Edward Burne-Jones’ God

Join us for our third annual Gore Lecture on public theology – in the cathedral and online.

Edward Burne-Jones’ God: Pre-Raphaelite Revolutionaries and the Beauty of Holiness

Thursday 28 September 1930 – 2100

By The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine

Book your free ticket

Got a question?

Email questions@birminghamcathedral.com to submit your question before or during the lecture and we will pass a selection to Ayla to answer.

Christ depicted in The Ascension stained-glass window by Edward Burne-Jones, installed at Birmingham Cathedral in 1885.

Edward Burne-Jones, his context and his depiction of Christ

In the mid-nineteenth century, British art changed forever. A young group of artists, who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelites, began to explore aspects of everyday life, love and death alongside monumental themes from the Bible, literature, and cultural history.

In stained glass, paint, ink, and stone, these artists created a new way of seeing the world and its creativity through the arts. This lecture will situate the Victorian painter Edward Burne-Jones within his Pre-Raphaelite context. This will particularly focus on how Burne-Jones depicted Christ and biblical themes. His approach to hope, faith and love was unique. This is particularly clear in the work he produced for churches and cathedrals, including Birmingham’s glorious stained glass windows.

In Burne-Jones’ attention to colour, composition, and detail, he told well-known stories in fresh ways. As an artist, his work was highly theological. In his imagination, courageous knights are transformed by visions of Christ. Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus is an immersive experience of love in action. Joseph looks in awe upon the Magi bringing their gifts, and angels hold God’s glorious creation in the palms of their hands. By considering Burne-Jones’s work in relation to his Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries and from a theological point of view, new perspectives emerge regarding sacred art, and art’s capacity to change the world for the better.

About Ayla Lepine

Ayla has been Associate Rector at St James’s Piccadilly, since July 2022. Before this, she was Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery. Originally from Canada, she moved to the UK in 2003 to study theology and art history. Following her PhD in Victorian sacred architecture at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she held fellowships at Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music and the Courtauld, and was lecturer and fellow at the University of Essex. She was ordained in 2018 and served her title at Hampstead Parish Church.

Ayla’s approach to ministry focuses deeply on belonging, beauty, and social justice. Her publications have appeared in British Art Studies and Tate’s ‘In Focus’ series, as well as books including Modern Architecture and Religious Communities. She is a trustee of the UK charity Art and Christianity, a Visiting Scholar at Sarum College, and a member of the St Paul’s Cathedral Visual Arts Committee.

The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine