Called ‘Ascension’, the installation has been created by the renowned, Royal Academy sculptor, John Maine and has been two years in the making. It serves as a memorial and tribute to all SAS – past, present and future.
We wanted something that was for the whole SAS family – serving, retired, regular and reserve, our families, for British, French, Belgian, Greek, Rhodesian, New Zealand and Australian. Something that was powerfully simple but with deep meaning, that supported the understated excellence of the SAS. Nothing remotely boastful. And we wanted a dash of mystery!
Herefordshire is immeasurably proud of its connections with the SAS; and the SAS regards Hereford as its spiritual home. From the 1950s onwards every SAS soldier, whether regular or reserve, has spent time in Malvern, North Wales, Hereford, the Brecon Beacons and mid-Wales and if not actually based here then spending lengthy periods here for selection and training.
There is no obvious story or description to 'Ascension', beyond its title. It is not a regimental chapel, but something more akin to a continental wayside shrine – a place of passage – which invites members of the regiment, as well as pilgrims and visitors to the Cathedral to pause and reflect. Always a little further
The Dean of Hereford Cathedral, the Very Reverend Michael Tavinor, said:
‘Ascension' will be one of the most important pieces of new Cathedral art in the world. Its bold colours and inspirational message will be a breathtaking addition to our historic Cathedral and will mark the unique link between Hereford and the SAS.
‘We hope that ‘Ascension’ will become a focal point for worship, thanksgiving and homecomings as well as providing an awe-inspiring space for contemplation and prayer for all visitors to the Cathedral.’
Artist John Maine described his inspiration for the artwork:
‘The starting point for me was the nave of Hereford Cathedral. Light streams in from the south facing window and the wall below is cast into darkness by contrast. The physical challenge was to create unity between these diverse elements.
‘This called for a robust response to the brief, which avoided rhetoric and bombast. I wanted to concentrate on an uplifting energy, hence the title ‘Ascension’. The work ascends from the still, contemplative stonework through a progression in the window, from darkness to light.’
‘I hoped to create a place of stillness in the Cathedral where soldiers and their families could pause and contemplate. The work should also inspire and offer a sense of resolution.
The nine-metre high installation includes 3,000 pieces of European glass in 40 different colours. The parallax glazing, which creates breathtaking movement and depth to the window, is being assembled by architectural glass specialists Derix, in their studios near Wiesbaden in Germany. The stone sculpture will be crafted from Brazilian blue syenite, golden sandstone from Clashach Quarry, near Elgin in Scotland and black Tournai marble from Belgium.
The base of the sculpture includes the SAS regimental badge with the motto. And a line of poetry engraved in the marble, ‘Always A Little Further’, taken from the poem, The Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker.
Thank you to all those that made a donation. We are very grateful that so many people have contributed and are part of this stunning artwork that serves as a memorial and enduring tribute to the Special Air Service.
The Special Air Service Regimental Association is a registered charity, established for serving and retired members of the SAS and their families. It provides help and support to people in difficulty, through hardship, sickness and getting older. It promotes the efficiency of the Regiment by fostering the esprit de corps, comradeship and welfare; by preserving the history and traditions; and by providing and maintaining memorials.
The SAS began life in the Western Desert in July 1941, founded by a young Scots Guards Lieutenant, David Stirling. He had the inspirational idea of deploying small groups of highly trained men, deep behind enemy lines to carry out special operations against high-value targets. During WW2, the SAS saw action in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Italy, France and Germany – the French, Belgians and Greeks served alongside the British SAS. After the War, the SAS became the blueprint for other special forces around the world, with SAS units in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), New Zealand and Australia.
The Originals in 1941 composed the motto ‘Who Dares Wins’, designed the cap badge, which is based on the flaming sword of Excalibur (frequently and wrongly referred to as the ‘Winged Dagger’), and designed the parachute wings.
