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Like John Martin, Colman specialised in apocalyptic paintings. Colman was a Nonconformist: a Protestant who opposed the Established Church, in this case the Church of England. Not surprisingly, this painting shows the embodiment of state-run religion – a Gothic cathedral – being destroyed, with its inhabitants cowering in terror. Resurrected spirits rise from the ground and assemble in the sky above. The cathedral’s stone cross, representing established religion, crashes to the ground, silhouetted by a blood-red horizon. Meanwhile the true cross, the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and of eternal life and here representing pure faith, appears in the brilliant celestial light.

September 2004