Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
29 Jul 2013
29 Jul 2013
Hand-crafted meticulously sculpted statues of eight female saints will take pride of place in the Lady Chapel of St Mary's Cathedral fulfilling architect William Wardell's original vision for the Cathedral.
Earlier this year, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell commissioned the world renown Spanish company Talleres de Arte Granda, to create sculptures of the eight female saints. This important commission follows the 16 specially-sculpted statues of the Apostles, St Paul, St John the Baptist and the prophets, Elijah and Moses which were also created by the Talleres de Arte Granda and installed in the ornate marble reredos behind the Cathedral's main altar earlier this year.
When Wardell designed the reredos 133 years ago 17 niches were designed to hold statue replicas of the 12 Apostles, St Paul and St John the Baptist, the prophets and at the centre a sculpture of Our Lady Help of Christians, patron saint of Australia.
The statue of Our Lady was installed almost immediately but for almost one and a half centuries the other 16 niches remained empty.
The foresight of His Eminence helped correct this and now Wardell's plans for the Cathedral will be further fulfilled when the statues of eight female saints are completed and installed in the Lady Chapel early next year.
However unlike the saints installed in the reredos this will be the first time artisans at the 120-year-old Talleres de Arte Granda have tackled sculptures of so many female saints who will take pride of place in the Lady Chapel. Currrently, the company's expert carvers, painters and ecclesiastical experts are involved in research, pouring over paintings of the female saints, and for the more recently canonised saints, studying any existing photographs to ensure their depiction as accurate as possible.
The eight female saints commissioned by His Eminence include St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, or Mother Teresa as she is still popularly known. Three great Doctors of the Church will also be among the statues created by the famous Spanish workshops: St Catherine of Siena, St Hildegarde of Bingen and St Teresa of Avila.
The remaining three statues are perhaps less well known but no less important.
These statues will be of St Monica of Hippo, the fourth century mother of St Augustine and patron saint of married women, housewives, mothers, widows, victims of domestic abuse and victims of adultery and unfaithfulness; St Maria Goretti, the nineteenth century's Italian 11-year-old virgin-martyr and now patron saint of chastity, rape victims, youth, teenage girls, purity and forgiveness; and the Jewish-born Catholic convert and religious, St Teresia Benedicta of the Cross who died at Auschwitz in 1942. Canonised by Blessed John Paul II in 1998 she is now one of the six patron saints of Europe.
Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of St Mary's Cathedral, funds needed to create seven of the eight saints have already been raised.
"We're still looking for a sponsor for the statue of St Teresia Benedicta or St Edith Stein as many still refer to her," says Helen Hofman, House and Events Manager at St Mary's Cathedral, and a member of the Friends of the Cathedral.
St Teresia Benedicta was born Edith Stein, the daughter of a Jewish family in Breslau, Germany. Exceptionally gifted as child with a love of learning, by her teenage years she had repudiated Judaism and had declared herself an atheist.
Awarded a doctor of philosophy at just 25, her life changed forever five years later after spending part of the summer in 1921 reading St Teresa of Avila's autobiography. The impact was instant and profound and she not only rediscovered her belief in God but made the decision to become a Roman Catholic.
Baptised into the faith on 1 January, 1922, St Teresia resigned from her research role at Freiburg University and became a teacher at the Dominicans nuns' school in Speyer, Germany. During her time there she translated Thomas Aquinas' De Veritate into German and developed a deep knowledge of Roman Catholic teachings and philosophy.
By 1933 the Nazis' increasing power and anti-Semitic legislation had forced her to give up her position with Germany's Institute of Pedagogy. The legislation and rise of Hitler appalled her and in a letter to His Holiness Pope Pius XI she asked him to publicly denounce the Nazi regime and "put a stop to this abuse of Christ's name."
A short time later that same year, she entered the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Cologne and after taking her vows, took the name Teresia Benedicta of the Cross.
Although St Teresia did not receive an answer to her letter, and it not known if the Pontiff even saw it, by 1937 Pope Pius XI had issued an encyclical written in German in which he harshly criticised Nazism, listed breaches of the concord signed between Germany and the Church and condemned anti-Semitism.
Germany took no notice and the Nazi threat against Jews continued to escalate with hundreds of thousands across Europe rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
In a bid to keep St Teresia safe, the Discalced Carmelites arranged for her to be transferred to a monastery in the Netherlands. But by then nowhere in Europe was safe either for Jews or for those who had converted to other faiths.
In July 1942 St Teresia and her sister Rosa, who was also a convert to Catholicism, were arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Less than a month later, St Teresia and her sister were herded into the gas chambers where they were exterminated on 9 August 1942.
St Teresia was just 50 years old.
Anyone wishing to donate funds to help sponsor the eighth and final statue commissioned for the Lady Chapel should contact Dieter Koch, Property Manager for the Archdiocese of Sydney by emailing Dieter.Koch@sydneycatholic.org or by contacting St Mary's Cathedral by phoning 02 9220 0400.
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY