollino”. ‘Columns of this wavy, light green marble are now at the entrance to the chapels of St Joseph, St Patrick and St Paul and in the cathedral transepts.’ The Anglo-Greek Marble Company (Marmor), later known as Grecian Marbles Ltd., was formed to develop quarries in other parts of Greece such as Paros, Tinos, Skyros and Naxos. Brindley’s company was also responsible for the supplying of many of the large number of other coloured marbles which were used in the construction of the cathedral. Winnefride de l’Hôpital’s book, published in 1919, Westminster Cathedral and its Architect, lists some 50 marbles – ‘not far short of the number that her father (J F Bentley, the Architect of the Cathedral) planned to use’. 4

The kinds of marble used in the cathedral had more than doubled by the mid 20th century. Marble decoration was still being added to the cathedral as late as the 1960s, when the firm, Whiteheads, completed the decoration of the nave, the narthex and entrance porches, using, amongst other coloured marbles, the Karystian cipollino. According to Patrick Rogers (author of the The Beauty of Stone, The Westminster Cathedral Marbles) the first consignment of this cipollino is said to have come to London in 1898 in the shape of slabs for the walls at Drapers’ Hall, four columns for the Royal Academy of Arts and later 8 more columns for Westminster Cathedral. Two of these columns cracked but the remaining six are to be found in the transepts and at the entrance to St Patrick’s, St Paul’s and St Joseph’s Chapels. Other destinations were 16 cipollino columns for Norwich Union’s 1904 headquarters in Norwich and 8 to decorate the 1907 Old Bailey entrance. ‘By that time, according to Brindley, over 100 large columns had been produced for Britain, Germany and the USA’).5


Rogers lists the areas in the cathedral where there is Greek cipollino. These seem to occur in almost all parts of the building, from the narthex and nave, the nave aisles and transepts, sanctuary and apse, St Peter’s Crypt, the Baptistry, the chapels of St Patrick, St Andrew, St Paul, St George, St Joseph, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament to the Shrine of the Sacred Heart and St Michael. (Fig 19)


There are three entrances with porches and all have a considerable amount of cipollino. There are panels on each side and above the doors. In the main porch there are panels of cipollino on each side of the door measuring an estimated 3-4 m. high and 4 m. wide (Plate 8.1); there are also side panels measuring .30 wide and approximately 3 m. high. The slightly smaller side entrances have panels of cipollino on each side of both doors. Around the outer door they measure .37 m. wide and 3 m. high, without the fluted edges which are also cipollino, and at the side of the inner door panels measure .67 m. wide and approximately 3 m. high (Plate 8.2). Also above the door are slabs measuring an estimated 2.5 m. by 40 m.


The wall of the narthex on the right hand (south) side of the main entrance (facing the door) has a panel of cipollino measuring 4-5 m. high and 1.75 m. wide and this is repeated on the other side of the door. Moving towards the Baptistry, the panel is followed by two large rectangular piers measuring 4 m. by .73 m. faced with cipollino marble. On the floor there is a circular piece of cipollino measuring .45 m. in diameter (Plate 8.3) and two 1 m square pieces (Plate 8.4). On the eastern side there is also another rectangular pier with a semi-circular recess to the front, also faced with marble and with a statue of St Anthony in the centre (Plates8.5 A & 8.5B). It is estimated to be 4-5 m. high, the straight pieces 1.25 m. wide. This architectural pattern is repeated on the north side of the entrance

The Baptistry and Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine. There are rectangular piers at the sides of the entrance to the Baptistry measuring 2.5 m. high, .69 m deep and 1.3 m. wide which are faced with cipollino (Plate 8.6). There are 6 semi-circular pieces with a diameter of approximately .30 m. on the font and on the steps a piece 2 m. by 1m. There is also some on the floor. (The gates were closed on the day of my visit) (Plates 8.7A 8.7B). At the back of the chapel there are further cipollino clad piers and in St Augustine there is a piece of cipollino above the altar and above the mosaics (Plate 8.7C). There are also two cipollino columns at the steps of the Chapel of St Augustine (Plate 8.7D).
The South Aisle contains 3 large rectangular piers approximately 6 m high, 1.7 m. wide and 2 m. deep faced with cipollino (
Plates 8.8 & 8.9). On the floor are 3 large rectangular slabs of cipollino 2.2 m x 1.2 m consisting of four pieces put together in matching pattern (Plate 8.10). There are other panels of cipollino between the confession boxes at the east end of the south aisle approximately 2 m. high (Plate 8.11).