The words ‘Always a Little Further’ engraved on the stonework of 'Ascension' at Hereford Cathedral are from the poem ‘The Golden Journey to Samarkand’ by James Elroy Flecker. They were adopted by the SAS in the 1960s.
The SAS connection with the Royal Academy dates back to 1947. Disbanded in 1945, the SAS was resurrected in 1947 as a London-based Territorial Army regiment based on the Artists’ Rifles, a regiment raised in 1860. 21 SAS continues as a reserve regiment, with Mars and Minerva as its motif.
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The Hereford Diocese dates back to 676AD and people have been worshipping at the site of Hereford Cathedral for more than 1300 years. The Cathedral is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and the Saxon martyr, St Ethelbert the King.
The Diocese serves people living in a large area, including Herefordshire and South Shropshire, from the Welsh border in the west to the edges of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire in the east, and from Shrewsbury and Telford in the north to the border with Monmouthshire in the south.
Hereford Cathedral is the home of the Mappa Mundi, the treasured map of the world dating from around 1300 made from a medieval calf skin circle with Jerusalem at its centre.
The Cathedral archives contain a 1217 Hereford Magna and the Cathedral’s Chained Library, the largest in the world, holds the 8th Century Hereford Gospels, 229 medieval manuscripts and copies of some of the earliest printed books.
One of the Cathedral’s most striking places of contemplation is the exquisitely restored Shrine of St Thomas Cantilupe of Hereford.
The Cathedral, with its soaring Norman architecture is an awe-inspiring place of pilgrimage, where Christian history and heritage blends with modern and traditional worship, education and tourism.
Hereford has a vibrant and thriving Cathedral choir with a world class reputation and the Cathedral is one of the venues for the Three Choirs Festival, the world’s oldest music festival.
The new 'Ascension' window and sculpture builds on Hereford Cathedral’s central role in the community, as a place of spiritual pilgrimage, worship and contemplation.
John Maine is one of Britain’s most exciting sculptors and his bold and striking installations can be seen in the UK and across the world. He has established a reputation for working closely with stonemasons and quarry workers at home and abroad.
John studied at the West of England College of Art and the Royal College of Art in the 1960s. He then became the first fellow at Gloucestershire College of Art and eventually established his own studio in Shoreditch in London. His travels in Mexico strongly influenced his work and he was awarded the first fellowship at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
John has studied in Japan, where he was involved in several major public projects supported by the Japan Foundation. He spent a year in Australia carving a granite arch for the British High Commission in Canberra.
At the time of the Henry Moore Exhibition in India, he travelled to Bhopal and made a dome in basalt called 'Observatory. ' He recently produced a landscape work in Hue, Vietnam, and in 2016 installed 'Infinity' at Deltahealth in Shanghai.
At home, his work ‘Arena’ can been seen in London on the South Bank outside the National Theatre, and at Islington Green. He also created 'Sea Strata' at Green Park Tube station. John is well-known for his large environmental sculptures in stone, set in the landscape. These include the ‘Chiswell Earthworks’ above Chesil Beach at Portland Dorset and ‘Place of Origin’ at Kemnay granite quarries in Aberdeenshire. His work has recently formed part of the seafront at Weston-super-Mare, and Seaview on the Isle of Wight.
John’s first solo exhibition was at the Serpentine Gallery in 1972 and many others exhibitions have followed, including at the Hayward Gallery, Battersea Park, Goodwood and Gloucester Cathedral. In 2013 he held a solo exhibition in and around Salisbury Cathedral.
He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1995 and served on the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England from 1996 to 2010. At present he is a member of the fabric advisory committees of Westminster Abbey, Norwich Cathedral and St George’s Chapel, Windsor. For seven years he was an advisor to the Royal Mint. John has work in many public collections and lives and works in Wiltshire.
His current work 'Ascension' is an ambitious commission for Hereford Cathedral which will be opened in Spring 2017. It is John’s first public work to include a stained glass window alongside a stone monument.