This must be how it feels to be a god. The 28 tiny, stunningly detailed and impossible fragile models of European cathedrals sit in glass domes on shelves ... looking so lifelike that a deity watching from above might, depending on his mood, applaud the effort made in his name, or smash them to smithereens without a second thought... The models ... were made by William Gorringe between 1840 and 1850 for Sir Herbert Oakeley, a composer of church music ... Gorringe's cathedrals ... are made of cardboard and glue. A fine knife has been used to score the roofs to lend them the texture of lead or slate. Slivers of mica have been used to represent glazed windows. Edifices bristle with tiny statues, often just millimetres high. You need to crouch and push your face close to the glass case to fully appreciate the extraordinary detail.
The bulk of the models are of English cathedrals - including St Paul's, York Minster, Lincoln, Canterbury, Westminster Abbey and Durham - with five European cathedrals chosen for comparative significance. Gorringe almost produced these exquisite European miniatures without seeing the originals, instead making careful study of Oakeley's paintings and engravings to ensure he captured the craggy Gothic adornments of Strasbourg and Cologne.
Gorringe was known to have made other models, but they have disappeared to time. The cathedral models were built at a scale of 60 feet to 1 inch. They were later used to illustrate Sir Bannister Fletcher's A History of Architecture.
I would love to see these one day. In the meantime, I have my eye on the exhibition catalog.