A THREE-metre-high statue of St Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield, was unveiled outside the cathedral on Saturday in a service of commemoration and thanksgiving led by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave.
The work of Peter Walker, artist-in-residence at the cathedral, it depicts the figure of Chad walking towards the visitor, one hand raised in blessing and the other opening the gospels.
Existing statues of Chad in the cathedral are Victorian and mannered, depicting, for example, a mitred saint sitting stiffly robed among kings. Mr Walker, who was born in Lichfield, said that, with little written resource and no historical images, the artist must look not at the physiognomy or physicality of the person, but at what they represent.
“The aspects of Chad that resonated with me were that he was a unifier, a peacemaker, a part of the community: qualities that are very fitting in today’s world,” he said. “All of that helped me as a sculptor to define what that would look like in three dimensions.”
He chose a model from Northumbria who had what he describes as “a real sense of compassion and an endeavour in his face that I felt connected very closely with Chad. Someone who wants to talk and converse and who is innately healing. He is very approachable.”
The statue was worked in Staffordshire clay and cast in bronze. Mr Walker reflected: “There’s a really interesting relationship between clay and faith, the earth and faith, and life and death. The clay offers a lot of qualities that help when you’re making. The material itself plays around and feels alive. You connect with the figure and the personality and try to bring that home. . .
“Chad is a saint because of kindness, and not for the violent interactions that some saints were known for. If public art is in the right place at the right time; if it’s a story that resonates at the right point in time, then it has significant value. This is still a place of healing.”
The statue was funded by the Swinfen Broun Charitable Trust, Lichfield District Council, the Friends of Lichfield Cathedral, and numerous individual donors.
Lichfield began as a place of pilgrimage, and the cathedral was the first to open its doors as a vaccination centre. The Dean, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said: “Chad was this obvious product of the Northumbrian school based on Lindisfarne under Aidan’s tutelage. We are a waymarker for all kinds of pilgrimage, and we want to keep that charism of Chad alive and well and to add to it. The strapline Bishop Michael chose for the diocese is ‘Come follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad.’ It is something that can pull the Church together at a time of great internal disturbance.
“Christ walked the distance with people. We know how attractive cathedrals are to the uncommitted and the sceptical. After Chad’s death, people came here to find healing. We have tried to bring all that we know of our past into the present and to be refreshed by it.”