Over its six hundred years the Company has reflected English society and much of its iconography is therefore deeply religious. The Hall played a specific role in the translation of the Bible from Latin to English. It should be no surprise therefore that there are religious references throughout the Hall. Today, again mirroring society, the Company does not focus on any one religion and is happy to have members of all persuasions and none!
St John the evangelist
The large mural in the centre of the ceiling in the main Hall is of St John the Evangelist with an ink horn and an eagle. The bird in the painting was significant and often appeared with the Saint as it could fly the highest and therefore closest to heaven.
Below the Caxton window there are two Bibles, carved from wood, open at Psalms. Spot the deliberate mistake! ...They both mention Jesus Christ but the book of Psalms, which appears in the Old Testament, was written around 500BC, 500 years before Christ’s birth. This was painted post war and the painter is unknown.
Songs of Solomon
Songs of Solomon is a wisdom book in the Old Testament and two of these can be seen placed on the southern wall in the main Hall.
A stained glass window of St Celia reflects the connection of music with the Hall. In the 17th century St Celia’s day service would be held at St Bride’s Church with music and refreshments. Ode to St Cecilia by Purcell had its first public performance in the Hall on 22 November 1692.
William Tyndale has been painted on a stained glass window in the main Hall. He was well-known for his translation of the Bible from Latin into English. This was an act which was strictly forbidden and deemed heretical by the Church of England, therefore Tyndale was executed.
“In honerem dei et in thome cranmeri cantu ariensis archiepiscopi necnon mistera sive artis” - ‘Dedicated to God and the skills and works of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury’
Thomas Cranmer has been painted on a stained glass window in the main Hall. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry the VIII and a leader of the English reformation. Cranmer was put on trial for treason, imprisoned and executed over two years later.
The Gospel according to Saint Mark is displayed on the northern wall in the Court Room. Interestingly neither Luke nor Matthew’s Gospels can be found in the main Hall which is unusual as often all four go hand in hand.
The Gospel According to St John is also displayed on the southern wall of the Court Room.
A plaque with the writing ‘Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum’ has been painted on the ceiling of the main Hall. The Latin words mean ‘The Word of the Lord Endures Forever’. The motto is based on Isaiah 40: 6-8 and is quoted in Peter 1: 24-25. It is interesting that the motto is used by a Company whose Hall was involved in the process of making the Bible accessible to ordinary English speakers thus giving the Word of the Lord a boost if not into eternity but at least in the English speaking world!
In the history of the Stationers' Company the printing of books has been of huge importance. This is demonstrated by the presence of three books in the Company's crest and books are a major decorative feature in the Hall. They crop up in all sorts of interesting places including the drainpipe outside Stationers' Hall! For much of its history the Company was very involved in the printing of religious books. Probably the most significant of which was the King James Bible.