by Fr Andrew Cameron-Mowat
Bishop Nicholas Hudson celebrated Mass on 16th May and blessed the newly restored Stations of the Cross at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street. Many of the donors who funded the project as well as the three restorers were present for the ceremony.
The date was significant as it marked the 200th birthday of the original carver and artist. The 14 carvings, which portray the Passion and Death of Christ, were originally brightly coloured; however, they were covered with lead-based paint in the 1920s owing to the deterioration of the original surface caused by the pollution in the atmosphere. So, for nearly one hundred years, they were regarded as interesting but not especially important works.
In fact, these masterpieces represent the highest artistic achievement of the renowned carver and artist Johann Petz, who was active in Bavaria and Austria from 1850 to 1870. He received many commissions for churches, altars and tombstones throughout Germany and Austria, as well as in England and the United States, and was highly sought after as a sculptor and church designer.
The restoration work was undertaken by IFACS (International Fine Art Conservation Studios), led by Elsa Guerreiro, Richard Pelter and Ed Towers, who also recently restored the colour and gold of the Pugin high altar in the church. The complex work of restoration involved carefully removing the hard covering paint, making conservative repairs to the wood beneath, and repainting in colours that matched the original in shade and quality.
In his homily Bishop Nicholas spoke of the significance of the Way of the Cross in Christian prayer, and said that, in the ceremony to follow, the Stations would be consecrated for use and that by praying them we too are consecrated. He hoped that the Stations at Farm Street Church would remain in use for prayer and devotion for many centuries yet to come.
A companion book with photos of each Station and appropriate prayers is presently in production and should be available soon.