Acts of the Apostles tapestryThe Acts of the Apostles: Healing the Lame Man, Cathedral Nave

Cathedral Tapestries: The Acts of the Apostles

Based on events in the New Testament's Book of Acts, The Acts of the Apostles were copied from the famous Raphael cartoons, which were designed for a set of tapestries woven between 1517 and 1521 by Flemish master weaver Pieter van Aelst. The original set of 10 tapestries was commissioned by Pope Leo X to fill the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel. Three of the cartoons were lost very early on, but the remaining seven were purchased in Geneva in 1623 by England's Prince of Wales, later King Charles I. (The original set now hangs in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.) The Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory immediately began to weave copies of the Raphael cartoons under the direction of Sir Frances Crane. England produced the finest wool ever used in tapestry work and with Italian art design and Flemish loom operators, many textile historians consider the Mortlake Manufactory of great importance. The Cathedral's set, donated by Mrs. Margaret Louise Bruguiere in 1954, is very similar to Mortlake work and is one of 55 complete or partial sets of tapestries known to have been made in Europe from the Raphael cartoons.

The set in the Cathedral includes the subjects of the remaining seven Raphael cartoons—The Death of Ananias, Paul Preaching in Athens, The Blinding of Elymas, The Healing of the Lame Man, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, Christ's Charge to St. Peter, and The Sacrifice at Lystra—as well as a companion piece to The Death of Ananias, The Death of Sapphira (Sapphira was the wife of Ananias). In addition, Christ's Charge to St. Peter was woven into two pieces (prior to its donation to the Cathedral), bringing the total up to nine. The tapestries vary in size; their specific dimensions were chosen to fit the house of Daniel Finch, the Earl of Nottingham and of Winchelsea, who commissioned this set in the 1690s.