Carved in Belgium 1858, restored in the U.K. 2018
Father wanted his Gothic stations of the cross to look as beautiful as possible.
Created in 1858, the stations needed a sensitive approach to refurbishment, ensuring any new repairs married well with the age of the artworks.
Make do and Mend
The stations had been restored once before, in 1948, just after the war. During this period, some makeshift changes had been made, the bright colours of the frames had been painted over in a tan brown.
The spires and gilded acanthus leaves atop the canopies had been damaged. Spears and clubs once held by the carved wooden soldiers had also been lost in the mists of time.
Whoever had last restored these gothic stations had done their best with what they had. 'Make do and mend' was a widely held philosophy during the war years. As a consequence, the scenery of the stations had been either completely painted out, or repainted by a less experienced hand than the original artist. (see right)
Waste not, want not
When we visit various churches, parishioners often tell us how unhappy they are about the scenic element of their stations of the cross having been painted out. Usually a zealous person with a spare tin of gold paint has done the deed in the dead of night - or so it would seem.
(I have seen craft shop glitter used before today.)
In leaner times, the saying 'to waste not is to want not', made good sense, yet equally sensible is the consideration of 'false economy'. In the worst scenario those left over gloss paints can destroy all trace of the original artwork, which borders on iconoclasm with a small 'i'.
The church once employed many skilled artists and artisans in centuries past, but present times tell a different story as church attendance shrinks. When people ask how did I get involved in church statue restoration, I can only say that in the present culture, it was happy coincidence and God's grace. As a religious once said to me, "Working for the Lord has little pay, but the rewards are etermal!". To restore church art with a level of expertise, it helps to be a bit of an enthusiast, have a sense of history, and be prepared to put in that extra effort to develop one's abilities. As usual, I digress...
With all of the above in mind, we felt it important to restore the missing painted scenes behind the figures. Not only to keep the integrity of the set, but also to enhance the devotional and Catechetical nature of the artworks.
By returning the gothic stations to their historical appearance, parishioners of today can be mindful of the faith of our forefathers, and that we are all part of the same huge Catholic family. Even uncle, with his spare tin of gold railing paint.
See more stations of the cross