ABSTRACT

Just as the Roman Catholic Church saw the adoption of a modern municipal architecture as a way to claim an accepted position within British society, the commissioning of modern art for churches could also contribute to achieving a higher social and political status. Art and architecture that adhered to mainstream British culture represented cultural capital, an investment that could repay the Church through an increasing recognition in society of its importance and legitimacy.1 Acquiring cultural capital for conversion into social capital could be particularly urgent for a Church that historically had a marginal status in Britain and a high proportion of whose members were of Irish descent. Modern architects, too, wished to incorporate art in their churches. Yet the Church would only adopt modern art on its own terms, not least because church art had to be functional, satisfying the needs of devotion and liturgical use. Artists therefore also contributed to the production of the church in partnership with architects and clergy.