Guardians at the Gates

While located 1000’s of kilometres apart, and hundreds of years different in age, the following two sculptures have much in common.

The village of Saint Jean Pied de Port is located at the base of the Pyrenees in south-western France. It is one of the departure points for walkers and pilgrims on the St. James Way of the Camino de Santiago, before they cross the border into Spain.

A sculpture of a shepherd, carrying a staff and caring for a lamb, is perched above the Porte d’Espagne in Saint Jean Pied de Port. The shepherd of Saint Jean Pied de Port is a symbol of caring and guidance, protecting all of the pilgrims who pass under the gate at the commencement of their journey.

roncesvalles 1 cw

pied de port v2 cw
the shepherd of Saint Jean Pied de Port

Ryerson University is a post-secondary institution which has a large campus in the heart of downtown Toronto, Canada. Kerr Hall is one of the primary buildings on the campus, and it was constructed in the form of a square, enclosing an open green space in the centre (the Quad). There are two portals that open onto the streets at the north and south ends. Above the south entry gate, there is a statue of an ice hockey goalie.

ryerson 1 cw

ryerson v2 cw
the goalie of Ryerson

The goalie of Ryerson can be viewed as the protector of all those who pass through the gate to enter the campus. I am sure that only in Canada would this metaphor of a goalie as a guardian be accepted and understood. A shepherd with his staff can be universally understood – at least within the Christian ethos – to be a guardian. But a goalie with his hockey stick is a truly Canadian phenomenon. Of course, for some Canadians, hockey is a religion, so it goes without saying that the symbolism of a goalie is well understood.

It would be interesting to see more examples of guardians like these from other parts of the world. If any readers have some images or suggestions, please respond.

Gates (and Walls)

Whereas doors are generally associated with entries to a building, or interior walls of buildings, gates are usually associated with exterior walls or fences. Gates can be similar to doors – they are usually hinged, and they may have a latch or opening mechanism. You can usually see through a gate, so you have a better idea of what is on the other side before you get there.

I have selected a few images of gates from the UK as a variation on the theme of doors for my first Thursday Doors post of the new year.

The first gate image is a favourite of mine, as it includes my first name. You can see through the gate and peer into the dark and mysterious Nicholas Wood.

nicholas wood cw
Nicholas Wood

The next two images continue with the theme of gates incorporated into the landscape. The gate at the entry to a public footpath is hinged and has a spring to keep it closed, in order to keep the sheep on the other side of the drystone wall. The second gate stands alone on the edge of a farmer’s field, while the fence has disappeared. I like to think that gates are more important and enduring than fences (or walls), as they allow for the movement of people, thoughts and ideas.

footpath gate cw
public footpath gate
landscape gate cw
lone gate

The next two gates are associated with walls. We have heard a lot of talk about walls recently, so I won’t contribute to the hubris. I will simply restate my preference for gates.

red gate cw
red gate
twin gates cw
twin gates

The last two gates are associated with final resting places. The graveyard gate provides a vision to a place of burial, as well as to the ocean and the sky beyond.

iona graveyard cw
graveyard gate

For many people in the past, this final gate was a one way gate, which subsequently led to a beheading or another form of execution. Many prisoners accused of treason were taken to the Tower of London along the Thames River and through the Traitors’ Gate during the Tudor era in England.

This gate was originally called the Water Gate, when it was built for King Edward I, and these types of gates are now referred to as watergates. Ironic name, isn’t it?

traitors gate cw
Traitors’ Gate


Small Structures

Here are a few examples of small structures that I have photographed and want to issue as a series of prints. Each image is framed in a white border to isolate the subject.

Yorkshire dales farm structures
Yorkshire dales barn
closed for the season
the Beaches lifeguard station