Days before we closed for Christmas break, I visited a church to refurbish the carved symbols on the altar. These were of the alpha and omega, with a Pelican in the centre, feeding its young.
The Carving of the Pelican was looking rather dull. It was lost in a sea of beautiful deep green marble. The story it was meant to tell had become unreadable.
The P.P. wanted to revive that story, so that he could better explain the Eucharist to the children.
The story goes something like this:
In medieval times, it was thought that the Pelican preened feathers from her breast until it bled. With her own blood, she fed her young chicks to ensure their survival.
The Pelican became a symbol of the Eucharist; Christ feeding the faithful with His own body and blood.
I might add to the story by saying "Strengthened and matured, the young birds find that they have the strength to leave the earthly nest and soar heavenward."
The source of this legend has been lost in time, yet it gave rise to the intriguing Catholic symbol we see in our churches today.
The following set of stations of the cross belong to a London Church.
Father wanted them to look as beautiful as possible, but hold back on some areas where damage was minimum to retain their sense of age.
I think this was the right approach, as the stations were new in 1858, and part of their beauty was in their age.
The figures which make up the tableaus, are beautifully carved, and originate from Belgium or Germany. As with many old church pieces their provenance has been lost with the passage of time.
We restored the figures where paint had flaked, and replaced missing spears and clubs.
The spires and gilded acanthus leaves were broken, along with some of the crosses topping the frames. We found that the wooden frames had been more colourful, the tan brown which now predominated was not original, but a change made just after the war.
It appeared that when the stations has been restored in 1948, new back grounds had been added, perhaps the originals had deteriorated to such an extent that this was deemed necessary.
The image below shows the crudity of this " new" addition compared to the attention given to the frames and figures.
When we visit various churches, parishioners often tell us how unhappy they are about the scenic element to their stations of the cross having been painted out altogether.
We felt it important to address this problem, not only to restore some of the original integrity of the artworks, but also to enhance the story - telling aspect of the set. (That is the Catechetical element.)
The following images show the eleventh and twelfth stations with backgrounds re-painted in th spirit of the originals.
When he asked if I might take up the challenge, I was delighted to accept.
I showed him a small 12 inch statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament which I had made some years ago; (and almost forgotten) He declared that it fitted the bill perfectly!
This story is about two people being in the right place at the right time; what St. John Paul the Great would call a "God- incidence" rather than a "co- incidence".
Commissioning a statue of Our Blessed Mother isn't just a matter of commerce or duty; according to St. Louis de Montforte they are vehicles which encourage us to holiness.
In his famous treatise, St. Louis lists twelve interior practices which indicate "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin" (Article 115)
Here are three which concern religious statues:
9) Taking charge of her confraternities, decorating her altars, crowning and adorning her statues.
(I will post further progress on this sculpture as time allows.)
I am posting some photos of the recently restored Marian Retable designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1937.
We finished the work earlier this week, and the scaffolding is yet to be removed.
As the original angels were missing, we made replicas of those on the main Reredos behind the high altar, and added those.
This approach was in keeping with the original design of 1937, though some gold spindles would have been a welcome addition to complete the look -
The retable and altar may have looked fine without the angels - however, adding them reminds us that Mary is Queen of Angels! So are thereby a fitting attribute to help parishioners read the language of this sacred imagery.
As evidence of the original decorative scheme was scant ( see below) we introduced a legend to each of the side dioramas.
Fr. "S" chose the fitting words "Mater Dei" and "Mater Nostra" for each.
As a suitable statue of Our Lady and the Christ child could not be found, I have been asked to produce a suitable Madonna and child in the coming New Year to fit the space; the statue will be of Our lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
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