'Spirituality in Sculpture' exhibition in St Asaph Cathedral

Colloquy Enfolded in Christ. Photo Credit: John Liston
Colloquy Enfolded in Christ. Photo Credit: John Liston

Jesus appears to Mary. Photo Credit John Liston

Ten works by the Jesuit artist and sculptor Fr Rory Geoghegan SJ have recently gone on display in the intimate surroundings of St Asaph Cathedral, just down the road from St Beuno’s. Arranged in different parts of the building to invite prayerful reflection, the sculptures have already been an inspiration to the regular worshipping congregation and are expected to attract many more visitors throughout Eastertide and beyond.

Entitled ‘Spirituality in Sculpture’, the exhibition reflects on a variety of themes, some influenced by prayerful and challenging times in Fr Rory’s own life. Two pieces take their inspiration direct from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius: ‘Colloquy: Enfolded in Christ crucified’ (featured image, on your left) is a reflection on St Ignatius’s Colloquy of the Cross, while ‘Easter Sunday! Jesus appears to his mother Mary’ (image on the right) takes us straight to the Fourth Week of the Exercises, responding to an idea put to Fr Rory by a retreatant who imagined this encounter between Jesus and his mother as a ‘reversed Pieta’.

Other sculptures respond to deeply challenging world events. In ‘Pieta: 11 September’, a footless Jesus rests in Mary’s lap, recalling a newspaper picture Fr Rory had seen of a Rodin sculpture dug from the rubble of the World Trade Center, the feet severed from its legs. It lay face down in the dust, faceless, like so many hundreds of the dead that day. 

Flight into Egypt cropped. Photo Credit Robert Townsend

As he says, ‘Pieta is just as much about our condition in this broken world as an old established religious subject … I wanted to express compassion and love in the midst of suffering, the love of a mother for her dead child.’

‘Political Refugee – Flight into Egypt’ (image on the right) shows us another suffering mother with her child, reminding us of the thousands currently on the move, homeless, or confined to lives in vast camps. ‘My hope is that it might suggest something of the uncertainty and bewilderment of so many unfortunates, driven to constant movement and searching for some basic peace and security’, says Fr Rory.

Let my prayer. Photo Credit John Liston

Two of Fr Rory’s sculptures are on display for the first time outside St Beuno’s. ‘A Good Shepherd’, showing the robed Shepherd holding a sheep ready for shearing securely between his legs, has strong local resonance: it is inspired by one of the sketches in Keith Bowen’s Snowdon Shepherd:  Four Seasons on the Hill Farms of North Wales.

No less distinctive in style is the very latest work on display (2016), ‘Let my prayer come into your presence as incense’ (Psalm 141) (image on the left), its turquoise, green and golden flecks shimmering gently in the light as the sculpture spirals upward, invoking the upward swirl of smoke.

There will be a warm welcome for anyone visiting ‘Spirituality in Sculpture’ at St Asaph Cathedral – and as Fr Rory invites us, the exhibition deserves a little time to ponder and reflect: ‘Spend time with the sculptures. Explore all sides of the piece. Wander around them. Make your time with them a time of discovery and personal enquiry.’

The exhibition will continue for several weeks and is on view during cathedral opening hours (usually 9am to 6pm: St Asaph Cathedral also has a brand new café and historical display).