In the Chapel of St Patrick the pieces of marble below the altar are of Connemara marble not cipollino but there are 2 pieces of cipollino on the floor, under the prayer stool, 1 m. x 2 m. (Plate 8.12). Just outside the chapel there is a column of cipollino estimated to be 6 m. high and .58 m. in diameter. It has a cipollino collar and base of black marble (Plate 8.13).
The Chapel of St Andrew has cipollino on the east wall and above the altar there are panels 2m. x .75m., as well as higher up, behind the crucifixion, panels approximately 1.5m. wide and 1.5m. high (
Plate 8.14). There are also two panels on the back wall, framing a panel of porphyry (Plate 8.15) and four panels of old (i.e weathered) cipollino 1m. x .20 m. There are also, possibly, cipollino fish and snakes as part of the twenty-nine fish and other marine creatures inlaid in the Iona Green marble flooring (Plates 8.16 & 8.17). The use of this marble on the floor reminds us that besides being the Patron saint of Scotland St Andrew was also a fisherman. There is a further cipollino clad pier between the chapels of St Andrew and St Paul, below the mosaic of St David, measuring 1.47 m. x 1.88 m. x 2.54 m.


In the Chapel of St Paul there are large panels of cipollino on both sides of the altar, 2 m. high and .10 m. deep. (Plate 8.18) Along the whole of the south wall there are panels of cipollino broken up by small columns of pavonazzo. They are 1 m. high and extend for about 11 m. (Plate 8.19). Near the Chapel of St Paul there is another column of Karystian cipollino (Plate 8.20).


The Lady Chapel has panels of cipollino on the floor on either side of the steps, 1.24 m. x .39 m. in size (Plate 8.21). There is also a panel below the altar in the Rorschach pattern estimated at 2m. x .75 m. (Plate 8.22). A few metres north of the Lady Chapel (at the south transept of the cathedral) there is another cipollino column paired with one of Italian breccia, 6m high and .58 m. in diameter with the same black marble base and capital (Plate 8.23).

The Sanctuary is difficult to approach and to photograph but it seems probable that the circular panel which runs behind the main altar is of cipollino and would probably extend for about 20 m. There are 2 large piers with cipollino on each side of the steps to the altar measuring 20 m. high x 1 m. x 2 m., and 12 panels below the altar approximately 1 m. x .50 m. behind ‘the eight columns of yellow Verona marble carrying the baldacchino’ 6 (Plate 8.24 A& 8.24B),
The Shrine of the Sacred Heart, to the north of the Sanctuary (no 13 on the plan) has Karystian cipollino on both sides of the altar (
Plate 8.25).


At the east end of the North Aisle, at the entrance to the Chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury, there is a large panel of cipollino on the floor measuring 3 m. x 2 m. with protrusions at each corner of .20 m x .15 m. (Plate 8.26). There are also panels along the north wall behind the chapel, 1 m. square, and panelling over the door on that side (Plate 8.27).
The North Aisle itself has the same architectural features as those on the south aisle, namely the three large rectangular piers and the three rectangular panels on the floor. Leading off the North Aisle is the Chapel of St George. It has cipollino faced piers at each side. The one between the chapel of St George and St Joseph measured 1.2 m. wide and 1 m. deep. There are also cipollino panels in each corner measuring 2.5 m. high x 1 m. wide x 2 m. deep and panels on the western side from 2-3 m. in height and .30 m. wide which are probably cipollino. The chapel is in the process of restoration and had just had the scaffolding removed.


The Chapel of the Holy Souls (no 18 on the plan) has a panel of cipollino over the altar measuring 2.5 m. wide and 1 m. high (Plate 8.28).


The north wall of the Chapel of St Joseph is completely panelled in cut and matching cipollino (Rorschach pattern). There are 9 panels approximately 1 m. high and .50 m. wide (Plate 8.29). Behind the altar there are 8 panels estimated at 2.5 m. high by 1.2 m. wide (Plate 8.30). The lower part of the west wall also has cipollino panelling, 5 panels of 1.2 m. by 2.5 m. (Plate 8.31).


