Archbishop of Canterbury portrait painting displayed at Auckland Castle

The first portrait of the Archbishop of Canterbury has gone on display alongside artwork covering 500 years of Church history

Artist Roger Wagner with his painting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Artist Roger Wagner with his painting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

The painting of Justin Welby has been hung in Auckland Castle, County Durham, after artist Roger Wagner spent nine months working on it.

Commissioned for the castle, the portrait of the former Bishop of Durham will go on display in the grand Throne Room.

This continues a tradition dating back to the 15th Century of previous bishops of Durham having their portraits displayed in the historic building.

Speaking about the unveiling, the Archbishop said: “It was a great privilege to be painted by such a distinguished artist. I am very grateful that this should hang in the Throne Room at Auckland Castle in such distinguished company.”

In the picture he can be seen holding one of the crosses made of medieval nails salvaged from the roof of Coventry Cathedral after its destruction in the Second World War, and presented to him when he was canon there.


Mr Wagner said: “It was a great honour to paint a sitting archbishop and to contribute to the great series of bishops at Auckland Castle, many of which have been painted by distinguished artists.

“Together with the Archbishop, we agreed we wanted it to be a simple portrait. He didn’t want to be painted in his episcopal robes but I wanted to do something that told the world something about him.

“I had already thought it would be nice to get the Coventry cross in and I had noticed that when the Archbishop talks, he often plays with it, so the idea of getting him holding it seemed natural.”

The painting will be the 40th of previous bishops of Durham at the Castle, 24 of which are on display in the Throne Room.

Chris Ferguson, head curator at Auckland Castle, said: “It’s carrying on a long and noble tradition of portraits of the bishops of Durham being commissioned for the castle.

“Even though the castle has entered a new and exciting phase of its life, it is still where the Bishop of Durham officially has his office and the portrait is part of not just that tradition but of past bishops being painted by the best artists of their day.”

The Right Reverend Welby became the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Anglican church, in 2013, but before that he had been the Bishop of Durham for just over a year.

After having a career in the oil industry, he studied for ordination at Cranmer Hall and St John’s College, Durham, in 1989.

His church career then took him to Nuneaton, Coventry and Liverpool before he became Bishop of Durham.


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