A block of stone, which has remained unworked on the side of Guildford Cathedral for almost half a century, has begun a transformation in the hands of a sculptor.
And when complete, a Madonna and Child will grace the tower.The new sculpture stands for the mothers who lost their sons in the Great War – and the hope and quiet confidence of a mother who puts her trust in God.
Canon Julie Gittoes explains: “The familiar image of Mary holding the infant Jesus is drenched in symbolism which continues to inspire and challenge. In her, we see devotion and resilience; the child in her arms reveals God’s love in human weakness. “
Nicholas Thompson – whose past work encompasses key heritage sites including the Canadian Parliament, the Tower of London and Highgate Cemetery – started work at Guildford Cathedral’s East Tower on Monday (November 30).
His remit is to transform the unworked piece of Clipsham stone into a moving tribute to those who went through the Great War.
The two-month project is part of a £500,000 grant from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund which supports vital repairs to some of England’s most important historic buildings.
The majority of the funds have been used to reroof and repair the tower and transepts of the Cathedral, but funds have also been available for this piece of original artwork.
Nicholas can often be seen upon the tower working from sunrise to sunset on weather-friendly days during December and January.
He told The People’s Cathedral blog: “It is an amazing view up here – I can see the town below and then the view goes on for miles and miles.
He added that the stone has proved a great material to work: “I wasn’t sure, after being up there on the tower for 40-50 years, whether it would develop a hard skin as some stone does over time, but this stone is fantastic – it is nice and soft, and a joy to work with.”
He says the rain has held off to make his first week a comfortable one up there on the East tower. I grew up in Eastern Canada so I’m familiar with the cold. I quite like it!”