Return of the Angels

Last week, a colleague told me of a spectacular happening out in the street that I couldn't miss. I grabbed my camera, and we ran up Mansfield to see the above statues being loaded onto a flatbed truck. They had been stored in the basement of the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral Basilica on René Lévesque West since 1978, and were now on their way to the Quebec Conservation Centre* in Quebec City for restoration.

On Mansfield, we also met Kevin Cohalan, the Vice-President of the Plateau Mont-Royal Historical and Genealogical Society. He informed us that these statues, the work of renowned religious sculptor Olindo Gratton, had originally been mounted in 1909 on the Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church in the Mile End. Some of you non-churchgoers may remember this as the site of the 2009 Expozine. The wedding cake façade of this church is indeed unique, and it somehow reminds me of the St-Sulpice in Paris.

As you can see from the pictures below, these were wooden sculptures covered with copper sheets that were welded together. This was cheaper and lighter than using bronze and a widespread practice at the time. Unfortunately, over the years, water seeped into the wood, causing it to rot, and the statues eventually began to fall apart. Bernard Mulaire, the great-grand-nephew of Olindo Gratton, noted the poor condition of the sculptures in 1977 and was instrumental in having the Montreal diocese take them down and put them into storage. The Plateau Mont-Royal Historical and Genealogical Society has been lobbying for the restoration and return of the angels in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church.

As I took my pictures, I was astounded by the beauty and, particularly, the fine details of the sculptures, which would be perched some 50 feet off the ground, far from anyone to fully appreciate. In the pictures below, you will notice the folds in fabric, the natural wave of the hair, the expression lines on foreheads and cheeks, and even the veins and tendons on the hands and forearms. It was a unique opportunity to see these 10-foot sculptures up close, and it was reassuring to learn that the Quebec Religious Heritage Council (CPRQ) would be funding 70% of the $90,000 project.

Have you ever been moved by a beautiful religious work of art? I'd love to hear about it.

All of these statues form two separate works: the Last Judgment and the Star of Bethlehem. To see these two works on the front of St-Enfant-Jésus prior to 1978, click here.

*As a courtesy to my readers, I have translated the names of organizations. The official names are always in French.


Rose Casanova | January 25, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Magnifico! Heather. I can't wait to see them restored.

Heather | January 25, 2010 at 6:42 PM

Nor can I. The restoration is supposed to be finished sometime in the fall of 2010. They're hoping the two works will be atop the church in time for Christmas 2010. I can't wait to see them. Thanks for stopping by Rose.

Johanna | January 30, 2010 at 8:12 PM

I've been moved not so much by a religious work of art but a church -- a big church: Sherborne Abbey in Dorset, England ( I remember finding it peaceful and simple.

Heather | January 30, 2010 at 8:51 PM

I just checked out the picture. It's beautiful and it does look peaceful.

Johanna | January 30, 2010 at 11:41 PM

It's even better inside.

Post a Comment