Parishioners will be struck by the sacred art that will grace the completely renovated Christ Cathedral when they see it for the first time at the Cathedral’s historic dedication anticipated in summer 2019.
From the religious scene-depicting sculptures to a massive gem-encrusted cross, these sacred art pieces will play a significant role in the $72 million renovation of Christ Cathedral, the Garden Grove sanctuary formerly known as Crystal Cathedral.
“Sacred art and liturgical art, in particular, touches our imaginations as we are called to grateful remembrance of Christ in his paschal journey through life, death and resurrection for the life of the world,” said Rev. Msgr. Arthur A. Holquin, episcopal vicar for Divine Worship at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.
Holquin, who is part of the Sacred Arts Committee formed by Bishop Kevin Vann, said the sacred art is intended to enhance the interior of Christ Cathedral and will be unique to the setting.
“Our gathering in the house of the Church is always in communion with the Holy Ones, the saints, our great intercessors before the throne of God’s unfailing mercy and love,” he said. “Liturgy is not just a reality that touches our intellect, but most especially, our hearts. Beautiful art invariably has a way of engaging our emotions as we respond to the Lord in praise and thanks in worship.”
Early in the process, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston recommended that Vann consider someone he knew personally, the Bolivian-born sculptor Pablo Eduardo.
Eduardo, whose studio is based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, has more than 20 years of experience in his discipline. He has been commissioned to do public works installations in the Republic of Bolivia and U.S. institutions and colleges, include a statue of civil rights leader César Chávez at the University of Texas at Austin campus and a 10-foot bronze sculpture of Kevin White, Boston’s longest serving mayor. He earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Tufts University in 1994 and studied anatomical studies at Tufts University Medical School from 1990-1992, according to his bio.
The committee reviewed Eduardo’s portfolio, invited him to the Cathedral to discuss a possible commission and found him to be a great fit for the project, Holquin said.
The committee commissioned Eduardo to design the four major bronze bas-reliefs within the Cathedral that will show Christ’s divinity as depicted in the New Testament: The Adoration of the Magi (Epiphany); The Wedding Feast at Cana; The Transfiguration and The Resurrection.
The committee also hired Eduardo to craft the 14 Stations of the Cross in a similar bronze bas-relief style that will be at the bottom of the Cathedral’s antiphonal balconies.
“The artist is approaching each station by focusing on the face of Jesus and symbols that speak of each of the stations,” Holquin said. “We have seen several of his initial conceptualizations and they are stunningly beautiful and moving.”
It will take about 10 months for Eduardo to finish the sacred art. When completed, it will be will be transported to the Cathedral for installation, Holquin said.
Besides the art being created by Eduardo, an eye-catching ‘crux gemmata’ – the Medieval-inspired work consisting of an ornamented cross with the corpus of the crowned Body of Christ – will be suspended from the canopy over the Cathedral altar.
“Since the color scheme of the Cathedral is somewhat monochromatic, this striking and ornate cross of monumental proportions will serve in a dramatic way to capture the faithful’s sight lines as it focuses our attention on the most important symbolic element of the Cathedral – the Table of Sacrifice,” Holquin said.
Other notable artwork within the Cathedral will include:
- The famous Egino Weinert enameled tabernacle (perched on a bronze pedestal) that will be housed in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel;
- An Eduardo-created sculpture that will recall the Creation and the Fall on the Cathedral’s main doors;
- A depiction of the New Creation in Christ and the Cloud of Witnesses – the Saints that will be on the Narthex wall. (This depiction will “have a particular place of importance for us in our local Church of Orange,” Holquin said.);
- A monumental tapestry designed by Benedictine artist Martin Erspamer of the titular image of Christ, Lord of the Universe (Pantocrator), that will be suspended to the left of the Cathedral’s sanctuary area; and
- The antique image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Diocese of Orange, placed in a special shrine toward the back of the Cathedral on the opposite side of the Narthex wall.
The dedication is tentatively set for July 2019. By then, all the renovation work should be done and the Hazel Wright Memorial organ with its 16,000 pipes, the entirety of which has been sent to Italy to be completely restored, will be installed and finely tuned in the Cathedral.
“We want everything to be as perfect as possible for the historic dedication,” Holquin said.