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Hidden Spaces: The bits of St. Philip's Cathedral you never see

We’ve managed to capture some intimate rooftop shots of the Cathedral grounds and the wider Colmore Business District from the Grade I listed St. Philip’s

In Hidden Spaces we always hunt for a stunning aerial shot.

It’s top of our checklist each year, in the first publication we had Big Brum and in the second it was the amazing view from the BT Tower.

This time, we’ve managed to capture some intimate rooftop shots of the Cathedral grounds and the wider Colmore Business District from the Grade I listed St. Philip’s .

The churchyard is a place of peace and relaxation for city workers on their lunch break all year round and is rarely devoid of activity.

The city centre cathedral is a building of national importance, an incredible piece of Italian Baroque in the heart of Birmingham. For a cathedral it is small, just over 45 metres long, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with drastic and beautiful contrasting details.

It was designed by Thomas Archer, a local architect whose brother owned Umberslade Hall in Warwickshire. He was one of the few British architects, post-Wren, who understood the Italian Baroque style through first hand experience.

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In the late 1600s, he undertook a European tour, starting in Holland and ending in Italy. This trip would certainly have influenced and informed the design of St. Philip’s.

The stained glass window at the cathedral, more accurately called Birmingham Cathedral, which appeared frequently in our 2015 Hidden Spaces film by Blue Monday and Rich Greene, was designed by Edward Burne-Jones, who was born metres away on Bennet’s Hill.

At the time of the window’s commissioning in 1897, Burne-Jones was at the height of his career and was considered the greatest stained-glass designer in the country. His exquisite painted designs were transformed into the necessary outlines by Morris & Co, although Burne-Jones’ close association with the firm did nothing to stop them from only paying him ‘ a mere pittance of £200 a design’ it’s reported.

Today the visible stones of the Cathedral’s exterior are most definitely faithful 19th and 20th century reproductions, like many buildings of its age it’s had a few touch ups. The Cathedral continues to provide the city with a place of worship and a space for city centre events in the churchyard.

By Jack Tasker

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