Dunedin cathedral angels regain their wings

Dunedin altar web


Joy was definitely in the air on Gaudete Sunday (December 17) in Advent at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Dunedin, at the 10.30 am Mass, and it wasn’t just in anticipation of the lighting of the pink candle.

As the congregation began to assemble, people’s attention focused on the sanctuary area, and comments were whispered and nods exchanged. The focus of attention and admiration were the two recently re-installed sanctuary angels. They had grown wings overnight.

One whispered explanation was that the sanctuary angels had celebrated their release from storage in a room in the cathedral’s tower, and their subsequent restoration by having a bit of a party overnight. During the celebration, they had imbibed a well-advertised drink that has the desired effect.

However, a more mundane explanation came to light upon checking the composition of the congregation which was gathering. In one of the front pews sat what could be described as three wise men from the north – up Rangiora way, to be exact. One of them was clearly Damien Walker, the artist who had restored the angel figures at his Studio of St Philomena. He was accompanied by his brother, Chris and father, Noel.

The angel figures had once performed their guardian role in the sanctuary until the 1960s, but were discarded following some of the changes prompted by Vatican II. They were rescued from a skip destined for the rubbish tip, and went into storage up in a room in one of the cathedral towers. At the time, the wings were in a damaged state and were not retained. Part of the restoration contract included the making of new moulds to produce replacements. While the repair and installation of the angel figures was achieved on the desired date in November, the making and completion of the wings took longer. Hence the further delay of nearly a month.

In discussion after Mass, it transpired that the three Walkers had travelled down from Rangiora on the Saturday, arriving at the cathedral late in the afternoon. They set about fitting the now cured new set of wings. The sight of the sanctuary angels, complete with their new wings, generated a lot of interest, to the point where many parishioners were busy after Mass using their phone cameras to record the scene.

The addition of the wings produced a new dimension to the figures by increasing their height. The artist noted that the figures themselves were now about two metres in height, and much higher than their bodies had been, standing on their individual plinths. The wings added to the visual appeal of the figures, with gold paint featuring prominently along the leading edges.

Parishioners are very pleased with the changes brought about in the sanctuary with the completion of this well-supported project, initiated by parish priest Fr Vaughan Leslie.



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