The Monolith: casting shadows over time

5th July 2018


It stands over two meters tall, its’ structure dwarfing people as they pass by.

It is black and imposing, but a closer inspection reveals it is composed of hundreds of small pieces of wood, hand cut and carefully measured to fit into a very specific space.


'The Monolith'

by Chris Jenkins (photo by Julian Winslow)

It is dark and dense, but at its’ apex is a vast opening, sheathed in beaten copper, reflecting any available light near it. At times it seems lifeless, but at other times a soft light glows from within.

It is The Monolith, a sculpture created by artist Chris Jenkins, as part of Portsmouth Cathedral’s annual theme programme. This year’s theme focusses on Time, and parts of the programme, including Jenkins’ work, are being funded by the Arts Council.

“I wanted to create a really big structure which could cast a really long shadow,” Jenkins explained. “There are huge natural monoliths around the world, which are used as timekeepers as the sun passes overhead and I wanted to create something which would evoke that sense of scale and time passing.”

The piece itself carries subtle and more obvious markers to show its’ timekeeping intentions. There is a digital display inserted into the front which is counting down to the end of the annual theme programme itself, which coincides with the start of Advent. There are also marks on the structure and the rhythm of the internal light, which marks the passage of time during the day.

It’s presence within the Cathedral has not gone unnoticed. Some visitors and members of the Cathedral community have welcomed its’ bold and unusual presence, whereas others have been baffled or even unsettled by it, feeling that it’s not appropriate for a church space.

“We all mark and observe time in different ways,” commented Sharon Court, annual theme curator at the Cathedral. “For some of us, our lives are so full and busy, that it feels like we’re barely surviving the passage of time, never mind appreciating it! But for others, at a different point in their lives, every minute can feel like an hour; every day like a lifetime. For young mothers with a newborn, or for those living with a terminal illness, time is experienced in a very different way.”


Artist Chris Jenkins


with 'The Monolith' at Portsmouth Cathedral   

(photo by Julian Winslow) 



“The Monolith reminds us of the scale, of the vastness of time, but each tiny piece on its surface reminds us that our lives are made up of individual days, hours and moments. Will we savour them, be grateful for them? Or are we so keen to move on, that we don’t realise the value of what we have right now?”

The Monolith will be on display in the Cathedral until the end of November 2018. There is a special opportunity to meet the artist Chris Jenkins and to ask him questions about his work at an artist’s reception on Weds 22nd August. Free tickets can be booked via Eventbrite here and refreshments will be available.

All photos by Julian Winslow. 

Portsmouth Cathedral