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.

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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.

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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.

The Journeys

St. Cuthbert played an important role in the early introduction of Christianity to the people of northern Britain in the 7th Century. Cuthbert first became a Prior in Melrose, Scotland, and then moved on to become the Prior at Lindisfarne (Holy Island). Following his death as Bishop of Lindisfarne in 687, he was buried at Lindisfarne Priory.

St. Cuthbert’s relics later became important religious artefacts. Amid the threat of Viking invasions, St. Cuthbert’s relics were transported to various locations between 875 and 1104, when they were moved to a shrine in the new cathedral of Durham, where they are still located.

Over the past four years, we have travelled to the UK on our journey to retrace the steps of St. Cuthbert. In 2015, we walked on St. Cuthbert’s Way, from Melrose to Lindisfarne. We returned by car in 2018 to visit Lindisfarne and Durham. Our stay in Lindisfarne included participating in an archaeological dig to help discover the site of the original priory on the island. We also toured the Open Treasure exhibit and the Shrine of St. Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral.

A modern homage to the journey of St. Cuthbert’s relics is housed inside the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, located adjacent to the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory. ‘The Journey’ was created by English sculptor Fenwick Lawson and installed in the church in 2009. This sculpture was carved from seven elm trees and depicts six monks from Holy Island carrying the coffin of St. Cuthbert to safety.

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the Journey

 

My image of The Journey has been edited in Photoshop with the intent to depict the historical theme of the sculpture.

Masks and Stone Faces

Masks have been created and used for thousands of years in many indigenous cultures. They may represent the spirits of ancestors, and were often constructed of native materials such as wood or clay. Two images of masks from Africa and Australia are included in this post.

Sculptures in stone can be almost immortal. The human form was often used to depict gods or other deities. I have chosen two faces of stone that are on display in Paris and in London.

I have been experimenting with techniques to recede the background in order to focus more intensely on the facial features of these masks and faces.

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African mask
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Australian mask
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Paris sculpture
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London sculpture