Hereford Cathedral hits back at criticism of Grayson Perry art display

Hereford Cathedral is hitting back at criticism over an art piece by award-winning cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry that questions the existence of heaven and hell and uses obscenities.

Perry's 'map of nowhere' is on display in the 1,000-year-old building opposite a 13th century Christian map of the world and features as part of the Mapping Inspirations event that opened at the cathedral earlier this month.

Grayson Perry's work is causing controversy in Hereford.Pinterest / ContemporaryArtSociety

Chapter clerk Glyn Morgan told Christian Today that presenting challenging ideas was 'very much' something the Church should be doing. 

'Most of us who are regular churchgoers know that to have your understanding challenged and stretched is something that most of us who attend church regularly are looking for,' he said.

'It is part of the aim of the exhibition and indeed as Mappa Mundi would have done in its own time,' he added.

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The medieval Christian map, Mappa Mundi, depicts Jerusalem as centre of the world and the East at the top because that was where the sun rose and Christians looked for Christ's second coming in medieval thinking.

Perry's map sits opposite the ancient treasure and offers his own version of a different work called the Ebstorf map, which shows the world as within Jesus' body.

In Perry's alternative his own body is labelled with offensive descriptive words and a house labelled as Oxbridge is next to a group of abandoned schoolchildren. 

In the notes underneath his work, Perry says: 'The basic formal design came from a German Mappa Mundi called the Ebstorf map, which was destroyed in the Second World War.

'It showed Jesus as the body of the world. My daughter often accuses me of setting myself up as God so I made the lakes and rivers into my body. The whole idea of alchemy and a spiritual body fascinates me.'

In response to outrage about the Cathedral's decision to allow the piece reported by the Daily Mail, the cathedral's chancellor Rev Canon Chris Pullin said: 'Although the Mappa is a medieval Christian artefact it does contain many images that come from pagan classical culture and from further afield, so has always presented a wide and generous view of the world and of ideas about it.'

'Grayson Perry's response to the Mappa is his own personal take on things,' he added.

'Displaying his Map of Nowhere is not an endorsement of ideas he seems to express within it, but an opportunity for all of us to see what a significant contemporary artist has produced as his own Mappa Mundi.

'We are free to agree or to disagree with the take on life it expresses, but that's true of the Mappa Mundi too.

'We have had many appreciative comments about the exhibition, and some people have made a special effort to visit in order to see the works on display.'

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