Christ Church Crest

The Bell Altar

The altar and the cross carved from its base were commissioned to mark the millennium. They commemorate George Bell, Bishop of Chichester in the Second World War who courageously in the House of Lords opposed the saturation bombing of German cities.  He had been an undergraduate, Tutor and Student (Fellow) of Christ Church.  Bell was a friend of the German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in 1945 left Bell his last testimony:  “Tell him that for me this is the end but also the beginning.  With him I believe in the principle of our Universal Christian brotherhood which rises above all national interests and that our victory is certain”.    The wood sculptor Jim Partridge carved the altar from a single, massive block of 17th century English oak, given by Her Majesty the Queen, Visitor of Christ Church from her estate in Windsor Great Park. 

On the floor in front of the altar the letter cutter Jim Neilson has carved words from a broadcast Bell made to Germany in 1945:  “No nation, no church, no individual is guiltless.  Without repentance and without forgiveness, there can be no regeneration”.    This is symbolized by the altar which Partridge scorched from wood still green, and by the cross carved from its base and lying by its side, a symbol of origin and return.  In 2003 the George Bell altar won the Art+Christianity Enquiry award for a commissioned artwork in ecclesiastical space.

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