There is another cipollino column just outside the chapel of St Joseph (Plate 8.32).
The arches of the narthex are clad in cipollino (
Plate 8.33).

3 Rogers, Patrick, The Beauty of Stone, the Westminster Cathedral Marbles, Oremus – The Magazine of Westminster cathedral, 2008, pp. 38-9
4 Rogers, Patrick, The Beauty of Stone, The Westminster Cathedral

Marbles, Oremus – The Magazine of Westminster Cathedral, 2008, pp. 17-21
5 Rogers, Patrick, pp. 38-9.

6 Rogers, Patrick, p.32.

Maps and Plates

Fig 19.jpg

Fig 19 Diagram of Westminster Cathedral

Plate 8.1.JPG

Plate 8.1 A cipollino panel in the main porch entrance, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.2 Cipollino panels in the side porch entrance, above and around the doors, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.3 Circular cipollino panel on the floor of the south side of the narthex, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.4 A cipollino panel on the floor of the south side of the narthex, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.5 A.JPG

Plate 8.5A & 8.5B A rectangular cipollino clad panel with a semi-circular recess and a statue of St Anthony, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.5A & 8.5B A rectangular cipollino clad panel with a semi-circular recess and a statue of St Anthony, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.6 Cipollino clad piers at the side of the Baptistry and the Chapel of St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.7 A.JPG

Plate 8.7A Entrance to the Baptistry and Chapel of St. Augustine, Westminster Cathedral, London

Plate 8.7 B.jpg

Plate 8.7B Six semi-circular pieces of cipollino around the font, panels on the walls, a piece on the steps and more on the floor of the Baptistry, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.7 C.JPG

Plate 8.7C Three panels of cipollino above the altar in the Chapel of St Augustine, Westminster Abbey, London.

Plate 8.7 D.JPG

Plate 8.7D Two columns of cipollino outside the steps of the Chapel of St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.8 & 8.9 Three rectangular piers faced with cipollino in the south aisle, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.8 & 8.9 Three rectangular piers faced with cipollino in the south aisle, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.10 A large rectangular panel of cipollino on the floor of the south aisle, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.11 Cipollino clad panels on the walls between the confession boxes, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.12 A piece of cipollino on the floor under the prayer stools, Chapel of St Patrick, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.13 A cipollino column outside the Chapel of St Patrick, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.14 Cipollino panelling on the east wall, above the altar, the Chapel of St Andrew, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.15 Two panels of cipollino, framing one of porphyry, on the south wall of the Chapel of St Andrew, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.16 & 8.17 Cipollino fish and snake in Iona green marble flooring, Chapel of St Andrew, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.16 & 8.17 Cipollino fish and snake in Iona green marble flooring, Chapel of St Andrew, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.18 Cipollino panels on each side of the altar, the Chapel of St Paul, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.19 Cipollino panels along the south wall of the Chapel of St Paul, broken by small columns of pavonazzo marble, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.20 One column of cipollino marble near the Chapel of St Paul, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.21 Panels of cipollino on either side of the steps of the Lady Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.22 Panel of cipollino below the altar, the Lady Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.23 One cipollino column, paired with one of breccia, a few metres north of the Lady Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.24.JPG

Plate 8.24 Cipollino panelling behind the altar (as in St Peter’s Church, Edinburgh), two large cipollino clad piers on each side of the steps and 12 panels below the altar, the Sanctuary, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.25.jpg

Plate 8.25 Cipollino panelling on each side of the altar and below, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.26 A large panel of cipollino on the floor of the east end of the north aisle, entrance to the Chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.27.JPG

Plate 8.27 Cipollino panelling above the door on the north side of the Chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8. 28 Cipollino panel over the altar, the Chapel of Holy Souls, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.29 Nine panels of cipollino on north wall of the Chapel of St Joseph, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.30 Cipollino panelling behind the altar, the Chapel of St Joseph, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.31 Cipollino panelling on the lower part of the west wall, Chapel of St Joseph, Westminster Cathedral, London.

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Plate 8.32 One large cipollino column outside the Chapel of St Joseph, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Plate 8.33.JPG

Plate 8.33 Cipollino panelling on the arches of the narthex, Westminster Cathedral, London.