Passing under the archway to find the orderly beauty of the courtyard was an unexpected delight.
The warm greeting we received from Brothers "P" and "I" helped us to shrug off the weather (which had felt all the colder for the early start we'd made from Liverpool that morning.)
Above: weathered paint,
Right: Underlying damage to ankles
They directed us to the crucifix in question; the painted surface was weathered from many years exposure to the elements.
From the top of a ladder, David inspected the figure more closely. Flakes of loose paint fell like confetti onto my head (which was a welcome change from the heavy rain) we laughed at the results of his "thoroughness!"
Experience told us that beneath the peeling paint we would find large fissures. Not good...
We all know that water can wear away rock; and rain finding its way into a statue via these "waterways" has the same effect. It can erode a figure from the inside, making it unstable.
These breaks in the structure can
It was evident that the ankles of the corpus were about to slide if not remedied soon.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation...
Following that, David prepared the corpus and wood of the cross ready to receive preservation treatments. (Good preparation is essential to restoration work, in order to achieve desireable results.)
Restoring the canopy pelmet
Several of the pendants which form the pelmet, had been replaced, and the fleur de lys painted free hand. They were executed in a way that was a little "out of keeping" with the standard of artwork enjoyed at the Oratory.
David dismantled the pelmet piece by piece, along with the INRI plaque, and further restoration was carried out at our studio.
The Body of Christ - polychroming the Corpus
Extending the life of a religious artwork by way of restoration is important, as it helps to preserve the memory of past traditions, and so carry them into the present. They give us a sense of continuity, and are an important aspect of keeping faith alive.
I approach work like this; I see that God is beauty, and the essence of beauty is to be drawn by it, and to it.
David and I worked as a team to get those stars in place, and finally our work came to an end with the re-attachment of the gilded pelmet.
Working at the Birmingham Oratory supplied us with an extra spiritual blessing, that of kneeling at the altar rail to receive holy communion.
We hope before too long we can visit once again, and share that experience with our children.
As we left the courtyard for the last time, the sun shone brightly on the water flowing from the central fountain.