The Spiritual Significance of the Defended Portal in art, according to AK Coomaraswamy

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19:00- 20:30


Virginia Gray Henry

We are delighted to announce a new lecture as part of the Bagri Foundation Open Programme at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts; Virginia Gray Henry will discuss the concept and representation of the Gate to the Garden of Paradise, also known as the Defended Portal, in literature and visual arts.

Mrs Henry will examine the recurrence of the Gate and some  associated motifs such as the tree, the fountain or the throne in many cultures for more than 4000 years. Drawing on AK Coomaraswarmy’s research and illustrations, she will investigate the symbolism of these motifs as they embody  concepts of origin, destiny, regeneration and our understanding of the relationship between material and spiritual. More than merely a decorative motif, the Defended Portal evokes the journey of the soul and represents moral and spiritual teachings that form the base of the world’s great traditions.

Virginia Gray Henry

Virgina Gray Henry is the founder and director of the world-renowned US-based interfaith publishing house Fons Vitae. She has had a life-long dedication to the integration of the spiritual dimension into everyday life and has achieved world recognition for this endeavour through teaching and lecturing world-wide, making films, writing and publishing. Fons Vitae is devoted to publishing works on world spirituality with a specialty in Sufism, as well as books on sacred art and symbolism.


She studied under Joseph Campbell, attended Azhar University and the American University in Cairo, and was a research fellow at Clare College, Cambridge. In 1987, she began doctoral work at the University of Kent on the final, unpublished manuscripts of AK Coomaraswamy.

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