Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
26 Apr 2013
The reredos statues will be blessed by Cardinal Pell on Sunday
The 16 magnificent new statues recently installed in the reredos, the ornate stone screen behind the high altar at St Mary's Cathedral will be blessed by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell this Sunday.
Cardinal Pell who returns from Rome tomorrow will preside as Principal Celebrant at the 10.30 High Solemn Mass at the Cathedral the following day when he will also bless the statues.
The specially-commissioned hand-carved painted wooden statues of Christ's disciples along with ones of St Paul, St John the Baptist and the two Biblical Prophets, Elijah and Moses were part of architect William Wardell's vision for the Cathedral 133 years ago. But the past 100-plus years the only statue in the reredos has been the beautifully carved depiction of Our Lady Help of Christians, patron saint of Australia, which stands in the central niche above the high altar.
A century later, no one is sure why the other 16 niches were never filled. Legend has it that the statues were ordered from European ecclesiastical sculptors but went down with the ship carrying them to Australia. But according to the Dean of the Cathedral, Father Paul Hilder, there is no proof this is what actually happened.
A statue of St Paul created by Spain's renowned Talleres de Arte sacred art workshops
Whatever the reason, thanks to Cardinal Pell, the oversight has now been corrected.
Commissioned by His Eminence and made possible by generous donations from individuals through the Friends of the Cathedral as well as by organisations such as Sydney's Catholic Women's League and the University Chaplaincies of Sydney, Spain's famous ecclesiastical studios, Talleres de Arte Grandas began creating the 16 statues early last year.
For almost 12 months, sculptors, carvers, painters and artisans worked on each statue. Each one a work of art in its own right, the statues finally arrived in Australia in late December 2012. Carefully unpacked, they went on display in St Mary's Lady Chapel in late January this year, enabling parishioners, visitors and art lovers a close-up view of the Cathedral's latest treasures.
Six weeks later, in March this year, a team of heritage stone masons spent more than a week installing the statues in the ornate stone screen reredos above the high altar.
This Sunday's blessing of the statues will have special meaning for the Friends of the Cathedral and members of the organisations whose donations made their creation possible.
Since his arrival in Sydney in 2001, Cardinal Pell has done much to complete Wardell's original vision for the Cathedral. He has also been responsible for the ongoing conservation, repair, cleaning and restoration of St Mary's sandstone interior and exterior as well as the cleaning and restoration of the Cathedral's historic collection of paintings, artefacts and sculptures.
Installation of the statues in the Cathedral reredos needed special care and expertise
In addition, Cardinal Pell has commissioned and overseen the acquisition of treasures such as the outstanding marble altar triptych by British master sculptor Nigel Boonham and the superb statue of Australia's first saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop by Melbourne-based sculptor, Louis Laumen which stands on the steps of the Cathedral's western transept in College Street.
Wardell's vision also included a series of statues of female saints for the Cathedral's Lady Chapel and this may well be one of the projects considered in the future for the city's iconic and much beloved Cathedral.
The blessing of the reredos statues by Cardinal Pell will take place at the 10.30am Solemn High Mass at St Mary's Cathedral on Sunday, 28 April.
Cardinal Pell also commissioned the Cathedral's beautiful and moving altar triptych