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St Martin-in-the-Fields East Window

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A new East Window designed by Shirazeh Houshiary, in collaboration with architect Pip Horne, was installed above the altar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in 2008.  The commission marked the final stage of the church’s Renewal Project led by Eric Parry Architects.  The strong design by Houshiary and Horne adds light to the Grade I listed church, and is one of the most significant pieces of religious art commissioned in modern times.


The glass, held within a stainless steel framework, is made of mouth-blown clear glass panels etched on both sides with a subtle, feathery pattern, a recognisable hallmark of Houshiary’s paintings.  The glass panels graduate from a periphery of more transparent glass to a denser, whiter centre.  The central ellipse itself is lightly etched, and lit in such a way as to form a focal point of light visible internally and externally.


We needed to create a design that would resonate with people of different faiths both secular and faithful, rich and poor. We needed to be in harmony with Gibbs’ vision and sensitive to his architecture and yet propose contemporary vision and materials….What is important to us is that the image has a universal dimension and everyone can find something in experiencing it. The transparent/translucent glass allows the world outside to enter inside…It suggests the outside world is part of the sacred and that the mundane and the sacred belong together. This idea of inclusivity as against exclusivity is an important part of the ethos of St Martin’s.’

Shirazeh Houshiary and Pip Horne, The Art of St Martin-in-the-Fields, 2016.


The painting of The Veil of St Veronicaby Zurbarán is cited by Shirazeh Houshiary as a source for her East Window. Zurbarán’s image of a piece of cloth bearing a likeness of the face of Christ connects with Houshiary’s idea of the veil that underlies her design of the steel grid of the window. Here, abstraction and representation merge into an iconic whole that invites contemplation. Light illuminates the ellipse at its centre as daylight falls outside. Light catches the etched marks in the glass; the interior of the church and the exterior world are reunited in this extraordinary artwork.’

Vivien Lovell, Curating the Art Commissions; The Art of St Martin-in-the-Fields, 2016.


‘In the East Window …, light is suspended in a veil by the etching of the clear glass with a swirl of flecks; and at dusk, as daylight fades, the central oval glows, mysteriously self-lit.’

Paul Hills, Shirazeh Houshiary, Lehmann Maupin, 2013.


Describing the work, Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, has said: ‘The Window is an important part of St Martin’s, as a focus at the East end of the church. Historically the Church has commissioned some of the greatest and most significant art and St Martin’s is pleased to be contributing to that tradition in the twenty-first century.


The Renewal Project has won many awards in the fields of Architecture, regeneration and heritage, and the East Window itself was short-listed for a 2009 ACE Award for Art in a Religious Context.


A profile of Shirazeh Houshiary with more information about her commission is available on ARTnews.


The East Window is one of several artworks in the St Martin-in-the-Fields Arts Programme by artists Tomoaki Suzuki, Jessica Ogden, Andrew Motion, Giampaolo Babetto and Brian Catling. The Programme is developed and curated by Modus Operandi.    


Houshiary and Horne

Title of work

East Window


St Martin-in-the-Fields


Eric Parry Architects





Image credit

© James Morris