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Mount St Bernard's Abbey

Mount St Bernard Abbey stands in beautiful Leicestershire countryside and is a fully working abbey originally founded in 1835.

The monastic choir area of the main Abbey Church was built during 1839 - 44 by AW Pugin with extensions carried out by EW Pugin during 1840 - 60 which included the chapter house, guest house and almshouse. Further extensions were carried out on the church - including the central crossing (now the sanctuary), together with the lay nave during 1935 - 39 by Albert Herbert.

Anthony Smith was invited to Mount St Bernard by house electrician Father Stephen Gowers with the brief that the existing lighting failed to meet the requirements of the community and wider congregation. It was also poor in regards to the achievable lighting levels and the energy efficiency was limited.

Loosely the Abbey Church is divided into three areas and the re-lighting work was divided into three phases. The uses of all three areas are different so due consideration was given at an early stage to ensure compatibility not only from a lighting point of view but also the impact of the new lighting on the varying styles of architecture, together with the varying needs of both the monastic community and the public.

Within the monastic choir area (the oldest part of the Abbey Church) the lighting again needed to be different to suit the various services with the first of the day being at 3.30am.

The lighting has been provided through the installation of combined up and down lights with flexibility being incorporated through the use of dimmable high frequency compact fluorescent lamps which provide an extremely long lamp life and excellent energy efficiency.

The independently switched up-lighting allows the wonderful Pugin roof to be enhanced visually especially during darkness hours and as enhancement during a concert or other type of performance the effect achieved is quite stunning.

The liturgical west end of the abbey, where the public worship, has been illuminated with separate up-lighting and down lighting from specially designed luminaires using energy efficient lamps with a long working life.

The up-lighting is switched independently from the down lighting so that during a penitential service, concert or other type of performance then only the up-lights have to be used to produce a suitable level of light.

The new wall mounted luminaires were specifically designed so that they did not spoil the aesthetics or provide an additional focal point but to allow the general public to be able to read small print whilst illuminating the interesting roof structure.

The sanctuary area, which is the central crossing under the tower, has been illuminated in a different manner to either the monastic choir or the public nave with the use of reflected light from the decorative vaulted roof which provides an even spread of light across the entire area. Again energy efficient light sources with extended lamp lives have been utilised.

A further difficulty within the sanctuary is that the altar is worshipped from both sides and careful consideration was needed to ensure that glare was not caused through the highlighting of the altar and ambo etc.

Father Stephen said

"Members of the community were very appreciative of the care and consideration given by Richard and Peter during the installation as the cables are hardly seen. The way they worked around our daily routine was admirable; we have seven services each day with four of these falling between the hours of 8am and 5pm. The way they made themselves invisible at the appropriate times was to be admired and the whole transition from the existing lighting to the new system appeared almost seamless."

Bursar Father Denis states

"the project was a great success and our choice of lighting consultant was justly rewarded."


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