The Madonna of the Cross (1996)

During the recent school half-term holiday, we visited Mount Grace Priory (owned by the National Trust and run by English Heritage). It’s the most complete surviving Carthusian monastery in Britain.

Founded in the late 14th century, you can visit the ruins of all the priory buildings, along with a small church and its surviving tower, explore the great cloister and enter a reconstructed monk’s cell. The strict Carthusian lifestyle made the layout of Mount Grace Priory unique, as the layout was created so that each monk could live in solitude. You can see all my photos here.

The church contains a sculpture by Malcolm Brocklesby (pictured above). I offer the on-site description of the work as a reflection for this week’s Sunday devotional:

This Madonna is not the meek and subservient figure portrayed in so many paintings, but a determined and intelligent young woman who understands the wonder and the importance of her calling as she dedicates her Child to the purpose of the Creator.

She is also aware of the suffering that this will entail. The figure of the Madonna is integral with that of the Cross, the stark and terrible symbol at the heart of Christianity, which is an inescapable part of her existence.

Her expression, however, is more of serenity than anguish. She is looking beyond Calvary to the Resurrection, and the way in which she holds the Christ Child high suggests the subsequent Ascension rather than the immediate prospect of a sacrificial death.

The statue combines the three facets of Christianity which establish the Atonement of Mankind, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension.

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