I’m either a little late for this, or a little early, but I understand that either the Monday just past, or next Monday, is meant to be the gloomiest day of the year. This Monday certainly felt thoroughly gloomy to me, though I feel things have brightened up slightly since then and the (dread phrase!) “direction of travel” is in the right direction. There are now, at least, birds audible as they go about their business at 5.30, after the truly dead time of the year in midwinter when “no birds do sing” and (O Joy!) there is a little light when I leave work.
But here is a photograph that I feel provides a little light to lighten our darkness. During the Christmas break I was lucky enough to have visited the Anglican Cathedral in Peterborough and Pugin’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Barnabas in Nottingham. I had some thoughts about these and will try to gather and present them to you in due course, but, to be going on with, this is the Rood in Peterborough Cathedral, sculpted in gilded aluminium by Frank Roper. Roper’s obituary in The Guardian had this to say about him –
“Roper was a man of entrancing contradictions: a modernist whose work absorbed tradition, deeply conservative but a vivid individualist. His working days were hard and hazardous, but, like Magritte, he dressed at all times in collar and tie. He attracted and amused a wide circle of friends, and relished sharing sculptural toys with his daughters and grandchildren.
Given its ubiquity in churches, Roper’s work remained surprisingly little-known, a fact which perhaps reflects his humility in placing the function of devotion above expression of the artist’s personality. Writing of his work at Llandaff, he referred to Pace’s suggestion, “that I should seek inspiration by putting my head into a thorn bush, a painful operation intended to prevent my formalising, or inflicting my conventions on the subject”.”
An odd thing to take any kind of comfort from, of course, but millions do.
“In the gloom, the gold gathers the light against it”
(Ezra Pound, Canto VII)
(The inscription underneath reads Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis (The Cross is Still While the World is Turning) – the motto of the Carthusian Order).