Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Cardinal's Ear-Rings

.. or, to be more precise, the pendants of the Cardinal's Metropolitan Cross. For years, the Metropolitan Cross that is used for Pontifical Ceremonies at the Cathedral has looked like this:

The cross is a fine work, given by the Catholic Women's league to Archbishop Francis Bourne on the occasion of his elevation to the Cardinalate in November 1911. The cross was executed by Messrs Blunt and Wray, according to the design of J. B. Marshall, and was formally presented to the Cardinal in January 1912.

The cross and stem are entirely of silver, applied to a wooden core. Its height is 6 feet 6 inches, and the width across the arms 1 foot 6 inches. The figure of Our Lord at the centre is surrounded by an aureola of clouding and cherubs. Within the aureola the sun, moon and stars are represented on a blue enamelled ground. The general ground of the cross is everywhere covered with delicate ornament, and richly studded with natural moonstones, amethysts and garnets. However, looking at photographs of the cross taken in 1913, it was clear that something was missing ..

The two pendants, with the greek letters Alpha and Omega, were novel features, although not without precedent in Byzantine work.

However, there was no trace of the pendants, and it was presumed that they had been damaged, lost - or worse - sold at some stage. The photograph below shows the back of the cross, with the enamelled arms of S. Edmund of Canterbury, S. Francis de Sales, H. E. Cardinal Bourne, and the See of Westminster - plus the pendants.

Earlier this year, the pendants were located in an unmarked box in the vaults; they were tarnished, and some of the stones were missing. We have had them restored by the silversmiths Pruden and Smith of Ditchling; appropriately founded by Dunstan Pruden, an associate of Eric Gill.

The pendants look splendid, and will be restored to the Metropolitan Cross for Midnight Mass.


Andrew said...

The corpus looks different as well. It looks down in the old photos. Has it been changed or merely worn down?

Kim Andrew D'Souza said...

I love the pendants - very byzantine - but I always thought that a metropolitan cross had to have a second horizontal crossbar. Or is that only the case in heraldry?