Not content with mapping our streets in unprecedented detail, Google’s Street View has now turned its attention to the interiors of some major buildings.
Latest on the list is St Paul’s Cathedral. At last we can get a close-up view of the ravishing mosaics covering the spandrels and choir created in the 1890s by William Blake Richmond.
From the point of view of an ordinary visitor, the mosaics some 30 yards above seem vivid, but calm: a quietly contemplative view of God’s creation.
But the new view afforded by Google’s high-resolution cameras is altogether more violent. In an evocation of the then-controversial work by Charles Darwin the fish in the mosaic are not swimming calmly, knowing their place in Creation as assigned in Genesis, but vying for dominance – fighting furiously in a battle for the survival of the fittest.
Simon Carter, the cathedral’s head of collections, told The Times that the mosaic betrays a clear reference to Darwin’s theories about the survival of the fittest, with the depiction of toothed fish “fighting for survival”.
He explained that Darwin’s theories were still controversial at the time that Richmond created his best-known work. Indeed it was only eight years ago that the Church of England officially apologised for dismissing Darwin’s ideas.
Mr Carter said: “The Origin of Species had been published 40 years earlier and the Church was still wrestling with that.
“With the fishes, it looks like they are struggling for survival. It is red in tooth and claw. Richmond was obviously driving at something else.”
The mosaics have never been seen this closely by the general public before, but it seems as if the timing is just about right.
Photo credits: Google Cultural Institute