Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Abridged from the Hampshire Chronicle.

MORE than 250 people attended the launch of Mark Byford’s latest book, The Annunciation: A Pilgrim’s Quest, in Winchester Cathedral.

Mr Byford, a city resident and former BBC deputy director general, is now a lay canon at the cathedral.

It was a chance viewing of an Annunciation painting in London’s National Gallery that inspired his three-year quest to understand more about the spiritual meaning of the story.

The early 18th century picture by French artist, François Lemoyne, is currently on loan from Winchester College. It first came to Winchester from Paris in 1729 to be displayed as an altar piece in the school’s chapel. However, for almost 300 years, until only recently, French art historians did not know its whereabouts, calling it Lemoyne’s ‘lost Annunciation’.

The picture shows the pivotal point in Christianity when Gabriel informs Mary that she will conceive a son and must name him Jesus. In the book, Mr Byford wonders why the status and significance of the annunciation story has been lost in today’s world.

The publisher, Winchester University Press, describes the book as “a project of scale, ambition and innovation, highly distinctive in its originality of approach and content.”

The impressive cast-list includes the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; the first woman bishop in the Church of England, Libby Lane; the recently appointed Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally; the Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin; the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols; the former President of the Methodist Conference, Mark Wakelin; the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop, Kallistos Ware; and the general director of the Evangelical Alliance, Steve Clifford.

Alongside the searching conversations, Mr Byford travels around England, across the Continent and to the Holy Land, to stand in front of more than 100 great works of art from the past 2,000 years, all inspired by the annunciation story.

The launch was preceded by a special Evensong to mark the feast of the Annunciation, which was included poetry readings and dance.

The Annunciation: A Pilgrim’s Quest is published by Winchester University Press and is available from WUP and P&G Wells bookshop, £40.

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