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  • Writer's pictureSt Giles Online

Easter Decorations

The Eastertide decorations at St Giles are inspired by ancient triumphal processions and reflect the classical Palladian interior of the 18th century church, writes Thomas Hardin, their designer.

Easter marks the ultimate victory, Christ triumphant over sin and death itself. On Easter Day, the altar frontal transforms from the linen Lenten array into a riot of festal cloth of gold. The hangings likewise shift from a plain cream colour, reflecting the shroud that wrapped Christ in the tomb, to a radiating gold silk at the east end. Pennants hanging alongside are inscribed with the ‘Easter Anthems,’ a canticle from the Book of Common Prayer for use at Matins during Eastertide. These poetic verses from Paul’s letters to the Romans and Corinthians describe the Paschal mystery of salvation through Christ.

The laurel wreaths which decorated the church during Advent and Christmas anticipating and celebrating the arrival of the Christ child reappear as processional wreaths commemorating Christ the Victor who triumphed over death.  Wreaths of bay laurel date back to ancient Greece, where they were used to recognise winners, victors and achievements (hence the term ‘laureate’). 

A new Paschal Candle is lit first on Easter morning to represent the light of Christ overcoming the darkness of death.  That light is carried through the Easter season then positioned near the font where it reminds us of the flame of Christ kindled in each of us at our baptism and as we enter for worship throughout the year.

This year the decoration is taken from ornament within St Giles. The central panel comes from the 18th century lead cistern repurposed at the back of the church for donations. The geometric pattern incorporates interlocking crosses, appropriate for the season. Arranged within the panel are the year, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, representing the beginning and the end, and a gold cross.

The bands incorporate the guilloche pattern from the ceiling. This interlocking chain has no beginning or end and is used here to represent the infinite and enduring nature of God. The band is edged by an egg and dart pattern. This traditional motif appears throughout the church and has also been used since classical Greek and Roman times to represent life (egg) and death (dart).  Eggs have long been used at Easter in many traditions to symbolize resurrection and new life springing from the empty tomb.

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