Mary and Martyrs are installed on metal stands designed by Foster + Partners, to ensure the works are in sympathy with the existing architecture of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterwork. Both installations have been created with the assistance of a significant number of trusts, foundations and individual donors, and are offered to Tate as a gift from the Bill Viola Studio, being placed on long-term loan to St Paul’s Cathedral, thus strengthening collaboration between the two institutions on each side of the Thames.

Key supporters for the project include the Art Fund, Sir Evelyn and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Lord and Lady Foster of Thames Bank, Foster + Partners, The Edwin Fox Foundation, Mr and Mrs John Singer, The Headley Trust, The Jerusalem Trust, Dunard Fund, The John Booth Charitable Foundation, The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, Simon and Virginia Robertson, The Harrow Development Trust, Jeff and Elizabeth Louis, and Blain|Southern.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Bill Viola’s art slows down our perceptions in order to deepen them. He uses the very medium that controls mass culture today, film, and subverts that control to instead open up new possibilities and contours of understanding. — The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral

A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on the site since 604AD, and throughout history the Cathedral has remained a busy, working church where millions come to reflect and find peace.
The current Cathedral – the fourth to occupy the site – was designed by the court architect Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1711 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Its architectural and artistic importance reflect the determination of the five monarchs who oversaw its building that London’s leading church should be as beautiful as a beacon of hope for the City and nation.

The Cathedral has established its own Visual Arts Programme that seeks to explore the encounter between art and faith, and believes that the Cathedral offers a powerful and challenging context with which artists can engage. The Cathedral is home to a spectacular array of art; from the delicate carvings of Grinling Gibbons to Sir James Thornhill's dome murals as well as the Victorian mosaics and Henry Moore's Mother and Child. In recent times, a series of artistic interventions by artists including Rebecca Horn and Yoko Ono have further enriched the daily pattern of worship in the Cathedral.


The form and content of Bill Viola’s commission for St Paul’s are both shaped by more than twenty years’ experience in showing his art in sacred places. Earlier temporary installations and presentations have confirmed that his work has the depth and the spiritual resonance to sustain prolonged viewing in a place of deep contemplation. — Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate

Tate holds the National Collection of British art from 1500 and international modern and contemporary art from 1900. Tate's Collection embraces all media from painting, drawing, sculpture and prints, to photography, video and film, installation and performance.

Generally the Collection is displayed at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives and through loans to temporary national and international exhibitions and long loans. Tate rotates its displays at all sites, partly with the aim of giving exposure to as much of the Collection as possible. With this in mind, The Viola commission will be the first long term loan to an ecclesiastical institution.

Tate's Collection seeks to represent significant developments in art in all areas covered by its remit with artworks of outstanding quality and importance. The representation of British art encompasses work by artists defined by their contribution to its history and development rather than simply by nationality.

The Art Fund

The Art Fund exists to secure great art for museums and galleries all across the UK for everyone to enjoy. They do this by helping to buy, save and show great works of art, of all ages and all kinds, by giving grants, placing gifts of art, fundraising and campaigning. All their funding is privately raised from donations, public appeals, trusts and foundations, and through their 80,000 supporters.

Foster + Partners

The altar-like stands that support the screens for both Martyrs and Mary have been designed by world-renowned architect Sir Norman Foster. Each stand has been conceived and designed to echo the concepts represented in each of the works. The stand for Martyrs appears to barely touch the floor, light and floating upwards, while the stand for Mary is firmly rooted, connected to the earth.

Photography Credits

Installation inside St Paul's Cathedral: Peter Mallet
St Paul's Cathedral exterior: Graham Lacdao

All artworks © Bill Viola