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The entrance to St John the Divine is by the North door on Vassal Road. In the porch, look up and you will see the Korean Icon, a large 20th-Century painting which was painted by members of the Brotherhood of St Seraphim in Walsingham, Norfolk. It commemorates the foundation of the Anglican Church in Korea in 1890 by Bishop Corfe. The work was designed in the style of an Orthodox sanctuary screen called an iconostasis, which is traditionally covered in many small icons of saints and patriarchs.
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At the apex of the iconistasis stand Our Lady of the Protecting Veil, asking God to bring unity and peace to Korea and to continue the spiritual bond between England and Korea. On the left is the symbol of the Korean Mission, and on the right is the yin-yang symbol, or um-yang in Korean, a traditional oriental symbol representing the opposing forces light and dark, male and female, etc. A variant of this symbol is used in the Taegukki, the South Korean flag.
Above the line of icons stand the Angels and Archangels witnessing to the Glorious Kingdom. Among them is St Michael, reminding us to pray for St Michael’s Seminary in Korea and the education and training it provides.
On the other side stands an icon of St Nicholas with the great Cathedral of Seoul with its two churches spanning the vast distances of the spiritual bond between Britain and Korea.
St Seraphim (1759-1833) lived a life of monastic abstinence in Russia. As a monk, he represents the work of the icon painters, and also witnesses to the monastic life and those who give themselves to contemplative prayer in the service of others.
Behind Our Lady is St James the Apostle, patron of all pilgrims and evangelists. James was a disciple of Jesus and the head of the early church in Jerusalem.
The central figure of the icon is Jesus sitting on the Throne in glory, shown after His ascension into heaven as Pancrator (Greek for 'Lord of All'). It is an icon of Resurrection, of Healing, of Victory, of Proclamation of Jesus as Lord of all the world. The colours gold and red represent the Kingdom of God. The scriptures are opened at the text "I am the light of the world", Jesus' declaration about himself in John, 8:12. Surrounding Jesus on the Throne are the Seraphim and Cherubim, the angels of God's heavenly host.
Jesus is enthroned in a circular mandala, and at four points around the throne are the symbols of the four gospels, echoing the design of the Taegukki, the national flag of Korea, with the four gospels arranged like the Kwae, the four symbols of heaven, fire, water and earth. At each point beyond that are the signs and symbols of the four gospels representing His work and His authority. On either side of the Pancrator Christ in Glory are two lines of Saints.
Opposite the Virgin Mary is St John the Baptist, the prophet who foretold the coming of Jesus and who baptised Him in the River Jordan.
Born in Cheapside, London, St Thomas-à-Beckett was Archbishop of Canterbury under King Henry II until he was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Two of the king's knights slew the Archbishop after hearing the king say, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?", after which Henry was forced to do public penance. Thomas died fighting for the Church, and has long been seen as a martyred of the old conflict between Church and State. More about St Thomas à Beckett
Behind him stands Father Charles Brooke, who was the second vicar of St John the Divine (1881-1900) and a generous benefactor of this church and local schools. His tireless support for the Korean Brotherhood and for the work of evangelism is remembered in this icon.
Bishop Corfe founded the Anglican Church in Korea in 1890. The Korean icon was dedicated in memory of Bishop Corfe, who went forth from this church to minister to the people of Korea. He is shown here at prayer in his ecclesiastical robes.