Sunday, 24 June 2007

The Nativity of St John the Baptist

The title of this Feast is specific; the use of the word 'nativity' links it closely with the Nativity of the Lord, and indeed in medieval times this day was known as the 'Midsummer Christmas' (you do the maths), celebrated by bonfires and revelry across the country.

In the Cathedral baptistry stands one of our rare sculptures; a copy of Bertel Thorvaldsen's image of John the Baptist in Copenhagen Cathedral. Thorvaldsen, you may remember, was a neo-Classical Danish sculptor, and is the only Protestant sculptor to boast a work in St Peter's in Rome. I have been told that this version is cast in Cornish tin, although that would seem to me an insufficiently robust medium for such a large work. For a while, in the 1990s, it was removed to stand over the door of nearby St Vincent's convent in Carlisle Place (it doesn't feature in the major recent work on the Cathedral, Building of Faith) but was returned to the Cathedral in the time of my predecessor. nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
I have not been able to find out why this sculpture is here; it may well be that it arrived in the era of Mgr Wheeler (Administrator 1954 - 1964) or Mgr Bartlett (Administrator 1967 - 1977), both of whom acquired notable artistic works for the Cathedral. However, I suspect that I have seen older photographs featuring the statue, so any information would be welcome!

1 comment:

John the organist said...

I was in Florence on this feastday in 1972 and saw the Palio with a white bull as the prize for a sort of mediaval football game. Lots of drumming in mediaeval costumes - almost Disney!