An ancient crypt deep within London’s St. Pancras Parish Church has been reawakened… and transformed into an art gallery! Since 2002 the Crypt Gallery has opened its doors to host 21st Century Contemporary artists in a unique setting amid 557 grave sites. An ever-changing cycle of innovative contemporary artists now shares the walls with the bodies laying in eternal rest inside.
The crypt received its first coffin burial in 1822, with the body of 12 year old Ellen Strachey. It was then used as an alternative to village burial grounds, offering more space to deceased family members, for a little more money of course. The crypt closed in 1854, when London closed its churches to burials, and now it serves as the eternal resting place of 557 bodies. Over the years, the crypt was used as a canteen during World War II, and as an air raid shelter during the London Blitz.
The small space is now known simply as The Crypt Gallery. It’s run by Director Claire Pinney, although it also invites guests to curate the space. St. Pancras Parish has always been a supporter of the arts, so it was fitting to house a gallery within the space. Artists are attracted to showing there because it is a moody and historical setting – a far cry from the gleaming white walls of most galleries.
Paintings, sculpture, and photographs are displayed in the crypt’s underground brick tunnels and archways. Much of the work displayed takes on new meaning when juxtaposed against the crypt’s historic past, leaving both the visitor, and the artist, with new insight into their own work.
Images and artwork @HIN